Sunday, February 23, 2014

Looking at ourselves

This past week sure has been eye opening for me. To read more on that go back one post and read "no homo". Through that post and conversation and comments that were a result of that post, I have realized things that are hard for me to stomach.

Forgive me while I just share some random thoughts.

I have been part of the vegan community for along time. I know we have our faults. A community filled with so much passion and compassion in trying everyday to decrease animal suffering is also a community as diverse as any other. We all come from from different parts of the country (and world!) and we all have our life experiences outside of being vegan.

Also, we all have different reasons for becoming vegan and participate in different levels of activism.

This isn't only in the vegan/animal rights communities. I find it in local politics, the LGBTQ communities I am part of as well as the homeless activist community I am proud to be a part of.

Regardless of what community we are a part of and are passionate for, we are a representative of that community. Like it or not, our actions and our life steps have an affect on what others may think of our community.

For me as a vegan and animal rights activist, I am very aware that I represent the billions of animals that suffer for food, fashion and entertainment. I am asked about that all of the time. If I am acting like an ass, and folks know I am vegan, it doesn't look good for the voiceless animals whom I am trying to help.

Racism, heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, hate, etc. have no place in the vegan/animal rights communities.

The more I wrote about "no homo" the more I learned how many people use the comment. People in the vegan/animal rights communities. It was totally disheartening.

Many times in my life I have to look in the mirror and take a good look at who I am and what I am doing. My language, my behavior. How does someone feel about veganism after an encounter with me? Do my posts, tweets and comments reflect well for the voiceless?

I don't like when I hear homophobic comments at vegan events. I don't like realizing that there is acceptability by vegan athletes around the term "no homo".

So I speak out against it. I let folks know that what they are saying is offensive.

And then I go back to that mirror and take a good look at myself.

Thanks for reading and thanks for being a voice for the voiceless.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

"No homo"

I had to take many deep breathes before the anger in me subsided enough to write a post about "no homo", a phrase I became aware of yesterday while checking out photo comments of a vegan athlete on Instagram.

For background here, I follow several athletes on Instagram. Many times I "like" their photos as they inspire me. On Instagram I'm TheGayVegans so it is obvious that a gay guy is "liking" their photo. 

A friend of this person was giving him a compliment about his body and preceded his compliment with "no homo". I didn't know what that meant so asked. Another person answered me telling me it's a way for a guy to give another guy a compliment while making sure the guy knows he isn't being hit on.

Seriously. This really happens. In fact it is common.

The person whose photo I had been looking at also answered my question, saying that his friend was a lifelong friend and meant nothing homophobic about the phrase and in fact was a big supporter of equality.

The guy who answered me first responded to my response in which I said this was offensive, telling me that on some body building sites they even use a term "phaggot" and that "no homo" is common not only in the workout communities but also in many rap songs.

I was honestly blown away.

I thought about asking more questions, like if you and your friend have been friends for years why can't you compliment each other without the concern (as it seems it is indeed a concern) that either of you is gay? Or so what if one of you is gay? Or, what do homos say if they want to compliment you? Or, what do you say to a woman who you are complimenting but not hitting on?

Holy cow what the heck is wrong here?

The guy who wrote "no homo" on his friends comment area told me that in no way did he mean to offend me and he apologized. I believe him. 

I believe that the guys I am writing about do not hate gay men. I take them on their word that they support equality. So what gives? Why do people like that feel like it is completely appropriate to use a phrase like "no homo".

One explanation made to me by the guy whose photo I was looking at was that yes, sometimes politically incorrect language is used.

Politically incorrect?

How about outright offensive. In so many ways.

I am asking you as our readers to spread this story around. I am asking you to stand with us and spread the word that "no homo" is unacceptable.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Our legal marriage Part II

Legally married!

Mike and I were legally married on February 14th at 4:31pm at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego.

Although we had already married in our church in 2005, and we both have said that this was just to make it legal, it was honestly one of the most amazing moments in my life.

The day before our ceremony we went to the San Diego County Clerk office to get our marriage license. In California you have to make an appointment for your license. We were both giddy. The clerk helping us was amazingly friendly, and there was a gay couple getting married by a judge. It couldn't have been any better. A world where two men getting a marriage license was no big deal.

Getting our marriage license!
The next day we were fortunate to be able to hang out with Lisa all day, and Jim took half a day off and joined us mid-day. We got dressed in our Hawaiian wedding shirts and off we went to the ocean.

A few minutes before the ceremony a thick fog rolled in and took a very sunny day and made it definitely not sunny. But it was gorgeous.

Just after the ceremony when we could see the sun again.

We gathered with our friends Jim and Lisa and their children as Jim prepared to marry us. I was
nervous. Ten years with Mike and nine years being married to him and I was nervous.

The ceremony was incredible. Jim was the perfect person to legally marry us and brought all of his love and compassion to the ceremony.

After a couple of poems and a couple of Bible passages read, Mike and I shared our vows.

I was in tears on and off. I was finally legally marrying the love of my life. My best friend. My good and perfect gift from God.

To all of you who have sent so much love our way, thank you! And thank you for reading this!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let freedom ring

I remember the first time I heard a religious extremist in the US call herself a patriot. And those agreeing with her hateful rhetoric also called themselves patriots.

Religious extremists in the US like to talk about things like that, and use words like freedom and liberty often.

Many of them point to Jesus as they use hate speech to condemn gay people or anyone who might support equal rights for gay people.

I was thinking of this today when reading about the governor of Missouri who supports a bill that is friendly to gay people in his state. A state senator has called for his impeachment.

Read comments on any story about gay marriage or some of the recent rulings around state constitutional bans of gay marriage and you can see that hatred towards gays and lesbians is strong, and very much alive in our country.

Most folks show this type of hatred in the name of Jesus. They say they love Jesus so they have to treat their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in despicable ways. They have to call us names and treat us in a manner that quite frankly is hurtful.

Faggot. Homo. Pervert. Deviant.

In the name of Jesus. In the name of freedom and liberty.

Marriage equality is happening. It's right, it's just, and it's all about freedom and liberty.

One can have opinions against marriage equality, but one cannot force others to live within those opinions. What some call religious freedom I call bigotry because their religious freedom doesn't include me or my religious beliefs.

This is personal to me. I am in a state that I do not live in to get legally married to the love of my life because we cannot get legally married in our own state. Our marriage here in California won't even be recognized in Colorado. Yet.

It will one day. Soon I believe. With all of the fighting against marriage equality the reality is that it's going to happen. That the millions of dollars spent to stop marriage equality and the extremism expressed to discourage marriage equality will all result in equality throughout our amazing nation.

To all of those who support equality, thank you. And please keep voicing your opinion. Call out bigotry in any form. In a loving way of course.

We all have more in common than not.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our legal marriage

It is difficult at best to write about becoming legally married without getting tears in my eyes.

Tomorrow I will legally marry the love of my life. I call Mike my good and perfect gift from God.

With all of my brokenness as a human being, I have grown with Mike and because of Mike, have learned how to love on a level I never knew existed, have become more willing to let go and to truly care about another human being in a way I never knew was possible.

We were married in our church in front of friends and family in 2005. Tomorrow we will marry in front of a small group of friends at a place that is so special to us. And this time it will be legal, acknowledged by the state of California and the US government. It will be as legal as any heterosexual couple married in California the same day.

The support we have gotten has been incredible. Even from total strangers. The gals who gave us hair cuts yesterday were ecstatic that they were able to be a part of our day. I couldn't believe the happiness they exuded as we told him that we were both getting married on Friday, and yes, to each other.

The love from our friends and family and those who read our blog has been incredible.

As a 48 year old man who has been publicly out since he was 21, I admit I am a little jaded. Being gay has not always been a great conversation starter. Even today there are many who dislike and even hate gay people. They hide behind their holy book when in fact the truth is that they just do not want to live in a world where people like me and Mike exist.

I am tolerant of someones opinions that are contrary to mine when it comes to sexuality, equality and freedom. My tolerance ends when they believe that their beliefs should trump mine or quite honestly affect my life in any way.

Their hate is unfortunate. It is also unacceptable. As I become legally married, I will of course continue to always speak out against hate and intolerance.

If you would be so kind to do so, please think of us at 4:31pm Pacific Time as we legally marry. Send us your love, thoughts, prayers, meditations.

Thank you.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Silk (milk) is now animal-cruelty free?

I was pretty thrilled this week to get an email from a public relations person who wanted me to know about the new TCBY vegan Silk yogurt (fro-yo) made from almond milk responding to a concern I had about Silk being a product of WhiteWave which is owned by Dean Foods, one of the largest killer of pigs in the country (and maybe other animals).

She was kind enough to approach Silk, who in turn sent her this:

"Silk is actually owned by WhiteWave Foods and their spin-off from Dean Foods was completed last year. WhiteWave is now a stand-alone, publicly traded company."

Why did I not know this? Is this true? It seems it is. 

I am still asking around just to make sure that there is absolutely no connection between White Wave and Dean Foods. As you might know, several years ago Dean Foods, not making great profit from killing animals, bought a vegan friendly company, WhiteWave. Although I have a lot of disgust for Dean Foods, this purchase showed that in the big world of business and money-making, companies that sell vegan products can be profitable. I had pretty much stopped buying WhiteWave products, except for that amazing yogurt, because of this. Now it seems I can go back to buying their products.

WhiteWave still makes Horizon Organic milk and a couple of other non-vegan products. We all know what that means in regards to calves and the veal industry, plus the inherent cruelty that shows up in dairy farms. So the company itself is still not cruelty-free, just not part of a huge, animal production company anymore.

It's tough to find the perfect, all-vegan company. WhiteWave being separated from Dean Foods is a huge step for me.

They no longer make tofu, but their line of non-dairy milks and yogurts is wonderful. And have you seen the super-cute almond milk commercial they produced?

Another great thing about WhiteWave, being that we live in Colorado, is that they are a Colorado-based company.

I have been vegan for 18 years and have been writing this blog for 2 1/2, so I am completely aware that in the vegan community there are a zillion opinions. And that is the main reason I wanted to write this blog post. I would love your thoughts on all of this. And if you know something about WhiteWave being on their own now that I am unaware of, please do tell!

Through all of this I have not lost sight of TCBY and their huge step to make a vegan frozen yogurt. More to come on that.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I'd rather go naked than wear down or fur

Welcome to our first video!

It's been cold and snowy in Lakewood. A lot of snow in the last couple of days.

I decided to make a quick video. Although I would have loved to do it in front of a fur store, my chances of getting arrested were a lot less by doing it in my backyard.

I wanted to remind people that they do not need down or fur to be warm.

Animals who are part of the fur and down industries, well they are tortured, beaten, go through intense pain, and live in fear.

My winter jacket is down-free. I got it from Patagonia. They also sell down jackets but have some awesome non-down versions.

Like I say in the video, if you love even just one kind of animal, you do not want to buy down or fur. You just don't want to be a part of that!

I hope you like the video. It's my first.

Thanks for reading and for watching the video!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Do not be afraid - of the kitchen!

"Veganomicon" is a great cookbook to help you get comfortable in the kitchen.
If where if you live is anything like the Denver metro area, restaurants are serving more and more delicious vegan items. Mike and I love going out, and as I have written in several posts, we have our favorites for sure. (Note to reader: you can check out our favorite local places to eat by clicking the tab from the main page.)

Although vegan food options are becoming even more amazing in restaurants, I still believe that the best vegan food can come right from the kitchen.

Your kitchen.

I know, I'm sure some of you are like I used to be and are probably rolling your eyes. Many years ago the normal dinner at my place was a couple of Amy's burritos and tater tots. When a met Mike, that type f meal became known as a Dan meal.

Once in a while we decide on a Dan meal for dinner. Life is busy. We both give it our all at our jobs so when we come home a Dans' meal is an easy choice. But for me, things have certainly changed in the kitchen.

I am no longer afraid.

You don't have to be either.

Here's an example. Back in January of last year during the time I was laid off, I decided to use that time and make delicious dinners for Mike. One day I found this amazing recipe for African Peanut Stew. It looked complicated, but I wanted to give it a go. So I jumped in. I went to the market and got the ingredients, came home and read the recipe a couple of times, and then started to create. With my favorite Latino music playing and the dogs eagerly waiting in the kitchen, I rocked it.

Of course the test is if other people like it, and Mike loved it. Such an amazing dish.

There are so many vegan cookbooks out there that I have to believe there is one just for you. Check them out. And some of the links on our main page will lead you to some great recipes. Also, many cookbooks have introductions before the recipes to let you know what you will need to have great experiences with their recipes.

You don't have to be afraid of the kitchen anymore! You can create delicious vegan meals right in your own kitchen!

So grab a vegan cookbook, throw an apron on, and rock it! Oh, and then tell me what you made!

Thanks for reading!