Coming Out as Gay, Coming Out as Vegan
For many people, coming out can be difficult, often scary. If it were easy, everyone would do it. When we come out, we are calling attention to ourselves, intentionally highlighting what makes us different from the perceived norm. For men, coming out as gay or vegan raises the question of what it means to be a man. Sadly, a gay man or a vegan man is often still not perceived as being a “real man” by the standards of our culture.
Some of the negative stereotypes of gay men and vegan men are remarkably similar. We are perceived as weak, effeminate, and not “real men.” Traditionally, a “real man” is seen as a provider and protector. These are admirable qualities and ones that all men should strive to possess. How we manifest these traits is where the disconnect happens. Often times, it seems that our culture values superficial expressions of being manly. It is more about an outward display of bravado rather than strength of true internal character. The time has come for us to change the image of what it means to be a “real man.”
To live up to the expectation of “real men” as providers and protectors, we need strength, not necessarily physical strength, but the strength that comes from within. We must have the courage to speak up and share our truth even when doing so is scary or dangerous. The modern gay rights movement was started by a group of unarmed gay men and drag queens standing up to armed policemen. These men, despite having no weapons, had the strength to fight back and demand equality. Similarly, vegan men contradict the stereotypes of being weak when they come out as vegan. We are willing to risk the labels and negative stereotypes to say that we believe that all beings, regardless of species, deserve to live free of human interference. Rallying around the stereotype of “Real men eat meat” is easy, but that is actually the safer route. It is a real man who declares, “I will not be a part of this,” when he encounters injustice and bullying. Gay men and vegan men, by coming out, display a true strength of character that is emblematic of what is means to be a “real man.”
A real man is secure enough in his own skin to show emotions, a trait often seen as a sign of weakness. Caring for others is what enables a person to be a true protector and provider. If we don’t care about someone else, we won’t be willing to stand up for them. Caring should not be the birthright of women alone. Men must be encouraged to express their innate compassion and caring. As more men come out as gay or vegan, the more society as a whole will rethink its notions of what it means to be a “real man.”
The people who reject us when we come out generally do so because they feel uncomfortable, or even threatened, by being forced to confront their own ideas and prejudices. But that is their issue, not ours. So whether it is the closet door or the refrigerator door, throw it open. You are not alone. There is a big beautiful community waiting for you. Be brave. Speak your truth. Come out. Be a real man.
Michael Suchman, VLCE is a recovering lawyer. After practicing in the field of Corporate Litigation for 12 years, he was tired of representing corporations over the interests of individuals. Since stopping practicing, he has come to recognize that the law needs to work more on helping all individuals, regardless of species. Michael lives in New York City with his husband Ethan and their two vegan dogs: Riley and Charlie. When not running the show at Chelsea Foot and Ankle, Michael can be found either in the kitchen trying out new recipes, watching Dr. Who, or taking photos the old fashioned way, with an actual 35mm camera. You can check out his photography at michaelsuchman.com. He and Ethan are the founders of Vegan Mos and are proud to be Amicus Partners with Lambda Legal and Barnyard Benefactors for Our Hen House.