I looked up past my heart and past my former headspace and into the sky, and my mouth still had a voice and it murmured to my heart, “It doesn’t have to be like this.” ~ Jenny Slate
Finding my way to living vegan also meant finding my way to myself.
I grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. There are many worse places to spend your formative years—it’s safe, affluent. And conservative. And judgmental. And not always particularly kind. I didn’t see much progressive thought on display during the years I resided there.
I decided in recent years that the water in Ohio carried something inside of me that caused me to look down, to become passive and accepting. It became a part of my cells.
When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always 20 years behind the times. ~ Mark Twain
Approaching age 18, I made my exit heading north to university Ann Arbor.
When I consider the time and emotional energy I wasted during those years TRYING TO BE SOMEONE ELSE, I want to reach back in time and give my younger self a hug.
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. ~ Joseph Campbell
My journey to veganism isn’t a straight line. But, it is mine.
Every time I bought “happy” eggs at the store or popped a square of cheese in my mouth at a party, I turned my back on myself.
Since taking on the term vegan with pride and finding my tribe, I’ve been able to be softer with myself.
I’ve been able to set quite a bit of bullshit down.
There’s been one outcome of this shift, this opening, that I did not expect.
In the back of my mind, for years, an idea tickled. A possibility.
“Am I into girls? Should I try dating women? Why does it never really take for me with a dude?”
Now, with the gift of hindsight, I know what was always true.
In the words of my partner (and one of the very best people I know): “You wore that many flannel shirts and lived with that many cats, and had no idea that you’re gay?!”
She laughs even when it’s hard.
She teaches me that love is not something only made in books.
She shows me every day that I deserve this.
Without living vegan, I believe that I never would have been able to accept this truth about myself.
What truths about yourself are you waiting to own?
Remain ready to be surprised by what turns out to be possible. ~ pattrice jones
Special thanks to Pattrice Jones and VINE Sanctuary, advocates for animal and LGBTQ rights for many years. I am grateful to them for asking the question, “Will eating the rainbow make you gay?” and sparking me to write this piece.
Allison Hess holds a Bachelor of Science in Animal Behavior from the University of Michigan, a Master’s degree in Education from Indiana University, and certification in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. As a 2018 graduate of Main Street Vegan Academy, she speaks on the horrors of animal agriculture and offers services for folks transitioning to vegan living. Allison is board president of Uplands PEAK Sanctuary (https://uplandspeaksanctuary.org), Indiana’s first sanctuary for formerly farmed animals. She has lived in Bloomington, Indiana for 20 years following geographical sabbaticals to Portland, Oregon and her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Allison cares for a number of animals, including five hens rescued from factory farms.