Last week, I came across a couple of articles that hit home with me: “For These Vegans, Masculinity Means Protecting the Planet” and “Real Men Eat Plants”.
It’s been less than four years since I’ve stopped eating meat. In that time, my diet has only brought my manhood into question once… to my face anyway. It occurred in my first year of being a vegetarian and was delivered in a joking manner. But I still felt a bit of a jab.
There I was, sitting in the Teachers Lounge, quietly eating my hummus, pita bread, and veggies. Most, if not all, of the teachers in the room were women. Then a male teacher walked in, zeroed in on pointed at my meal, and exclaimed, “C’mon! Be a man and eat real food!”
I’m sure he was kidding… but still, was it necessary to call me out? Why did it matter to him what I was eating for lunch, anyway? It’s not like I was proselytizing my meatless diet. I honestly don’t remember how I responded… if I responded. I think outwardly I just shrugged it off and kept eating my lunch. Inwardly, I was bothered… but not enough to go back to eating meat again. I’ve never been seen as that stereotype alpha manly-man, anyway… But did eating hummus mean I have to give up my man card?
Honestly, I have never associated food choices with gender. Maybe it was to due growing up in a Seventh Day Adventist community where a lot of people, both men and women, are vegetarian. Maybe it was going to college at the University of California, Santa Cruz where omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike coexist in the various dining halls throughout campus.
Since then, I’ve gone from following a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet to a 100% plant-based diet. I’m still reluctant to call myself 100% vegan because I haven’t quite made the full transition from all animal products yet. For example, I still have shoes, belts, a wallet, and hiking boots made of leather that pre-date my decision to move towards both the dietary and ethical vegan lifestyle. But, I am working on making future purchases more conscientious.
Nowadays, most people in my circles are aware of my dietary lifestyle. They know I am gluten free and plant based. I don’t push the way I eat onto people in social situations. People see that I eat… I eat a lot! It may not always be eating what people consider to be “healthy” and my food may even surprise people that it’s vegan (doughnuts). Just look at my Instagram account. They see that my diet does not make me weak, rather it helps fuel my physical activities. I’ve even had friends compliment me on how “I’m doing it right” because they have a relatives who have gone vegetarian the “wrong way” but are weak and lethargic.
I’m more than happy to share my experience and pass along meatless recipes. No, I’m not a guru… nor do I seek that status. I’m still figuring things out as I go. But it’s great to have male vegan athlete role models to look up to: (just a few in no particular order) Matt Frazier, Brendan Brazier, Robert Cheeke, Torre Washington, and Patrik Baboumian. This list can go on and on.
How do people react to your food choices?