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Violence Hits Home

I heard about the vicious gay-bashing of Mercy for Animals founder Nathan Runkle a few days ago but didn’t want to write anything until I was sure Nathan wanted the attack to be publicized. Now that Mercy for Animals has put out a press release about the incident, I guess it’s safe to speak of it.

A lot of people in the AR movement have been calling me, wondering what we can do. Gay bashing is a lot like rape in that it’s especially important to be mindful of what the victim wants when framing a response. So, first, we can all look out for what Nathan and Mercy for Animals say about what should be done. Next, we can use informed inference to figure out what else might be appropriate.

The press release says that Nathan wants sexual orientation included in Ohio’s hate crimes legislation. So, one thing that those of us who know and love — or just know of and respect — Nathan can do is join the effort to make that happen.

Next, we know that Mercy for Animals, as the press release states, “has long worked to bridge the gap between the common prejudices which lead to oppression and abuses faced by both animals and minorities.” MFA has marched in gay pride parades carrying a banner reading “NO ONE IS FREE WHILE OTHERS ARE OPPRESSED” and has picketed gay rodeos.

So, if you’re somebody who cares about or works on LGBTQ issues but has not (yet) integrated the animals into your analysis of oppression, let this attack on a gay man who has dedicated himself to animal rights motivate you to educate yourself about the connections. And, if you’re a straight animal liberationist or veg*n advocate who hasn’t thought deeply about your heterosexual privilege and what obligations you might have to divest yourself of that, let this near-deadly attack on a gay animal advocate remind you (if Proposition 8 and Obama’s selection of a homophobic preacher to speak at his inauguration did not) that homophobia is still alive and dangerous.

In both instances: Educate yourself about the intersections and then figure out how you might integrate what you learn into your activism and your daily life. Those of us who are already hip to that particular intersection ought to realize that there’s always more for us to learn too. Finally, all of us can be inspired by Nathan’s relentless activism and take up the charge to do just a little bit more while he’s recovering from this terrible trauma.

Possibly related posts:

  1. The Pornography of Violence
  2. Gendered Identification with the Aggressor in Gaza

14 Responses to “Violence Hits Home”

  1. 1
    Veda Stram:

    Thank you pattrice, for your articulate and powerful message. As a heterosexual female vegan activist I adore your ability with words. Racism, sexism and speciesism are the same. And I find it fascinating, after 20 years of animal rights vegan activism that I do not know one vegan (and I mean not even one) who is a racist or a homophobe. The intersection is ALL there is. Intersection, integration, interdependence…hmmm!

  2. 2
    warwak:

    Mean people suck

    Respectful people don’t pick what or who to respect. They respect everything and everyone. Nathan is a respectful person who deserves respect

  3. 3
    Mark Hawthorne:

    When I heard the news about this last week, I felt like the world had pulled the rug from under my feet. I’m still trying to regain my balance. Thanks for your post, pattrice.

  4. 4
    pattrice:

    Mark, You’re not the only one to feel that way. Even hearing about violence like this can be very disorienting, especially if you know the victim. Thank you for being so open about your feelings. I see now that my post was a little short on emotion and only brushed the surface of what we can do in the wake of this violence. I’ll try to write a follow-up in the next couple of days.

    Veda, I’m sorry to have to disclose that I know of at least one explicitly homophobic vegan among our mutual acquaintances. I also know gay male AR activists who have encountered homophobic responses from other men in the movement, especially those who adopt a macho style of militant rhetoric. The “straight edge” vegan movement also sometimes has been marred by homophobia. On race, it may be that nobody you know is explicitly racist in the sense of using racist language, believing stereotypes, or actively discriminating against people of color. But plenty of white vegans resist recognizing their white privilege, thereby benefiting from racism while doing nothing to counter it.

    This is not to say that vegans are worse than the general public on these issues. Indeed, I have found vegans to be more likely to be progressive and less likely to get defensive when asked to look at their own privilege. I’m just saying that — as is the case with every other social change movement — we’ve still got work to do.

  5. 5
    Cathy B:

    I am very sorry to hear about this horrible event, but am glad you let us know. If there is anything we can do to show support for Nathan, MFA, or adding sexual orientation to the hate crimes law, please let us know. As an Ohio resident, I don’t have much hope of the Ohio legislature doing much of anything progressive (just look at what happened to the puppy mill bill that had broad support). But I want Nathan to know there are people here who support him and his cause.

  6. 6
    kelly g.:

    Such sad, sad news. I’ll never understand how people can be so hateful and cruel…

  7. 7
    Stephen J.:

    As a former Ohio resident, I was shocked to discover that sexual orientation-motivated crimes are not included in Ohio’s list of hate crimes. I immediately sent a letter to Congressman Kucinich, asking him to address this issue. Please take the time to write to him or, if you live in Ohio, write to your local elected officials, demanding that they take action.

  8. 8
    Bea Elliott:

    I am a straight animal liberationist, and honestly I’m ashamed to say – I never seriously thought about my “priviledge” till now. I hope others like myself can learn from this horrible incident. And I wish Nathan a speedy recovery.

  9. 9
    Kathie D.:

    Nathan – my best wishes for a speedy recovery, and proper justice!
    As someone leading a vegan and heterosexual lifestyle, I find this attack on Nathan abhorrent. This once again shows the connection between our violence to the other sentient beings of this earth and the violence towards the human animal – for whatever reason – this one obviously related to his sexual preference – but, I would also say the attacker possibly knew about Nathan’s work to free the other animal species from human torture. I agree with another commenter – this attacker is a Neanderthal or worse! Here is a quote that AAVS provided to me that definitely applies to this situation: “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Thomas Edison
    And a couple more:
    “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not created for humans any more than black people were created for whites or women for men.” Alice Walker
    “The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That is the essence of inhumanity.” George Bernard Shaw (our fellow creatures should include ALL human animals, also)

  10. 10
    Felicity Brach:

    We need more people like you,Nathan to advocate for animals. What happened to you makes me ill. How do people get to be so hateful, & why? I hope you recover soon so you can get back to your wonderful, caring work. We all love you!
    Felicity
    Rochester, N.Y.

  11. 11
    Dan Hanley:

    Pattrice

    Thanks for posting this. Mike and I are horrified and angry. There are so few of us gay vegans out there that it hurts a little more when the reality of anti-gay violence hits one of us (although it shouldn’t matter who it hits). There are so many folks in the AR movement who have anti-gay opinions that this action just reminds us to speak out against those who express their anti-gay vile.

    Dan and Mike in Lakewood, Colorado

  12. 12
    Susan C.:

    Nathan,
    I did not know of this horrible incident until I read the Animals Voice newsletter tonight. After having communicated with you a few months ago and having been so impressed with your passion for helping innocent animals, your generous nature, and your upright character, I can safely conclude that this attack will only motivate you to be even more determined to press on with your mission of making the world a more merciful place. I am sure you feel only forgiveness in your heart, so as a way to honor you, I am refusing to let any feelings but forgiveness into mine. I’m sure all the animals and their human friends are sending you showers of blessing, Nathan.

  13. 13
    veganarkey:

    There are so many powerful statements here already that I want to express a hopeless pity for the poor animal who reacted violently against Nathan. As I concluded that the attacker submitted to the least of his own nature it must be brighter for him from here on in.

    Mercy for all animals, even each of us.

  14. 14
    Dawn Moncrief:

    I’d rather not use violent language in describing how the news hit me, but it felt like a punch in the stomach that won’t go away. Hearing news of Nathan’s recovery and the push to expand the hate crimes law is helpful, but the feelings remain.

    Thanks, pattrice, for providing a course of action, a voice and a forum for those of us who grieve with/for Nathan and his friends/family. Thanks also for taking my post-midnight call :-) .

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