Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in the DC/Maryland area. I’ve been an emergency department nurse for 14 years. I am the LGBTQ Resource Nurse for two hospitals in the Johns Hopkins Medicine system. I provide LGBTQ education to staff, advocacy to patients, as well as staff, and outreach to the community. I also have a consulting business to provide LGBTQ training to healthcare practices and organizations.
I use my personal social media pages to promote veganism, plant-based foods, compassion, and equality. @Rainbowbear9
What lead you to veganism?
Almost 6 years ago, I started protesting for the release of Lolita, at the Miami Seaquarium. She was captured over 50 years ago and has been kept in the smallest tank in North America since, which does not even meet regulation size. During my time protesting, I met other vegans. I was also working with a doctor who was vegan. I began learning more about the atrocities of the animal agriculture industry and cut out everything but fish. I went to the Vegan Outreach table set up on South Beach, there was a video playing, which showed how each animal is slaughtered. There was a horrific scene of a fish having their skin ripped off, while it was alive. It was at that moment I made the connection between Lolita, the orca I was protesting for, and the fish I was consuming. I did the Compassion Over Killing week challenge, felt amazing, and have not looked back.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
I made the switch pretty quickly. I would buy the alternatives for things like milk, butter, deli slices, and cheese. I began cooking recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, from thePPK.com, and really began discovering ingredients I would have never even thought to use before. Leather shoes, purses, and other non-vegan items I would use until I was ready to donate them. Body products, make-up, and cleaning supplies, I would finish, and then start replacing them with cruelty-free, vegan items.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
I am usually the one to cook and buy groceries, so all of the food in the house is vegan. My wife is happy to eat anything I cook and was vegan and vegetarian many years before. She is now mostly plant-based.
I learned about the horrible ingredients in dog food and started feeding our American Bulldog, with many skin issues, vegan dog food. Within 2 weeks, her rashes were nearly gone. She loves the food, raw veggies and tofu. She is now 10, and I contribute her health to her diet. @Pumpkin_MD
Thanksgiving is a hard time for me, and many vegans. I refuse to sit at a table with a dead turkey or pig carcass on the table. Our tradition is to go to our local animal sanctuary and celebrate Thanksgiving FOR the turkeys.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
We should absolutely teach children where their food comes from. Kids are inherently compassionate and deserve to know the truth about what is going into their bodies. If people can’t watch how animals are being killed, then they should not be contributing to it by purchasing these foods.
What does being vegan mean to you?
Veganism is compassion for all living beings. Human animals and non-human animals. Not contributing to suffering, as much as one possibly can, as an individual. The animal ag industry is inherently oppressive to marginalized humans as well. Often undocumented folks are forced to work in the slaughterhouses, due to lack of options. Those living in areas near factory farms, are often near communities of color and are sprayed with animal waste. These folks experience respiratory diseases, cancers, and other medical issues. Food deserts- the lack of healthy and fresh food options- are in low-socioeconomic, marginalized communities.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
Every vegan is an activist, in their own way. From simply being an example to others, answering questions non-vegans have, to protesting in the streets. We should always do the best we can to speak up for all living beings being oppressed.
With climate change increasingly worse, it is imperative we do the best we can to encourage others to decrease their carbon footprint in every way they can- go vegan.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I have learned a lot over the years about the importance of effective communication with non-vegans. When I first learned about the horrors of the animal ag industry, I was angry and was very vocal, desperately trying to get others to feel the way I felt. Although some did, it also created barriers, making other people not even want to listen. I wasted a lot of time and emotional energy on people who were not ready to hear the message. Today, I try to meet people where they are. As a nurse, with a vegan tattoo, it is often a conversation starter with my patients. So many patients come to the ER for complaints that can be prevented with a proper diet and lifestyle. I use these interactions as a way to bring up plant-based eating and provide them with resources.
Any recommended Vegan books?
Cookbooks: Isa Does It, NYC Vegan, Thug Kitchen, Forks Over Knives
Reading books: Eating Animal; The Cheese Trap; Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, Beyond Beliefs
Children’s books: That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, V is for Vegan
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Physicians for Responsible Medicine, Veg News, Live Kindly Co, Veganuary, @TheVeggiePilot @vegancommunity @VeganMos @Torre.Washington @CdhefCharityMorgan @SoFreakinVegan
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Game Changers What the Health, Invisible Vegan, Forks over Knives, Cowspiracy
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
Please share your favorite vegan recipe.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Do the best you can, with where you are. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just having the awareness and positive intention for the importance of veganism is a great place to start. Find community, online or in person. Don’t get discouraged when those closest to you are not supportive at first. Be a positive example others want to emulate.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
My small town has 2 vegan restaurants and many options. Also close to big cities like DC and Baltimore, with many vegan options. There is an active animal rights group that protest and have events regularly.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Find meet up groups in your area. If there aren’t any, start one! I’ve met so many wonderful friends online. Social media is a great tool! You can usually find vegan items at non-American restaurants- Asian, Indian, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you?
I make sure all of the products I buy are cruelty-free. Sometimes I have to do research ahead of time to ensure something has not been tested on animals or contain animal byproducts. It is difficult working in the medical field, knowing all of the medications and many procedures have been tested on animals.
I try to shop second hand as much as possible, to decrease the enormous waste in the textile and fashion industry. Many clothing making shops use factories that treat humans poorly also.
What are your favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
Seventh Generation, Method, Elf, Compassion Co., Herbivore, Love Beauty & The Planet, Ella + Milas nail polish, Lush.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
Vegan Fish products. Sophie’s Kitchen salmon not in many stores. May Wah drummies are also not common, and I have to go to a specialty store 1 hour away to find these products. I also really miss the Just Ranch, by Just For All.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
I was on a cruise, with family. There were so few vegan options on the cruise. They had to make me the same food every night and the worse tofu scramble every morning. All that was available were bread-like foods. I was not a fun person to travel with that week.
I struggled at the beginning with putting up boundaries with family, such as I will not attend Thanksgiving if the turkey carcass would be on the table. That issue has not been resolved, and I have not attended a thanksgiving dinner at that person’s house since.