I have always been part of a few minority groups, since the high school, but I really started to realize what it means when I decided to become vegetarian. I read a few books – the best is Eating animals by Jonathan Safran Foer – and two years ago I decided it was time to act. I was traveling so I started to see how difficult it could be to not eat meat in some Italian regions and European countries.
I decided to become vegetarian for many reasons (health first but not only) and I think about is as a personal choice. I am happy to talk about it but I am not going to try to convince anyone. What really changed is not only my diet (and my health) but my social life. Sometimes I had to declare it in advance (after being invited to a wedding, going to a local gathering of a non profit organization I support), sometimes I have to ask, sometimes I have to adapt. It was not and it not the end of the world, I can eat meat or fish if I have no other choices but I prefer not to.
The first change in my social life has been with friends. Most of them has been curious and supportive, inviting me to dinner and cooking only vegetarian food but I realized it has also been a barrier between us. If they want to eat meat, they don’t invite me because they know I would say no. If some friends hang out and they plan to eat meat, they will not ask me to go with them for the same reason. After a while You start to see the world from a different perspective and You see who is intelligent, sensitive, inclusive enough to respect You and who is not. I am not talking about close relatives or friends but also people You meet from time to time, restaurant owners, people You work with. A few of them are supportive and proactive, some are open minded and try to understand, most of them just tolerate it or don’t care.
Being vegetarian is something You choose to be (because of Your values) but for many other minority groups it is just who You are, because of Your skin color, sexual orientation or Your genes.
We live in a time where news media and show business are very supportive and sensitive, more than ever. It is true and I like it, but it is not enough to feel really accepted for who You are. If You feel that people around You are not supportive, sensitive, open to challenge their point of view, it is not easy to be open with them and they will not be very interested in hanging out with You.
End of story: You close Yourself in a very small group of people or You realize that most of the time it is better to be alone. Internet has been a blessing for that: You can see there are other people like You and it helps. It is not a solution but it is better than nothing, right?