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I find that most humans these days spend too much time glazed over, staring at a computer screen, creating virtual worlds and online relationships, while their IRL relationships and interaction with other living beings diminishes or becomes non-existent. I myself was there, on my phone with everyone else. Working from my home computer, I found myself disconnected with the world around me, lonely. To top that off, the smothering of political and violent news stories flooding my feeds were making me downright angry and hostile toward the world — all from behind my keyboard.
Realizing that I didn’t like what I was becoming, and fighting the urge to lash out at the world daily, I decided to pump my brakes and take a long look in the mirror. For the last decade my income, work, friendships, business interactions — all were through my computer. I needed to change ASAP or I was going to become a miserable old lonely angry fuck. I had to ask myself, “What truly makes me happy?” The thing that has always brought me unmeasurable amounts of joy is being around animals.
As a young, painfully shy, awkward queer kid in Upstate New York, I was always surrounded by animals: cats, dogs, pigeons, rabbits, pigs, geese, guinea pigs, hermit crabs, snakes — you name it. I felt comfortable around animals that never asked me if I wanted to play football or judged how I looked or the clothing I wore. Their non-verbal communication and unconditional love was so pure and soul-filling. (As a child I would also put on dance routines to entertain my animals. They couldn’t care less that I was a big screaming sissy, and they helped me relax and find confidence.)
Determined to make a change, I couldn’t shake my love for animals. I decided that I wanted to surround myself with animals in some capacity.
I’ve never worked with animals as a job or on a professional level. Living in San Francisco on and off for the last 20 years, my interaction with most animals had become quite distant. I turned to Google to find local Bay Area animal organizations, shelters or sanctuaries where I could volunteer. Simultaneously I began researching the term “animal activism.”
What I discovered was gruesome and eye-opening.
Farm factory abuse, poaching, trophy hunting, canned hunting, feral cat colonies — I chased link after link for days, reading and researching. I flipped through photographs of bloody rhinoceroses slaughtered for their horns, tarps full of grotesque lion body parts to be illegally sold at Asian markets. Rich, mostly white men from America posing for “trophy hunting” photos with their kill made my blood boil. Sharing these photos and stories on my social media, to my shock the most common response was, “I had no idea that this was happening!”
At this point there was no question in my mind that helping animals and bringing awareness to such abuse is what I wanted and needed to do. I couldn’t let another day go by without doing something.
I’ve been championing for LGBTQ rights, art and culture for the last decade, and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between abused, abandoned, homeless and hunted animals and our LGBTQ community. A major goal behind “Becoming an Animal Activist” is to encourage more LGBTQ people to get involved with animal welfare and volunteer opportunities.
Volunteering and working with animals is rewarding in many ways. It offers a place of belonging, gives a person value, teaches responsibility and accountability, offers unconditional love and builds confidence.
It makes sense that queer people are drawn to animal rights. Many shelter animals, exotic or domesticated, end up there because they were abandoned or abused. It’s a story many queer people can identify with. So for queer people to give a voice to these animals — animals that have no voice, and that are suffering — is empowering.
After an environment focused around “gender,” “sexuality” and “sexual identity,” I find it really refreshing that those terms aren’t part of the equation while working with animals. It’s some time to forget about all of that and just be a human helping animals.
In a world gone mad and with a government working against animal rights, I feel it’s really important to do something that just feels good and that will have a positive outcome for animals. They need us to fight for them now more than ever.
So I’ve put together a three-part plan. Part one of my plan is to get dirty, roll around in the mud and volunteer with as many animals as I can this year. Currently I’m involved with SF Animal Care and Control, Muttvile (senior dog rescue), Homeless Cat Network (feeding feral colonies and TNR, “Trap Neuter Release”), Tonis Kitten Rescue (fostering) and, by the end of April, the SF Zoo. And I’m still filling in my schedule. I will be drowning in animals by the end of 2018, and I couldn’t be happier.
Part two of my plan is the “Becoming An Animal Activist” video series. I figure the best way to get answers to the million questions that have come up since starting the project, is to hit the road and visit sanctuaries and shelters, meet the animals, hear their stories, interview staff, volunteers and owners of these establishments — all to look behind the curtain and learn what an “animal activist” does as well as these organizations’ needs and concerns.
As for part three of my plan, I have started a group, Humans Helping Animals, where I will be focussed on education, awareness, conservation (local and global), fundraising, volunteer/intern resources and building an animal-loving community.
Now that my eyes are open to the abuse hurled toward animals worldwide, I feel obligated to do something, big or small. I realize I am just one voice, but with my voice plus your voice, we can make a difference for animals worldwide for generations to come.
Links to my project: GoFundMe Project, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube
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