Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2015-10-07
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


Ethical Treatment: PETA, LGBT community share bonds
by Charlsie Dewey

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

      More Photos

It's long been a joke that one of the signs of lesbianism is a vegetarian or vegan diet, a point made hilariously funny by RuPaul's character Mike in the 1990s film But I'm a Cheerleader.

"In diet, watch for a switch to vegetarianism," Mike says, as he tries to bring main character Megan around to the realization that she is a lesbian by listing off her many stereotypical tendencies.

In fact, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has long seen the LGBT community at large as a strong contingent of its supporters, and many of its earliest volunteers were part of the LGBT community.

"I've been at PETA since 1985 and even back then a lot of our volunteers were gay," said Dan Mathews, senior vice president at PETA. "I think there has always been an affinity between gay activists and animal rights activists, because I think when you see the mockery that some people have about the rights of animals, gay people have that same mockery that we've faced ourselves, the cruelty and the indifference to suffering. At an activist level, I think we share that."

PETA also established an inclusive environment early on that no doubt helped it attract LGBT volunteers and employees. It hired out individuals like Mathews in its initial years, participated in Pride festivals, held events at gay clubs featuring well-known drag stars, and welcomed musician Morrissey as its first out spokesperson in 1985—and Morrissey's support continues to this day.

Mathews noted that 1995 Melissa Etheridge and her then-girlfriend Julie Cypher were the first gay couple to pose for the "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" ad.

Additionally, RuPaul was on the cover of the organization's cruelty free cosmetics shopping guide during that same decade.

Despite occasional backlash against its use of LGBT celebrities, PETA has never backed down from being inclusive, and that decision has only helped it grow its membership.

"k.d. lang, when she fronted our 'Meat Stinks' campaign back in the early '90s, a lot of the meat industry response was really homophobic as well as anti-animal and that brought a lot of gays to our side as well," Mathews said.

The organization has continued to feature LGBT individuals in its campaigns throughout its history including Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi, Alan Cumming, Lance Bass, Jane Lynch, Jillian Michaels, RuPaul, Tim Gunn, Sara Gilbert, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Boy George and Perez Hilton, to name a very small number of out celebrities who have been involved.

"We embrace both the edgier underground figures like Sharon Needles and Lady Bunny as we do the mainstream ones," Mathews said.

PETA's outreach to the drag community has actually provided the organization with a great opportunity to highlight its message through parody and entertainment.

Mathews noted drag celebrities such as Frank Marino, who impersonated Joan Rivers, and Flotilla DeBarge, impersonating Star Jones, as examples of how drag queens have really helped make the point of how outrageous and ridiculous some of the personalities are who are unwavering about wearing fur.

As an organization known for its edginess, the combination of mainstream and underground celebrities has helped draw a broad swath of support.

"We have kind of a radical image, which I think suits us very well, but it's nice when we can soften the edges through these many gay friends we have in these various industries."

For example, Mathews said that PETA's relationship with Tim Gunn has been particularly important. Gunn has been involved in numerous ways including hosting video exposes of what happens to animals in the various skin trades before they are made into products such as leather shoes, fur coats or wool jackets.

"He brought me in to speak at Liz Claiborne's headquarters and we worked with him to eliminate fur from all 21 fashion lines at Liz Claiborne."

To date, PETA has successfully convinced many within the fashion and cosmetics industries to reconsider their use of animals in creating their products.

"We pressured dozens of companies like Avon and Revlon and Estee Lauder to stop testing their cosmetics on animals," Mathews explained. "We stopped General Motors from using animals in crash tests. They had killed about 20,000 animals up until the time that PETA started targeting them in the '90s. We've convinced designers like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger to drop fur from their collections."

Mathews said that one of the reasons PETA has continued to succeed is because of its ability to evolve.

"You've got to reinvent yourself because society changes a lot, the sort of things people pay attention to changes every few years," he said. "I think if you don't adapt you become invisible, and we've always been very agile about reformatting new campaigns for new eras."

Currently, PETA's main focus is on helping people understand the benefits of a vegetarian and vegan diet.

"We are still getting a great response with the recent campaign we did with Sharon Needles, last year's winner of RuPaul's Drag Race. She launched a really grisly Halloween campaign which made the analogy of flesh-eating zombies and people who eat animals, as both being flesh crazed. It's been a really phenomenal campaign."

This year's winner of PETA's annual sexiest vegetarian contest will help the organization continue its focus on vegetarianism and fitness.

"We do a sexiest vegetarian celebrity and we also do a sexiest vegetarian non-celebrity, essentially the vegetarian next door," Mathews explained. "Interestingly enough, the winner of this year's sexiest vegetarian was Zachary Koval, who is an ex-trainer in New York and is gay. His work with us, after winning the contest, has led us to do vegetarian fitness outreach with gyms and lots of really wonderful positive campaigns."

PETA will also continue to show support to the gay community through participating in Pride festivals and parades this summer.

Mathews said that many people have become much more open to discussing animal rights issues and the health benefits of eating vegetarian or vegan diets than in the past, in part because of PETA's attention-grabbing ads.

"I think the biggest thing that we do is put animal issues on people's minds through a lot of the provocative things we do, many of which have been led by openly gay spokespeople, to get people thinking about animal issues and to reconsider their diet," Mathews said. "This is much more of a social movement than a political movement because it's about the products that people eat and the things they wear."

See .

Photospread here: .

facebook twitter pin it stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Millions confront bullying by to "going purple" on social media Oct. 15 2015-10-08
Pride Action Tank launches to foster collaborative LGBTQ work 2015-10-07
National roundup: Clinton liaison; trans suicide; Voices on Point gala 2015-10-06
Ashley Judd keynotes CFW's 30th anniversary celebration 2015-10-06
Chicago social workers honored for distinguished contributions to social justice 2015-10-01
PrEP Forum Oct. 1 2015-09-24
Sloan discusses decision to leave Chicago House 2015-09-23
International Imperial Court System celebrates 50th Anniversary 2015-09-19
DIFFA party raises more than $15K 2015-09-17
Poll: Public opposes allowing public employees to discriminate against LGBT couples 2015-09-16
Upcoming: Day With HIV; Ashley Judd at CFW; safe-school honors; Surrogacy seminar 2015-09-16
Chicago Foundation for Women marks 30 years of philanthropy 2015-09-16
Upcoming: Creating Change kickoff; Personal PAC; Gender Performance 2015-09-16
LGBT fund awarding $282K to local groups 2015-09-12
Nightspots: The Big To Do 2015-09-09
Project&/Expo Chicago Collaboration focused on social aesthetics 2015-09-01
A Wider Bridge opens Chicago office 2015-08-24
Caitlyn Jenner to headline Chicago House Speaker Series 2015-08-24
Social Security will retroactively grant spousal benefits in Lambda case 2015-08-20
Marriage Equality and Social Justice 2015-08-19
Host Committee meeting for 2016 Creating Change planned for August 2015-08-19
Howard Brown Health Center designated federally qualified health center 2015-08-14
NQAPIA national conference looks at various hot topics 2015-08-12
Lakeview Pantry breaks ground 2015-08-11
Asian/Pacific Islander group marks decade of making a difference 2015-08-05
'In the Life' series archived; Wolfe Video; Creating Change 2015-08-05
Chicago groups chip in as ADA marks 25 years 2015-07-29
Ex-Center On Halsted staffers allege 'toxic' work environment 2015-07-29
Upcoming: Lesbians Who Tech event July 23 2015-07-22
Forum covers race, disability, sexuality and the body 2015-07-21
Lambda Legal Executive Director Kevin Cathcart to step down 2015-07-15
Local: Hall of Fame noms due; Creating Change set; Scholarships awarded 2015-07-14
Leaders reflect on activism as Amigas Latinas folds 2015-07-08
More than 300 nonprofits call for fair, fully-funded state budget 2015-06-30
HBHC CEO among speakers at The Reunion Project 2015-06-24
Study: Social support networks important to LGBT youth adjustment 2015-06-23
Gerber/Hart begins new director search 2015-06-21
Peace Corps holds LGBT-focused information session 2015-06-21
Star Jones fights for diversity, equality in the workplace 2015-06-17
Wiseman elected as Union League President 2015-06-14

Copyright © 2015 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.