I’m An African, Atheist, Asexual Vegan
I’m an African, atheist, asexual vegan. These four words usually never go together — atheism and Africa don’t really mix, and most people think being vegan is fundamentally unAfrican. And as far as being asexual, most people think we don’t even really exist.
I came to all of these identities differently, but fundamentally, it’s the same thing that started me down on the path, and that is the fact that I’ve never been one to subscribe to any belief system simply because it’s what I was taught. I’ve always had a hard time with people doing and believing things because it’s “what they were taught”.
I was born in Ghana to Ghanaian parents. Although I didn’t grow up in Ghana, it was always instilled in me that that was where I was from, my “home”. Being African is what led me to reject my Christian upbringing: why should I subscribe to a religion that I believed in simply because it was imposed on my ancestors by colonial powers? Why should I believe in it because my parents imposed it on me, when its tenets do not resonate with me?
Questioning the things I was taught by my parents, educators, friends, and wider society also led me to reject patriarchal norms about how women or “ladies” should act, and who even is a woman. I have nothing but gratitude for the people who paved the way to breaking down and rejecting societally mandated gender norms: gay people who flout ideas about who you should be with and how you should behave in line with your gender, trans* people who reject the sex they were assigned at birth, and non-binary people who have taught me that you don’t have to identify with any gender at all.
I also learned that as a woman, if you have sex, you’re a “slut”, but if you don’t, you’re a “prude”. I learned to reject the idea that my sexuality needs to be expressed in any way besides the one that is true to me, and the one that is true to me is asexuality, meaning I don’t experience sexual attraction.
The final frontier for me was ethical veganism. I grew up eating meat, wearing leather and wool, and going to zoos, and not thinking anything of it. Eating meat is so normalized as a necessity that I believed that it was, even while rejecting the other things I was taught. I came to veganism through health, but after learning more about the environmental impacts of factory farming and how it affects the world’s most marginalized, and that meat isn’t actually a necessity to live a healthy life, I decided that I would leave that behind. After learning more about how animals are treated to create dairy products and clothes, I decided that, despite never having been an animal lover, I couldn’t in good conscience continue to contribute to it.
To be completely honest, I’m still a bit speciesist. As I said, I was never an animal lover. I’m still not. I don’t ever want pets, and I don’t hang out at animal sanctuaries or volunteer at shelters. But that doesn’t mean that I believe we have the right to treat other living beings the way we do as a species simply to fulfill our own personal desires. They’re autonomous, just as we are, and on a macro level, I don’t think human beings are the most “important” species to inhabit the earth. Even as we’ve come up with some amazing innovations, we’ve also contributed considerably to its destruction. And as the brilliant Aph Ko has pointed out, colonialism, the enslavement of black Africans, and the exploitation of animals are all wrapped up in white supremacy. What could be more African than rejecting white supremacy?
Feminist, Afro- and asexual veganism is likely not the real final frontier for me. I’m sure there are other behaviors and norms that I need to unlearn, even if I haven’t discovered what they are yet. But I am so grateful to all of the people who have brought me down this path.
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