Category: queer

Liberation from Internalized LGBTQ Self-Hatred, Homophobia, and Transphobia

Recently my friend, Shirley McMillan, asked me to write a few words about internalized homophobia. As someone who spent nearly 20 years in conversion therapy, I know firsthand how toxic self-hatred can be, especially when it is scaffolded by external hatred towards LGBTQ people.

For too long we have lived in a society that has treated us with contempt and shame. It is like they are hurling emotional bacteria at us, and that stuff is highly contagious. Just like a bug that gets spreads in a community, we can pick up homophobia at home, in school, on the bus, or even when hanging out with a friend. And like a computer virus, we can get it when we go on-line.

Photo by Isi Parente on Unsplash

This contempt and shame is fueled by fear. That is how it gets its power. I got infected when I was young to the point I hated my own body. If there was any indication I was gay or expressed any gender differences, in the way I talked or walked, I hated myself all the more. Fear kept me in hiding and the terror of rejection from society gave the contempt and shame a breeding ground to grow.

Instead of fighting against it, I began to fight myself and beat up on my sexuality and my differences. If it went on much longer, I imagine I would have begun to attack other LGBTQ people too. Hurting people hurt people.

What contempt and shame hate the most is light—when we talk to each other about this stuff, suddenly contempt, shame, and fear begin to lose their power. When we learn about other LGBTQ people, their accomplishments, their strengths, their beauty, and their heroes’ journeys, we begin to feel proud of our people and by extension we begin to value and appreciate ourselves. Their example provides us with a path for our own liberation and self-celebration.

Langston Hughes

The Black gay poet, Langston Hughes is someone who experienced both homophobia and racism. He knew what it was like to be bullied and left out, and miraculously he refused to turn that hurt inward. In a world that devalued him, he found great value in himself and his people. In his poem, I, Too, he wrote:

“ Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

Another source of inspiration I find is in reading fiction. Reading the work of queer authors like Octavia Butler, Truman Capote, and James Baldwin draws me into the world of imagination and gives me space to think of new realities.

Shirley McMillan recently published a novel that has a very pro-LGBTQ theme to it. Every Sparrow Falling addresses one community’s intolerance, and like in her book, The Unknowns, she provides models of loving, supportive, affirming, and liberated society.

 

What about you? In your journey of self-acceptance, liberation, and self-celebration, what have been sources of inspiration?

(Featured Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash)

 

Broken Bodies and Necco Wafers : Synchroblog 2015

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Peterson age eight

In thinking about the theme of Sex and Bodies for the annual Queer Theology synchroblog, I’ve been thinking about a moment in my childhood when my sisters and I, in the backseat of the family car, got into big trouble for playing what turned out to be an adult game.

I was maybe 10 years old, my sister Dina was 12, and Maria would have been about 7. We were returning from a day trip to New York City. My dad, Pete Toscano drove, and my mom, Anita Toscano, sat in the passenger seat smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes and reading. She was a constant reader, everything from trashy romance novels to literary non-fiction. When she read, the book formed a force-field around her that virtually nothing could penetrate. And we three kids in the backseat played our little game.

We used a pack of Necco Wafers, these were disc-like chalky candies in weird flavors like licorice and clove. They came in a round pack about the size of a roll of quarters.  In our game one person was the giver and the other the receiver. The giver took a single Necco wafer, turned to the receiver and said, “The Body of Christ, broken for you.” Then with the wafer on the tip of the tongue, the receiver responded–“Amen.” The Body of Christ Broken for You. Amen.

Planet of the Apes Action Figures

Planet of the Apes Action Figures

What an odd expression–The Body of Christ broken for you. I mean when a body is broken that’s not typically a good thing, not something to celebrate. Like when I was a kid and Dr. Cornelius, my favorite Planet of the Apes Action Figure broke in my hands while I was playing at my grandmother’s house. I gasped as Dr. Cornelius’ head fell off and rolled under the couch, his limbs dangled by rubber bands, and I was left holding his disconnected torso. I was inconsolable. On the phone my mother tried to comfort me, “We’ll get you another one.” I’m sure she did, but not all broken bodies get replacement parts or a reboot.

Often a broken body represents pain, tragedy–like the brokenness that comes from an accident, illness, or abuse. The body may heal up, but is left with scars; a disability can last a lifetime. Sometimes a broken body leads to death. Some could say that we are right now living on top of the largest broken body of them all–our planet. After years of exploitation, abuse, and relentless polluting, our earth is weakened, changing, and failing right before our eyes.

Recently on my podcast I reflected on the popular modern theological notion that in relation to the planet and the life on it, we are to be Stewards. Some eco-minded theologians charge us with the tasks to be the caretakers of the land and caregivers to the living things on it. A lofty place for one of millions of species on the planet.

I am not a touchy feeling granola new age environmentalist, but even I can see that there is an interconnectedness. When I breath out, I release a little bit of carbon dioxide and a lot of nitrogen. The carbon dioxide is in turn absorbed by plants and ultimately gets transformed and released as oxygen.

I am not a distant other caring for a needy planet. Rather I am part of a system, one that I need for food, air, and life.

parasite-300x198If I were to be cynical about it though, the actual relationship I see that humans have with the planet is parasitical. A parasite is an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. We have a negative connotation to the word parasite. It can be used as an insult in an argument, “I tell you Leonard, I can’t take any more. You are sucking the life out of you. You are an emotional and financial parasite!”

My husband is writing a novel that includes a character that is a talking tape worm, one that possesses the body of a young boy in hopes of manipulating the boy in order to save the world. (Strangely enough I am working on an illustrated story about a talking holy placenta.) Over meals and before going to sleep, I have heard a far too much about parasites. Now there are actually good parasites, beneficial parasites. Researchers have begun to point out that many intestinal parasites actually help us. These microbes swimming in our guts might be responsible for activating our immune system and staving off problems caused by intestinal inflammation. There is a give and take with these parasites in our systems. We benefit each other.

While it doesn’t sound terribly appealing, I believe that instead of seeing ourselves as stewards of the earth, we should think about how we can be downright neighborly beneficial parasites on this large body we call home.

But let’s return to the backseat of that Ford station wagon, that time capsule of my childhood memory. Playing our little game, my sisters and I went through pack after pack of Necco Wafers–The Body of Christ broken for youAmen. The Body of Christ Body for you. Over and over until we got so obnoxious, we pierced the smoky protective seal that formed around my mother as she enjoyed her book. She snuffed out her cigarette, threw the paperback to the floor of the car, spun around to face the backseat and barked at us, “Knock it off already for Christ’s sake!” But we couldn’t. We were addicted to our little game, like we can get addicted to so many of the games we play in life. As it grew darker outside, we huddled in the backseat whispering to each other. The Body of Christ Broken for you–Amen.

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You can hear an audio version of this essay:

You can read more submissions in the Synchroblog series:

 

The Queerest Issue on the Planet

He’s a gay Jewish man from Long Island married to a Caribbean-American trans man. If you have not yet Marvin Bloom, here is your chance. Although he is quick to point that that he was too young a the time to get involved, Marvin reflects on lessons learned from the HIV/AIDS Crisis of the 1980’s and makes a stunning connection to conflict and crisis today.

Also, we are getting a little tired of polar bears getting all the action, and reveal some of their disruptive antics. Finally, we get good news from the future about Marisol Jimenez, an activist who over the next 50 years is going to do some amazing stuff.

Check out this week’s 12 minute radio comedy.

Queer Synchroblog: Coming out for Climate in weird religious ways

Every four years I take part in Fr. Shay Kearns’s Queer Theology Synchroblog. Today is the day again and there are some amazing blog posts out there (scrool to the bottom.) This year’s theme is Coming/Going, which opens up many blogging opportunities. Those of you who follow me know that my head and heart have been gripped by the reality of climate change, and I have been seeking for creative ways to convey a message that is serious, hopeful and even humorous.

Stripping the climate talk of fear and guilt is an act of queerness. Tying that queer climate talk with old time religious, well, that may be just the ticket for a queer quirky Quaker like me. For this year’s Queer Theology Synchroblog the transcript and the audio of episode four of the Climate Stew show staring church lady Elizabeth Jeremiah. I reached back to my repressive gay reparative therapy days and use some of the very same oppressive Pentecostal Holiness teachings that kept me bound to deliverance ministries and other extreme religious sports. I then apply these to greenhouse gas pollution. 

The entire transcript is below and you can also Listen here or on  iTunes, and Stitcher.

Climate_Stew_Logo_Square1400x1400

Links

Scientists trace extreme heat in Australia to Climate Change.
How Coal is Formed
Generational Curses and Naughty Gay DNA?

Music Credits

Over and Over from Five Song Demo by Mark Chadwick
The Association News Theme by Jake Hallman
Muhammad Ali from Curses from Past Times by ProleteR
Dream On on Lush Life by Poldoore

Episode Four Transcript

Intro

Welcome to Episode Four of the Climate Stew Podcast. Last time we brought you sounds and voices from the Peoples Climate March, and I adopted some sort of chill Roman Mars 99% Invisible podcast speaking voice. But I’m back with my normal voice and we are ready to serve you a delicious melange in three segments. Special guest Elizabeth Jeremiah, who has an offbeat view of the natural and the supernatural worlds, is our main feature today followed by Timothy Meadows with an update from the future looking at the past to help us see how we might address global warming in the present.

But first the news

News

In our one climate change news story today we learn that scientists have at last connected an extreme weather event directly to global warming. Our correspondent, Tony Buffusio in the Bronx reads directly from the New York Times:

“Thank you Peterson, I have the article right here, and I quote: ’The savage heat waves that struck Australia last year were almost certainly a direct consequence of greenhouse gases released by human activity, researchers said Monday. It is perhaps the most definitive statement climate scientists have made tying a specific weather event to global warming.

Five groups of researchers, (ok, not just five researchers but five groups from all over the world) using distinct methods, analyzed the heat that baked Australia for much of 2013 and continued into 2014, briefly shutting down the Australian Open tennis tournament in January when the temperature climbed to 111 degrees Fahrenheit. (And that’s in January our coldest month of the year which of course is backwards for those people over there)

 A tennis fan tried to cool off at the Australian Open in January. Temperatures reaching 111 paused the tournament. Narendra Shrestha/European Pressphoto Agency

A tennis fan tried to cool off at the Australian Open in January. Temperatures reaching 111 paused the tournament. Narendra Shrestha/European Pressphoto Agency

 

All five research groups came to the conclusion that last year’s heat waves could not have been as severe without the long-term climatic warming caused by human emissions.’ Which sounds like they’re saying farts, but I know it’s bigger than that. Yeah, so there you have it. Back to you Peterson in the studio.”

Uh, Thank you Tony.

Climate scientists up to now have been unable to prove that recent severe weather incidents were caused by climate change, but in this case no climate model that looks at only natural factors could possibly account for the extreme heat in Australia; carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the most likely factors. Further proof that things are heating up and we need to act up for climate and maybe reschedule the Australian Open.

Main Section: Elizabeth Jeremiah And Generational Curses

This is Elizabeth Jeremiah from the Elizabeth Jeremiah Global Worldwide Ministries in Jesus. I requested to appear on this radio podcast internet transmission to share a concern I have for you—one that potentially affects generations to come. What I’m talking about of course are generational curses. In my church we warn people that their actions today have consequences for our children and our children’s children’s children. (can we please turn off that music?)

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Oh I hear you saying, “But Elizabeth Jeremiah, I don’t have any children.” To which I reply, “Well, then, I will pray for you.”

No, our actions for good or bad have repercussions like ripples on the ocean that reach far beyond us. Exodus chapter 36 verse 7 states that the iniquity of the fathers will fall upon the sons, and upon the son’s son, unto the third and to the fourth generations. Oh, and this applies to mothers and daughters too; God is not a respecter of persons.

Now normally the generational curse example I like to give is homosexuality. And before you jump down my throat, let me just say I am the most tolerant person I know when it comes to the homosexual. In fact, my best friend’s cousin gets her hair done by a homosexual and we are faithful to pray for that man and his partner, Pablo, who isn’t even American, but apparently has all his papers in order.

No I discern that many of you in the listening audience are secular humanists, so I will give you an example of a generational curse that makes sense for you: Carbon Dioxide. Thank the Lord that he created this wonderful chemical compound that is filled with energy and with the wonder working power of the sun, no not the Son of God but the sun in the sky that God created.

Carbon Dioxide, which we breath out by the way, is held high up in the heavenly firmament, which you call the atmosphere, and moves about and warms the planet, otherwise our earthly home would just be a dead frozen rock, like the hearts of some people I have known.

150 years ago our ancestors, bless their hearts, hoping to better themselves began to burn coal in factories.  Now a one foot pile of coal condenses the energy of 10 feet of decomposed trees and plants—so a lot of bang for the buck. Our people burnt the coal and then the petroleum which is even more energized.

God had created the perfect system that recycles, mmmm, I know y’all like that word, a system that recycles carbon dioxide through trees and the oceans giving us clean air. But the system got overburdened and just couldn’t keep up. And this is NOT God’s fault!

I hate it when people asked, “If God is so good, why is there still evil in the world?” Well it is because people are evil, selfish, wasteful, vengeful creatures. We’ve behaved like those awful tenants in the vineyard Jesus preached about, who were given land to care for but instead squandered God’s riches like a whore-hungry, drug-addled prodigal son or husband.

Our ancestors, Father forgive them for they knew not what they did, did not know that a single molecule of carbon dioxide which is smaller than an angel on a pinhead, remains in the heavenly firmament stockpiling one on top of each other for a hundred years ultimately disrupting the seasons and bringing disasters and woe upon all our heads, especially for those poor people in Africa.gencursessmallthumb1

But here is the Good News—we have the power to break a generational curse and turn it into a blessing. How? Repentance, just repent of your evil polluting ways. Oh, and I am NOT talking about sitting around self-indulgently calculating your personal carbon footprint and feeling all good about yourselves. No we need national repentance, we need to turn from our sinful fossil fuel lifestyles and go in whole a new direction. Instead of a curse, we shall give unto our offspring a blessing of clean air and a stable planet.

The Lord God Almighty gives his firm promise to us in 2 Chronicles chapter 7: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Hmmm, that’s God’s good stuff, now.

Oh, and on a side note, if you want to know how I talk about generational curses in the churches where I teach, just substitute carbon dioxide with homosexuality.

This has been Elizabeth Jeremiah from the Elizabeth Jeremiah Global Worldwide Ministries in Jesus. May God richly bless you and keep you and your whole household too.

That Day in Climate History

I am Timothy Meadows, It is Saturday October 6, 2164 and time for “That Day in Climate History.” The massive heat waves of 2017 and 2018 caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people—mostly elderly, infants, and those with respiratory ailments, in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, North America, and Australia. While governments struggled to keep up with disaster relief, in the spring of 2019 a group of clergy met to develop strategies to protect the most vulnerable in their communities.

First conceived in Albuquerque, New Mexico by a Muslim Imam, a Jewish Rabbi, a Christian minister, and a Pagan High Priestess, the Summer Sanctuary Project opened the doors to places of worship and provided places of refuge when people could not afford to run expensive air conditioning units. In retrofitted mosques, synagogues, churches, and temples, community members stayed cool and safe for up to two weeks at a time during the extremely hot summer of 2019. The pilot project proved so successful that it was quickly adopted by other places of worships along with gender queer community centers, local schools, and town halls.

By 2020 the Climate Sanctuary Movement expanded to create safe spaces during times of all types of extreme weather with the unexpected positive outcome of deepening community ties leading to greater cooperation and peace. It is estimated that by 2022 the Climate Sanctuary Movement saved over 2 million lives. On this day in 2164 we remember that day in Climate History.

Advert:

Climate History is brought to you by Ikea offering stylish and affordable carbon capture artificial house plants.

Closing:

You have made it to the end of episode four of Climate Stew Podcast. Thank you for listening. Please feel very free to share this podcast with your friends through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Email—you get the point. As a new podcast we need your help to let people know that there are fun ways of talking about the serious issue of global warming. Soon I will tour the North America with stops in Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Portland, Vancouver, BC and more. Check out www.petersontoscano.com for more information. You can see a complete transcript of today’s program, along with show notes and music credits over at www.climatestew.com Special thanks to Jane Brazell, Glen Retief, oh, and Joe G who with just a tank top and super short cutoff jeans completely altered the climate at the Iowa State Fair.


 

2014 Queer Synchroblog Contributors

* Fr. Shay Kearns Coming Into My Own

* Schrodinger’s Triceratops Coming/Going

* Mackenzian Coming Back To Prayer

* Wally Coming Out

* Andrew/Amanda A Journey of Coming and Going

* Rev. Liz Edman Coming and Going in the Wilderness

* The Fugitive Minister You’re Right

* A Queer Calling In Which We Decide To Go To Church

* Wall Of Illusion Coming, Going, Staying

* Holy Ghost Heretic Coming/Going

* Jonas Weaver Listening to the Old Bray of My Heart

* Mark Dixon Welcome Home

* Peterson Toscano Coming Out for Climate in Weird Religious Ways

* P Synchroblog Entry

* Jamie S Hill Dancing With My Shadow

* Seamus D Coming and Going

* Maggie Starr Synchroblog Entry

* Crumbs at the Feast Good To Come, Better to Go

* Sarah Moon And Though I Find Here No Permanent Dwelling…

* Delfin Bautista The Struggle of Rebirth: A Catholic Coming Out

* Brian Gerald Murphy Be Gentle

 

Frolicking with gays on Fire Island: A Climate Queer Reaches Out

Joseph Huff-Hannon of Queers for the Climate just posted a deliciously funny and actually quite helpful video in which he first models how NOT to speak to a group of gay guys about global warming. Then the compact florescent lightbulb goes off: People aren’t connecting the climate crisis to their community. So he switches up the message and BAM! the queens get it.

A canvasser with Queers for the Climate visits the iconic gay getaway to warn residents about the impending dangers of sea level rise. Hijinx ensue, Fire Islanders are riled up, all just in time for the historic People’s Climate March on September 21:

See Climate Change Ground Zero: Fire Island Pines

It’s Our Fight Too: An LGBTQ Response to Climate Change

As a member of the Queers for the Climate group  I will take an active role in the upcoming People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014. This past week I had the privilege to work with a group of others on creating a manifesto which serves as a call to action. Through a consensus process, we developed the following statement. Please consider getting involved over at the Queers for the Climate Facebook page, sign onto the manifesto (details below) and please share this manifesto on your own blog and through your social networks.

 

It’s Our Fight Too: An LGBTQ Response to Climate Change

We are LGBTQ people and we’re standing up to face climate change as the single biggest threat to humanity.

Progress on LGBTQ equality has demonstrated to the world that all people deserve dignity and respect. We must build on our successes to include future generations and those already suffering the impacts of climate changes.

Catastrophic climate change has the potential to further destabilize already stressed societies.Queer people, like many minority or marginalized communities around the world, will be especially vulnerable. We believe that LGBTQ movements have a responsibility to address the climate crisis now, before our community is placed at further risk.

We’ve trained for this fight. We have faced persecution because of who we are and stood up to those who denied our existence. Our communities faced near extinction throughout the early HIV/AIDS crisis. Today we are all facing the grave threat of an unstable climate.

While governments and corporations refused to acknowledge the severity of the AIDS crisis — an eerie parallel to the response to date on climate change — we educated the masses, told our stories, harnessed the media, raised money, and in a very short time moved nations and industries to act on behalf of people living with HIV around the world.

We’ve also made same-sex marriage, once unimaginable, a reality on almost every continent — now we must build on our successes by tackling our generation’s greatest challenge. We’ve already moved mountains, and we will do it again.

Lastly, we recognize that LGBTQ communities share a rich tradition of creative, fun, thought-provoking action. We build powerful alliances across classes, races, gender identities, and nationalities.

This moment is our opportunity to reignite these talents and our shared experiences toward a cause that benefits all people and the planet as a whole.

As a signatory to this letter*, I will do one or more of the below:

*To add your name or your organization to this letter, please email: queers-for-the-climate (at) googlegroups.com or joseph (at) avaaz.org

·      I will join the People’s Climate March on September 21st in New York City, and show my support by marching with the LGBTQ block

·      I will spread the word to my constituents, my business partners, my friends, family and community about the People’s Climate March

·      I will use social media, email blasts and other digital tools to rally support for the march in the weeks leading up to September 21st

Andy Bichlbaum, the Yes Men
Queers for the Climate

Act up global warming

And Ain’t I a Queer? LGBTQ Human Rights and Global Warming

At the 1995 National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce Creating Change Conference, Ibrahim Farajaje (then Elias Farajaje-Jones) highlighted the many, diverse intersections connecting LGBTQ people in the world along with our interconnected quest for human rights. Revealing to a mostly white audience the vast diversity of people that make up the LGBTQ rainbow collective, Farajaje evoked and updated the famous “Ain’t I a Woman” speech that Sojourner Truth presented to a group of white activists at the 1851 Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. According to Lorraine Hutchins, who heard Farajaje’s Creating Change speech live and teaches it in her university classes, Farajaje named an array of people with multiple intersecting identities such as a Filipina lesbian mom, and a bisexual Dominican in a wheelchair echoing the refrain, “and Ain’t I a queer?”

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It has been a century and a half since Sojourner Truth asked, “And Ain’t I a Woman?” and LGBT communities of color have spent several decades challenging mainstream white, middle-class queer groups on our frequent failure to build coalitions of the oppressed or holistically respond to oppressions faced by poor people and queers of color. Our movement is only beginning to acknowledge the wisdom of the late civil rights leader MLK Jr.: “None can be free until all are free.” Yet there is a critical gap in that conversation. Now, more than ever, and as we consider the global impact of climate change on LGBTQ people near and far, we need to hear the essential question over and over, “And Ain’t I a Queer?”

Although many people, queer and straight alike, seem unaware, global warming is the most urgent human rights issue in history. The world’s leading climate scientist, James Hansen, has described climate change as the “world’s greatest crime against humanity and nature.” With the World Bank and IPCC projecting a 4º C (7º F) or more rise in temperature by 2100 at current rates, we face the submersion of thousands of coastal cities, hundreds of millions of refugees from coastal and island nations, war, starvation, desertification, and the eventual uninhabitability of large parts of the Global South (Hansen 2014).

Is it an LGBT rights issue when a Filipino gay couple loses their home in a hurricane intensified by the emissions-heavy lifestyle of queer and straight Canadians and Americans? The homeless Filipino queers might well ask us, and Ain’t I a Queer?   When a same-gender-loving woman in Uganda gets scapegoated, attacked, and imprisoned for the ongoing droughts and food shortages that have increased because of global warming, is she worthy of our attention and concern?  When a trans* teenager in Harlem, who has suffered from severe asthma since she was a toddler and faces daily persecution at school, continues to miss class because of hazardous localized air pollutants in addition to the hostile learning climate, is not her need for environmental justice and a safe space to be herself, a challenge to the rest of us to get off our asses and work together with her and her community to make sure It Gets Better?  If our communites’ well-being includes their needs and safety as well as our own, what then must we do to move beyond reactive outrage to a place of engaged, sustained, informed action that benefits all of us?

To some, sexuality may seem to be an unimportant topic,” Gayle Rubin wrote in 1984, “a frivolous diversion from the more critical problems of poverty, war, disease, racism, famine, or nuclear annihilation. But it is precisely at times such as these, when we live with the possibility of unthinkable destruction, that people are likely to become dangerously crazy about sexuality.

The reverse is, of course, also true. If we are to stop people becoming “dangerously crazy about sexuality,” LGBT organizations must confront the prospect of unthinkable destruction described in current mainstream scientific reports about climate change. That destruction affects us all and desperately requires our full attention.

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Climate change is a human rights issue that already directly affects LGBTQ people and our movement worldwide. Not only do we stand in solidarity with everyone who faces “conventional” human rights abuses and civil disenfranchisement, but we also have many LGBTQ community members whose realities are harsh and whose rights are diminished simply because they are transgender, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and queer. This is true worldwide: in parts of North America and especially across the Global South, throughout the African continent, Eastern Europe, and in the Middle East.

The places where our queer siblings suffer persecution and a dearth of civil rights will also be hardest hit by climate change and will likely suffer even greater losses of rights and security. As a movement, we can help prepare for this eventuality by promoting and securing asylum options and refugee support for LGBTQ people living in hostile Global South societies. As energy prices continue to rise, and rise dramatically, we can develop strategies to provide aid and community support for the most vulnerable LGBTQ people in the Global North: trans* people who are under-employed or unemployed; elderly LGBTQ people on fixed incomes who have little family support; queer people of color disproportionately affected by under-employment, workplace discrimination, violent prejudice, and poverty; and others who can no longer afford to live alone. We can do what we often do best–build community, construct alternative families, and creatively care for each other.

The LGBTQ community can bring essential knowledge and skills to the table in pursuing government-level action regarding climate change. In our own recent history, gay men, queer culture, and the fledgling queer rights movement faced possible extinction through the early HIV/AIDS crisis. Through that crisis, we learned how to look after each other and fight for our rights while governments refused to acknowledge us and our needs, let alone act on our behalf. We acted up, educated the queer and straight masses, told our stories, harnessed the media, raised money, and in a very short time moved nations and industries to act not only for citizens in countries like the US and Canada, but also for people in other nations that can’t afford to subsidize the expensive drugs we fought so hard to have developed.

During that crisis, groups and individuals who opposed HIV/AIDS research and proactive public health initiatives also promoted gay conversion therapy using faulty research and cherry-picked results to dehumanize us and deny us our rights. Their strategy, designed to harm queer people, also hindered HIV/AIDS education among straight people and produced denial that persists in some communities to this day. In the last few decades, these same conservative forces have used identical tactics to deny the reality and significance of climate change. They have again stirred up doubt and controversy, promoted public inaction, and imperiled all of us.

This is an unprecedented time with the potential for real suffering and an international erosion of LGBTQ rights. We still have hope that action can be taken to slow the effects of climate change while we make necessary lifestyle and social adaptations to cope with the changes ahead.

As a people, we cannot sit on the sidelines assuming our governments will eventually act, or that our peers, already in desperate circumstances, will get the support they need in time. Climate action is a queer issue that requires our attention and our action. We need to use our creativity, intelligence, and experience to ensure our rights and to build strong community ties on our Planet Home. Its climate may be new to us, and our future here uncertain, but we cannot afford denial. We have to act—for all of us.

 

 

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Special thanks to my team members, Glen Retief, Keisha McKenzie, as well as to Loraine Hutchins, and Ibrahim Farjaje for their contributions and assistance in writing this piece.


 

 

Talking about a Queer Quaker Response to Climate Change

Last year I visited Guilford College in Greensboro, NC and presented the first inklings of a talk around the odd question, What is a Queer Response to Climate Change? As a gay guy, a person of faith from a Christian background now sporting Quaker bonnet and Friendly ways, I daily feel pulled in many different justice directions as my social media feed gets bloated with scores of vital worthy causes–LGBTQ Rights, immigration reform, the reform of the prison industrial complex, anti-racism work, women’s rights, and a constant stream of environmental concerns from anti-fracking to anti-wind farming (because a handful of Quakers I know are concerned about the danger to bird populations.)

So many issues, so little time.

In Quaker circles we talk about having a leading–a deep feeling, interest, fascination, and need to devote time and energy to learn and act around a particular issue. For me that issue is Climate Change with the many human rights, ecological, and political aspects connected to it. But I come to this leading through the lens of being a gay guy, interested in gender issues, passionate about transgender rights, and out of a faith tradition that informs much of what I do.

So no wonder the way I see Climate Change is through those lenses. This multi-focal world view gets revealed in an interview conducted by the Guildorian on March 8 of last year. My ideas have expanded a great deal since then, (and I have three new presentations to prove it) but re-reading the article I see the seeds already sprouting and metaphors and ideas about Queer Climate Activism forming.

The author, Josh Barker, asks, Can you briefly summarize the Queer Quaker response to Climate Change?

First I speak out of a childless gay perspective that for me climate change is  NOT all about the children. Some folks don’t have children or grandchildren yet are very concerned about the plight of the planet and lifeforms on it.  I then got on to say,

We see the world in very different ways, often because of our experiences. We know what it’s like when people tell lies about us, and there are a lot of lies being told about climate and there’s a coordinated effort to misinform people. That sounds familiar to me as a gay man.

To address the climate also means really thinking outside of the box. Thinking about future living, what will that look like. It may mean alternative families where lots of people live together with a lower carbon footprint. The gay community has been doing that for a long time where many of us create our own families and pairings of units of families.

So, there are very specific things like that, and even thinking outside of the box how we can actually partner with conservative people, because this is what is going to have to happen.

Looking at a carbon fee and dividend scheme could be a very useful thing. Using more nuclear energy, which is blasphemous to many liberal Quakers, is much less carbon-intensive then anything we have going on, particularly in this period.
So I don’t know if there is a particular queer Quaker response to this, but I think of my great, great, great grandfather Walt Whitman who had Quaker grandparents, who had an epiphany at one point in his life. And I think, “What would Walt Whitman do today?”

That gives me a little bit of guidance as I try to navigate what I’m going to do.

Who knows where a leading may lead, particularly when we experience the first inklings of an idea, the beginning stirrings of passion, the formation of an odd question, and a growing concern that may become a life’s work?

Does this Climate Change Activism Make Me Look Straight??

Sometimes I feel like the only Climate Gay in the Village. Sure there are LGBTQ folks concerned with accessorizing their carbon footprints and buying trendy eco-friendly products, but when it comes to climate change, it seems most of us live on another planet

No doubt we have been preoccupied with fighting for our recognition in a world that treated us like toxic waste. Not that long ago whenever a major weather catastrophe hit, Christian ministers lined up on TV to declare that homosexuals magically stirred up the waters. That or they proclaimed we incurred the wrath of a God who seemed far more concerned with butt action at a New Orleans bath house over the weekend than to what we have been spewing out of our chimneys into the atmosphere for the past 100 years.

Yes, we have been distracted with a protracted fight for our basic rights and protections. Today many LGBTQ people throughout the developing world face severe, consistent, cruel discrimination, and a dismal lack of basic rights. This is also very true for trans* people in North America and Europe. Sure we can say that for some of us in the LGBTQ Rainbow Collective that “It Gets Better,” but we all know there is work to do.

So who has time or energy for climate change?? We are busy fighting for our rights or with caterers over the perfect gay wedding.

We are in a funny time in history, a time when LGBTQ people in the developed world have more rights and protections than ever before. We also live in a time in which we have altered the chemistry of the planet to such an extreme extent that if we don’t act immediately to stop the insanity, we are looking at a dire, perhaps impossible future. Great, I can get gay married just in time for the end of the world. The worse part is that me and my “gay lifestyle will likely get blamed for it! (As opposed to our fossil fuel lifestyle and overpopulation of the planet.)

For me there is something decidedly queer about Climate Change, yet when I attend Citizen Climate Lobby meetings and Climate Rallies, I feel I am swimming in a sea of white, gender-normative, heterosexuals. Nice people, but we need over voices from other rooms.

I am a climate queer actively looking to develop Queer Responses to Climate Change? What about you? What might those responses look like?