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?

(This post originally appeared on

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Comment by Paul Klinkman on 5th mo. 6, 2014 at 7:23am

The term "conscientious objection" has been applied first to war, but it motivates us in a number of ways.  George Fox started as a melancholy soul hiding in a hollow tree trunk, not finding good answers to all sorts of religious and political  issues, not just wars.  John Woolman discovered that he didn't feel right helping his customers sell slaves. 

I'd say that LGBTQ people are individually faced with a matter of conscience as they grow up.  Each person doesn't feel like the box they're supposed to be in fits them.  It would probably be great to be in the "not bullied" crowd (actually, less bullied is more accurate) but all human adults grow into their love and hormones period which can last 60 years, and being 100% straight or being the right gender just doesn't work.   So, each person struggles with big questions.

I don't see why people can't also be conscientious climate objectors, not just COs but CO2s.  The prospect of fully participating in the destruction of most of the world's species would bother people.  It's not right.  Wars fought over oil fields in Kuwait, in Iraq and in Iran aren't right either.  

At some point many people get through their individual conscientious objection and move on to "all of us should work to conscientiously object together, not just me".  John Woolman changed his career and then spent his next 40 years convincing other Friends to give up their personal slaves.  COs may take up draft counseling so that other young men can figure themselves out, or Friends may organize the mass feeding of war victims after a world war.  A number of gay men and lesbian women have taken up a mission to reach out to confused teens.  Some have become professional therapists so that they can do the job right.  Some reach out to the straight community as way opens, because "bullying is a crazy practice" should be equally true for all of us and we all like integrity.  Some, like yourself, figure out what you're going to say and then hit the road.  God bless you.

I'm a CO2.  40 years ago I didn't want to live the automobile life.  When I hit 40 I learned to drive to help my wife, but I still don't want to live the climate change life.  I actively invent better backyard solar devices.  Specifically I'm finishing a prototype solar heat and hot water storage unit in Warwick, with the ultimate goal of making 80% solar displacement affordable for everyone.  I also have invented a wonderful no-heat greenhouse. 

I'm long past my initial CO2 questioning.  I always try to recognize that as a CO2 I'm one piece of a world community that doesn't like climate change any more than me, and so I shall invite people into my climate projects at every opportunity.


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