Why on Earth Is This Gay Guy Marching for Climate?

It's the immoral, flamboyant fossil fuel lifestyle that got us into this climate mess. Part of me wants to wash my hands of climate change and enjoy a little marriage equality while we all go to hell in a flaming hand basket.
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After a ridiculously long stint trying to de-gay myself through gay conversion therapy, I finally came out. Then, happily settled with a hunky smart stud, I got smacked in the face with a hot, nasty blast of global warming.

No, don't blame "the gays." It's the immoral, flamboyant fossil fuel lifestyle that got us into this climate mess. Part of me wants to wash my hands of climate change and enjoy a little marriage equality while we all go to hell in a flaming hand basket. But then something sassy stirs inside of me, and our ancestors compel me to get off Facebook and do something. So on September 21st, I'll be at the historic Peoples Climate March in NYC.

I hate crowds, even at Pride parades with pretty floats and glistening bodies. Marching with a bunch of environmentalists wearing socks and sandals is not my idea of a Sunday stroll in Manhattan. But it turns out loads of LGBTQ people like me have signed up.

It may seem cruel or shallow, but I'm not terribly moved by the plight of a stranded polar bear on a distant ice flow; it's the recent floods in Brazil threatening coffee production and the extreme rates of asthma in Harlem that alarm me. While I appreciate nature, I feel far more at home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art than frolicking in the Adirondacks. I also don't have any offspring to worry about. I'm not a respectable environmentalist. Still, I'll march on September 21st, a speck of lavender in a sea of green.

Faced with global warming, I find myself asking, "What Would Walt Whitman Do?" Old gay Walt Whitman faced the horrors of Civil War by volunteering as an army hospital nurse, reading to soldiers, bringing small gifts, writing letters for them, and holding them as they died in his arms. In the midst of his generation's greatest crisis, Whitman, a groundbreaking poet, left the comfort of his study to become father, mother, and brother to our nation's wounded young men. Whitman experienced an Apocalypse, the Greek word for the revelation that happens when a curtain is pulled back and one sees what's been hidden.

Two years ago, my husband, Glen Retief, and I had our own apocalypse about global warming. The reality of climate change shook us to the core, and we saw the threat to all we held dear -- art, coffee, and the best parts of civilization. Suddenly Glen's work as a writer and mine as a performance artist seemed irrelevant next to a challenge greater than world war or plague. As a result, we are developing a variety of responses to global warming: a climate change comedy, a new website and podcast called Climate Stew, and a campaign for a tax on greenhouse gases. We'll also march, hand in sweaty hand, on September 21st with the Queers for the Climate and a swelling diverse mass of humanity concerned about the climate.

With projected threats to food security and water rights, and sea level rises that will displace multitudes, I have come to see global warming as a human rights issue, an environmental justice issue, and one that affects millions of LGBTQ people worldwide. Facebook activism and online petitions are not gonna cut it. That's like redesigning the deck chairs on the Titanic. No, I need to show up.

Our ancestors comfort me and challenge me to act: Sylvia Rivera at the Stonewall Riots, HIV/AIDS activist Peter Stanley of ACT UP, and Black gay pacifist Bayard Rustin demanding justice in racist and homophobic America. For years I was frightened of my own queer shadow, but today I recognize I come from good stock: LGBTQ people who've passionately and doggedly made the world a better place. They've done their work. Now it is my turn.

This blog post is part of the #WhyICare blog series, curated by the editors of HuffPost Generation Change in recognition of the People's Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014. To see all the other posts in the series, click here.

Join the conversation on Twitter and tell us why you care about the climate crisis with the hashtags #WhyICare and #PCM. For more information about the People's Climate March, click here.

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