Sometimes “gay” seems to be the opposite of “green”: the gay (and to a lesser extend lesbian) movement has made consumption a key weapon in its battle for liberation (see, for example, Alexandra Chasin‘s amazing book: “Selling Out” or the more modern Katherine Sender‘s “Business not Politics” for more on this topic.) Living fulfilled “queer lives” often means living in urban spaces, with little or no means to create a sustainable livelihood. In fact, gentrification is closely linked with urban “gayborhoods”, even though gay men in gentrified gayborhoods now find those under threat. And while some organic products may make an appearance in the “Mr. Average Gay” kitchen, many other locations of gay (and queer) urban culture don’t seem all too bothered with their sustainability: bars, clubs, gyms and saunas rarely talk about their green credentials.
Something similar can be said about the eco/environmental/sustainability movement: there is little discussion about the contributions made by queer folks to these movements. There is little (if any) organised presence of queer folks in many environmental organisations. Yet, dig a little beneath the outer layer, and both “rainbow warriors” have a lot more in common than you might think.
Both actually share deep-seated sympathies for each other: Gay men have been found to be more supportive of environmental concerns than their heterosexual counter parts. Similarly, it is hard to find environmental activists who don’t support greater human rights, including LGBTQ+ rights. Yet, while both seem to “like” each other, they rarely work together to advance their common values.
Let’s not forget that both share a history of activism: LGBT rights and saving planet earth are really not that different as it may seem at first. Both depend on changing human behaviour and values in the wider society around them.
Urban queer activists and rural environmental campaigners also complement each other perfectly: Both challenge the status quo, change societal norms and advance society for the greater good. Crucially though, they do it in different spaces yet with similar values, which means co-operation could be especially synergistic.
It is, of course, great to see the some steps towards much closer co-operation. For example, the Gay Games now include a much overdue “sustainability plan”. It’s not a solution in itself, but it is a step in the right direction. Just imagine, if the local gay club would do the same?
In short, wouldn’t it be great, if the two who like each other so much would find a way to work more closely together? After all, unity and co-operation makes for strength and can achieve real impact – in the city and the country-side.