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Climate Change? How Very Queer!

A homage to Robin Williams by a sociology professor who marched beside me and other Queers for the Climate at the People Climate March in 2014.

Since 2014 I have obsessed, mused, marveled, and expounded on queer responses to climate change. I am please to say that my growing interest in the topic have not abated. Next month I will co-present a workshop, Everything is Connected–Trans Lives and Climate Change, with Liam Hooper, a trans man and fellow Bible geek.

While I look at the more direct connections to LGBTQ people, Liam will bring in theory. He told me, “I am working with the various parallels of queer practice that relate to the inextricable connections between exploitations of land and exploitations of bodies.”

If you are in the Philadelphia area on September 7, and you want to take part in the workshop, check the details here.

In looking models in history, I have returned time and time again to Walt Whitman. The groundbreaking American poet was a gay man who wrote about bodies, identity, and nature. I would not call him an environmentalist. He was a lover of beauty and he writes of a deep connection to other humans–friends, lovers, and strangers, as well as to the natural world.

Writing very much about himself in the preface of the first edition of the Leaves of Grass (1855,) Whitman talks about these many loves and of beauty:

The known universe has one complete lover and that is the greatest poet. He consumes
an eternal passion and is indifferent which chance happens and which possible contingency
of fortune or misfortune and persuades daily and hourly his delicious pay. What balks or
breaks others is fuel for his burning progress to contact and amorous joy. Other
proportions of the reception of pleasure dwindle to nothing to his proportions. All
expected from heaven or from the highest he is rapport with in the sight of the daybreak or
a scene of the winter woods or the presence of children playing or with his arm round the
neck of a man or woman. His love above all love has leisure and expanse … he leaves
room ahead of himself. He is no irresolute or suspicious lover … he is sure … he scorns
intervals. His experience and the showers and thrills are not for nothing. Nothing can jar
him . . . suffering and darkness cannot— death and fear cannot. To him complaint and
jealousy and envy are coipses buried and rotten in the earth … he saw them buried. The
sea is not surer of the shore or the shore of the sea than he is of the fruition of his love and
of all perfection and beauty.

With his eye fixed on all Americans, not just white men in his world, his willingness to get his hands dirty during a huge crisis (the American Civil War,) and with a view to both the present and the far future, I find Whitman a constant source of inspiration as I mull over the query, “What is my role on this new planet?”

Next month at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, I will present my performance lecture, A Queer Response to Climate Change–What Would Walt Whitman Do? I will also present this same piece at SUNY Cortland in mid-November for the New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education Conference.

I am always curious to hear what other people think of this topic: Queer Response to Climate Change. Please feel free to leave comments with your ideas.


Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

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