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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Talking about a queer Quaker response to climate change

“What if we do nothing?” asked Peterson Toscano during his Guilford presentation on a queer Quaker response to climate change on Feb. 25.

Peterson Toscano visited campus for three events as a part of Religious Emphasis Week: a Tea and Talk in The Hut, a dinner conversation in the Atrium and his presentation on climate change in the west wing of Founders Hall.

Toscano previously visited Guilford in February 2010.

On his website, Toscano is described as “a theatrical performance activist using comedy and storytelling to address social justice concerts.”

The Guilfordian sat and spoke with Toscano just before his presentation.


Q: What brought you to Guilford College?

A: I was brought down to present at Greensboro College, and since I’ve had a relationship with Guilford, I made sure they knew that I was coming.

We decided that the best thing for me to do was to talk about this current stuff that I’m doing around climate, and what would be a potential queer Quaker response to it.

Q: Can you talk about being a gay Christian?

A: Being a gay Christian, I was told at Guilford that there were some folks who wouldn’t come see me because I was a gay Christian because they said that’s like being a Jewish Nazi.

I don’t think it’s that extreme, but for many years I struggled about whether I was a Christian struggling with homosexuality or a homosexual struggling with Christianity. I realized that for me, I was able to figure out how to integrate my faith with sexuality and my orientation, but it’s making serious changes to my faith, and I’m no longer an evangelical conservative Christian like I once was.

My view of the Bible is very different. My view of Jesus is very different, but I definitely am a Christian because that’s what shaped so much of my beliefs and saying otherwise would just be dishonest.

Q: Can you briefly summarize the queer Quaker response to climate change?

A: You know it may not seem intuitive to think of a queer response to climate, particularly because one of the number-one arguments people have for climate change is that we need to do this for the children.

As a gay guy, it’s not very easy for me to produce a child. Lord knows, my husband and I keep trying, but the Lord has not given us a child yet.

Though there are gay, lesbian and transgender people with children and who will have children, most of us never will. But the studies show that gay and lesbian people are much more interested in climate issues than straight people, to the point of 55 percent compared to 30 percent of straight people.

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.

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