Three Reasons I’m Taking Pride in Being Green!

by Khelil Bouarrouj

This Pride Month, we owe it to ourselves and the legacy we have inherited to work toward a Pride that betters our environment and respects the rights of all individuals.

Greenpeace volunteers and staff participating in the LGBTIQA+ Mardi Gras march in Sydney, Australia.

I didn’t exactly have the easiest coming out, but once you’re out, for me at least, the memories of being closeted recede further and further away until it’s sometimes hard to remember that you ever lived your life any different. But I did come out and so did many other LGBTQ+ people who will attend a Pride celebration this year.

More than any other time of the year, Pride makes me enormously aware that life wasn’t always like it is now. I’m grateful for the past (and current) generations of LGBTQ+ individuals who made enormous sacrifices – losing their families, careers, and sometimes even their lives – so that I may live a freer life. That’s why Pride inspires me to reflect on what it actually means to live with pride, to have more empathy with the struggles of others, and to defend the dignity of every person.

This year, I’m planning to act on that inspiration in three ways. I hope you’ll join me.

No Justice No Pride

Our community should always work toward a more equitable and inclusive world. This is why I support vital efforts spearheaded by queer people of color traditionally marginalized in mainstream LGBTQ+ organizations like No Justice No Pride — which protests certain sponsors of Pride in part due to their anti-environmental policies.

Take Wells Fargo, a bank sponsoring Pride celebrations in Los Angeles, Denver, Portland, San Francisco, St. Louis, Charlotte, San Diego, and San Antonio. Wells Fargo is one of the “Dirty Dozen” that in one way or another have financial relationships with tar sands pipelines projects.

Other Dirty Dozen bank sponsors include Chase (Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia) and TD Bank (Washington, D.C.). New York City Pride has the dubious honor of being associated with four of the Dirty Dozen: Deutsche Bank, Chase, Citibank, and Barclays.

The environmental harm brought to communities by pipelines is painfully evident from oil spills, threats to endangered species, and worsening climate change; moreover, these pipelines often infringe on the sovereign rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Sometimes sponsors aren’t even one degree removed from the polluters. Oil giant Chevron needs no introduction (Pittsburgh Pride) and Extraction Gas & Oil (Denver Pride) moved some of its fracking operations from near a majority white school to near a school with mostly students of color.  

Do we want to have a bank pay for our safer-space party while at the same time financing oil companies seeking to deny the territorial security of Indigenous Peoples? Of course not!

A Plastic Free Pride?

And, there are the plastic polluters. Coca-Cola will be sponsoring Chicago Pride; ditto for PepsiCo in NYC, San Diego, and Delaware; and Starbucks in Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. While the parades are always tons of fun, what isn’t fun is thinking about the discarded water bottles and other plastics.

I’m certainly not trying to rain on anyone’s parade… excuse the pun. I’m opposed to many of the sponsors of D.C. Pride, where I’m based, but I’m still going to have a good time.

So let us all enjoy Pride, but we also owe it to ourselves and the legacy we have inherited to think about how we can celebrate a Pride that betters our environment and respects the rights of all individuals. This year, for example, I’ll be bringing my own reusable water bottle. But it’s not enough for Pride attendees to reduce our plastic consumption, or even recycle. We also need to start imagining a plastic-free Pride and ask that sponsors and vendors end single-use plastics and provide us with sustainable packaging.

This year I’m going to take the time to call on Pride organizers to start creating partnership opportunities with companies committed to sustainable and equitable business practices.

We Can Change the World!

You might be saying, OK, but don’t LGBTQ+ people have enough on our plate, a company’s policies on LGBTQ+ equality are the only relevant measure of whether to accept the putatively necessary corporate dollars to pull off the ever-grander Pride festivities. Furthermore, a lot of these goals are far-fetched anyway.

To say that we don’t have enough time for concerns not exclusively focused on queer issues lacks an intersectional analysis our community must embrace. We are gay and Black, Trans and Muslim, lesbian and Indigenous, and bisexual and Latinx, many of us forced to live next to a pipeline. Our relation, as LGBTQ+ people, to “other” social justice causes isn’t incidental but essential to our well-being. How can the air we breathe be considered immaterial to the success of a street parade?

As for the supposedly unrealistic goals: I know that a parade free of single-use plastics might appear impractical, but we have been known to do the impossible. Let us remember that Pride commemorates the June 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City when a handful of LGBTQ+ people – led by trans women of color – galvanized the then-nascent movement and changed the world.

And, as recently as 2004, nearly a dozen states overwhelmingly approved by popular vote constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage. We lost every battle that year and plenty more in the years that followed, including in liberal California. But we persisted, and by 2015 we had popular opinion, the president, and the Supreme Court on the side of marriage equality

A world free of single-use plastic and pipelines may sound extraordinary, but this month we’re celebrating a movement and a people who prove every day that extraordinary things do, indeed, come to pass when we fight for a better world.

Happy Pride!

Khelil Bouarrouj

By Khelil Bouarrouj

Khelil Bouarrouj is the Digital Content Associate at Greenpeace USA.

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