What’s a Drag Queen Got to Do with Global Warming?

Gays are making giant strides in efforts to build public support for same-sex marriage.  

Last May, the Los Angeles Times reported on five recent national polls showing a surge in support of same-sex marriage, including a Gallup survey that found – for the first time –  a majority (53%) of Americans in support of this right.  

To this, I say hurrah! I’m a gay man. This trend warms the cockles of my heart.

But, meanwhile greens appear to be losing ground in their efforts to build public support for action on climate. In the four-year period from 2007 to 2011, public concern dropped 14 percentage points. Today, less than half of Americans (48%) say they are concerned about climate change. 

To this, I say boo! I’m an environmentalist. This trend sends chills up and down my spine. And the contrast between these two trends intrigues and perplexes me. What gives? Do gays know something that greens don’t?

Clearly, the issues of same-sex marriage and climate change could scarcely be more contentious. Both represent intense, even nasty political and public policy conflicts, and in both cases neither gays nor greens can be said to be doing all that well. 

Sure, gays have seen six states and the District of Columbia legalize same-sex marriage through legislative or judicial action, but every time the question has been put to a popular vote it has been rejected. At this time 28 states have adopted constitutional amendments or initiatives that ban same-sex marriage. 

For greens, politically, it’s also been tough going, especially lately. Even after 2008 when the Democrats handily won control of the White House and Congress (60 seats in the Senate), greens failed to get federal action on climate change. For environmentalists, the 2010 midterm elections were a calamity and things have gone downhill ever since. Now the anti-environmental Tea Party is calling the shots in the House of Representatives and President Obama is back-peddling on his environmental commitment. 

So, again, how come gays are winning the battle for public opinion

The answer, I argue, is this: gays have found a clever way to circumvent the political obstacles that impede them.  Ingeniously, subversively, they have exploited the immense power of pop culture and this has worked magnificently.   

There’s a funny explanation for this success: fun itself! Gays are masters at using comedy to advance their cause. Thank you, Ellen! Thank you, Will and Grace! Thank you, Modern Family!  

Consider the impact of Glee, the “gayest show on TV” and the top-ranked entertainment series for teens and one of three for adults under age 49. Glee’s immense popular success infuriates right-wing critics who view the show as a triumph of moral depravity. “It’s a nightmare,” says Glenn Beck.  Beck and other right-wing nuts can rant and rave all they want, but they cannot stamp out this subversive power. 

There’s an interesting connection to be made here. Glee came on the air two years ago. 

In July 2011, Dr. Jan van Lohuizen, a Republican who served as Bush’s pollster in 2000 and 2004, released a new analysisof polling data spanning more than a decade showing “a striking and undeniable acceleration in support of same-sex marriage over the past two years.”(Italics added)

A coincidence?  I don’t think so. Consider this: a May 2011 Gallup poll showed support for same-sex marriage among young voters – Glee’s audience – increased an astounding 16 percent in the last year.  Hey! – I thought, contemplating this – maybe greens, so often accused of preaching to the choir should instead be auditioning for the glee club. 

At the least, I though, it’s up to me as a gay environmentalist to take a stab at it.  That’s what the Rue Rylvester campaign (hot link here to YouTube videos) is all about, a series of short (90 sec) videos I’m posting on YouTube that poke fun at climate deniers. 

Rue Rylvester (an actor in drag) is a shameless parody of Sue Sylvester, the villainous cheerleading coach that the Gleeaudience loves to hate. As the world’s top-ranked “climate lifestyle coach,” Rue tells clients that global warming simply isn’t happening, or – if it is – humans certainly aren’t causing it, but – well, since it is happening – the thing to do is relax and enjoy it.   

Yep, this is crap and Rue is full of it – but she‘s funny as the dickens. And that – thank you for asking – is what a drag queen has to do with global warming.