Cheddar Gorgeous joins Climate Curious to discuss how Pride 2023 shut down big oil. The queer community sashayed away from oily cash, and won!

Transcript: Climate Quickie: How Pride sashayed away from oily cash

TEDxLondon Climate Curious

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Cheddar Gorgeous joins Climate Curious to discuss how Pride 2023 shut down big oil. Calling for people to “pump ass, not gas”, the queer community sashayed away from oily cash, and won! Cheddar explains more.

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Ben Hurst:

In this week’s Climate Quickie, from Climate Curious by TEDxLondon, we’re joined by a UK drag race icon to learn about what went down at Pride last month. 

Cheddar Gorgeous was shocked to find out that the British LGBTQ award they’d been nominated for had big sponsors like BP and Shell… What followed was a power to the pride mega moment where grassroots movements refused to be co opted by big oil. And won.  Over to cheddar gorgeous to tell us more. Shantay you stay. Stay curious!

Cheddar Gorgeous:

Hello, it’s me cheddar gorgeous drag artist, cultural icon, and general good egg.

It was with great sadness that I felt I had to reject the nomination for best TV moment at the British LGBTQ awards this year. Um, I mean, and if I can add something else in there, particularly because… The thing that I was nominated for was about using drag as a form of advocacy. So it was about my use of the pink triangle as a symbol of, of queerness, but also of HIV activism and as a combating of universal stigma and shame.

And so it just, it just didn’t sit right with me, that that might be used by, um, a company like Shell or, or by BP, who I am sure… Individually, the staff members of that company, I have no doubt they have LGBTQ members of that company. I have no doubt they also have people within their organisation who are working to fight climate change.

But it just doesn’t feel enough. The combination of the decades, hundreds of, I don’t know how long they’ve even been going, but the decades and decades long legacy of making… A fossil fuel dependent society, um, of getting us in this mess where we are all, um, incredibly bound and entrenched, um, within polluting activities.

Um, but also with the issues around racism and the destruction of local communities where they operate. 

the first thing I want to say about the rejection of the nomination is that I did so, um, Very reluctantly. It made me very, very sad to do. I actually have a huge amount of respect for organizations like that and what they’re attempting to do in amplifying the work of queer artists and queer people and celebrating LGBTQ lives.

I think it’s an incredibly important endeavor. So it was with great sadness I did that. The second thing I would say about it is I also did it with a great awareness of, for want of a better expression, my own hypocrisy. Um, because you know, I have worked before for an airline. I’ve worked for a car company.

Um, and so I, I, I did so in with an awareness that we all. Make compromises in our everyday life. We live in a world that forces us in many ways to make compromises when it comes to climate. And I don’t say that with any measure of pride. Um, just a real, uh, uh, a pragmatism and a realism. And I think a lot of people are aware of that.

So I did it with some trepidation, but it felt like just A compromise that was too far, um, looking at the, what BP and Shell do, both in terms of the broader contribution they’ve made over the many, many decades, uh, towards us being a fossil dependent society, uh, but also what they do to the, the, the cultures and in the countries where they operate.

Um, and there’s definitely a, I don’t know what we would call it. a neglect of the impact upon those communities that’s, that also can’t be ignored from this debate. Climate change is always bound with issues of white supremacy and with issues of racism. Um, and so for me, and given particularly that it would have been also, um, considered a charitable endeavour, it would have been considered a donation.

So for those companies, it probably also would have presented a huge tax break. It felt like just Too much of a pinkwashing of what those companies did. Um, and so for me, I did it reluctantly. Um, but with, with necessary resolve, which was what I said in the statement at the time. And I think these things are all, always come with an element of balance and nervousness and an awareness.

Seeing the response of the Fossil Free Pride campaign, like seeing the way that they used performance and art as a form of activism and a form of advocacy, in order, I always think of drag and as a bit of a Trojan horse, do you know what I mean?

We tease you in. with an entertaining prospect to indeed with that without enmeshment with the worlds of entertainment and then we like to hit you with something maybe you’re not expecting and that, that, you know, I think drag is something that not can, that doesn’t only speak to issues of queer liberation.

It can also be used to, uh, advocate for all kinds of causes and for all kinds of communities. So it was really amazing to see them using. Uh, queer performance and indeed parody. Parody of the awards themselves to really highlight the absurdity of that pairing. Like, that was fab. You know what I mean? I, I really, really enjoyed that.

And, I mean, my understanding is that that pressure has had a great deal of impact. Um… And hopefully, I mean the, the whisperings seem to be that maybe there will be a, a shift and a change, uh, in the sponsors for next year’s, uh, funding and for next year’s awards. Um, but what the tangible evidence of that is and what the, how that actually is manifested, I think is yet to be seen.

And I, and I say this with some. Uh, with a great deal of sympathy and empathy for the organisers of the award because actually it’s, it’s not easy to find sponsors these days that have a clean slate. It’s not easy to find anyone these days that has a clean slate, um, but we can’t allow that to stop us pushing and moving in the right direction.

I think so much, um, or I think so often that our Emphasis on absolute virtuosity and piety actually becomes a form of silence that ends up working against climate change

And that ends up creating this silence that the only person that aids, or the only people that aids, are those industries themselves that are doing the polluting. . 

 I love the slogan pumping ass not gas, and do you know what, I can say that if you are using Prep or indeed using a condom, pumping ass is definitely better for you than pumping gas.

And I think sometimes people get a little bit… put off by that crudeness, right? But it makes you really confront two things, doesn’t it? It makes you confront your own discomfort with sex and sexuality, which is something that is normal, and when done in a responsible and caring way, is totally harmless.

Dare I say it is even a positive wonderful thing in our lives, yet we actually [00:16:00] find it completely fine to do these polluting things all of the time. Uh, what does that say about us as a species and where we have to come with being able to look at ourselves and our lives and what we’re up to? That we find sex so uncomfortable, yet we find all these other things so very, very every day that are potentially destroying the world.

So I think… Let’s definitely pump ass. And if we’re gonna pump gas, let’s try and do it in a better way. And that’s really what, what I would like to see more calls for. I would actually like to see more realistic calls, particularly towards government in actually making sure that. Uh, in these moments where we, we are stuck with fossil fuels for the time being, um, we’re actually making sure that we’re doing that in the most responsible way.

 It has to be made clear that to those companies that we have to go beyond just rhetoric of promising to make changes in the way that we, we gather fuel and the way that we use fuel, um, it has to be made clear that if you don’t show real action then There are going to be consequences to that and it’s going to be more difficult for you to earn money.

And that means hitting companies where it really hurts, which is in finances. And I can’t do that. I have no power over that. The only people who have power over that are people who are in power, are our governments. Uh, they are the people who are supposed to be regulating these industries. And they’re not because a lot of the time they’re in bed with them, so to speak, probably pumping us.

I think the biggest thing that we can probably do is support those people who are calling for real action, who are calling for our governments to take full on regulatory action and doing it with the vote as well. Let’s demand it from the politicians as they put themselves forward, although, of course, we are currently facing a government that looks like it’s going to fail upon its promises, its election promises, um, to reduce our emissions and to do more for climate change.

Let’s make sure that they’re held account to that, that this isn’t just an additional, um, an additional election promise that can be seen as throwaway. And I think sometimes that’s, that’s how climate change is seen. It’s an add on that people put in their manifestos. And, of course, we’ll deal with climate change.

But secretly we have no intention to do anything. And you won’t consider that a real issue because you’ll be too worried about how poor you are under us. So I, I think that, um, I think it’s, it’s about making sure that we all do what we can to make sure that the people who really have power are called into account.
But also in supporting those people who are going to be doing the calling into account. And maybe, maybe being a little bit forgiving of one another too. And because it’s, it’s in that forgiveness that you will really find the drive for action with one another. Because we have to work with one another.



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