Joining forces

Kristy Larson and Charles Shah

“We care about the future; we care about the progression of the future,” said Charles Shah, president of the local Gay and Lesbian (GL) Sierra Club. “Being a gay man myself, I think the environment is a humankind issue. These two groups of people — Sierrans and gay people — they’re fighting for two causes but they have so much in common and you win fights in numbers.”

The GL Sierrans aren’t an independently chartered Sierra Club; they operate under Oklahoma City’s Cimarron Sierra Club. Kristy Larson, a member of the state’s Sierra Club, learned about GLBT Sierra Club groups in Los Angeles and encouraged Shah to help found a similar organization in OKC.

“It broadens what we can do together as gay people. I thought it would be fun, and a challenge,” Larson said.

The GL Sierrans formed last spring. Its first task was creating a float for OKC’s Pride Parade. That float, which included a trailer to collect water bottles and beer cans for recycling, took second place.

Shah said the GL Sierrans are already planning for this year’s Pride Parade float, which will focus on clean energy.

Larson divided Sierra Club activities into two broad categories: activism and outings.

“When we take our kids out on outing, if they’ve never been to the wilderness before,” she said, “it creates a whole level of awareness that wasn’t there before.”

GL Sierra Club excursions have included a trip to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge and a tour of organic gardens in the metro. The group has also sponsored outings that delve into the history of OKC’s gay and lesbian community.

Recently, the club met for a dinner and a walking historical tour of the N.W. 39th Street strip.

“We’ve learned a lot of history, not just for gay people, but for civil rights in general,” said Shah. “The first sit-ins [against segregation] were in Oklahoma City.”

Shah said the lessons of history can be applied to today’s activism on behalf of the environment and gay rights.

“If we don’t learn about it now, we won’t know what to do in the future, how to fight the fight,” he said. “We’re learning about victories that have already been won. And if we plan to win in the future, we have to learn about how it’s done.”

Shah stressed that anyone, gay or straight, can join the group for activities. There are no dues.

“We just want people to come, be entertained and learn about issues that are very important to us as gays and as Sierrans,” he said.

For more information, email the organization at [email protected]. com or visit its Facebook page at