Climate drag queen blasts Park Service leaders

By Robin Bravender | 06/17/2024 04:07 PM EDT

Climate activist Pattie Gonia called herself a “thorn in the side” of National Park Service leaders following a backlash over the agency’s policy on wearing uniforms to LGBTQ+ Pride events. 

Glacier National Park rangers and staff of the Glacier National Park Conservancy at the 2023 Pride Parade in Missoula, Montana.

Glacier National Park rangers and staff of the Glacier National Park Conservancy at the 2023 Pride Parade in Missoula, Montana. Glacier National Park/Flickr

Climate drag queen Pattie Gonia is accusing the National Park Service of throwing “into doubt that parks are for everyone” in the wake of a controversy over whether Park Service employees are allowed to wear uniforms to LGBTQ+ Pride events.

Pattie Gonia, who was one of the most outspoken critics of a Park Service message to employees in May prohibiting them from wearing uniforms at LGBTQ+ Pride events, posted a video on TikTok last week directly assailing NPS leaders.

The Interior Department later appeared to override that policy at the direction of Secretary Deb Haaland, but Pattie Gonia urged the Park Service to follow Haaland’s lead and “recommit to ensuring that parks are welcoming and safe spaces for all their visitors and their employees.”


The TikTok video “is for the director and the deputy director of the National Park Service: Chuck Sams and Frank Lands[, respectively],” the climate and queer activist said. “Hi, I’m Pattie Gonia, and I’ve been the thorn in your side the last few months.”

Pattie Gonia, who has helped organize Pride events for employees of Yosemite National Park in California, accused the Park Service leaders of “suppressing pride” in national parks.

The Park Service ignited a controversy last month, when Lands sent a memo to employees telling them they would no longer be allowed to wear their uniforms at outside events, including Pride events.

The agency’s uniform policy prohibits employees from “participating in or attending any demonstration or public event wherein the wearing of the uniform could be construed as agency support for a particular issue, position, or political party,” Lands wrote. The agency is working on updating its entire uniform policy, which will be available later this year, he added.

Haaland issued a new directive appearing to override that policy, directing leadership from Interior’s bureaus to review when employees can participate in “externally organized events.” She said those events could involve employees participating in marching units in parades and booths at parades, among other things.

The Park Service later announced that its regional directors will decide how the agency’s employees can participate in events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in June.

“Regional directors will determine the level and nature of NPS participation, considering operational and budgetary factors,” NPS said in an unsigned statement released by the agency’s Office of Public Affairs earlier this month. “As we do every June, parks are hosting and participating in Pride events and sharing stories that recognize the joy and perseverance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.”

Asked Monday for comment about the Pattie Gonia video, the NPS Office of Public Affairs sent E&E News that same unsigned statement.

Pattie Gonia posted a video last year featuring Haaland. “You are my Beyoncé,” Pattie Gonia told the Interior secretary.

“We want to make sure that the outdoors are accessible to everyone,” Haaland said in the video.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday commemorated LGBTQ+ Pride Month during a press conference as she touted the administration’s actions to advance equality for that community.

“The Biden-Harris administration joins Americans across the country to celebrate the extraordinary courage and contribs of the LGBTQI+ community,” she said. “This month is a time to reflect on the progress we have made on equality, justice and inclusion. And it’s time to recommit ourselves to do more to support LGBTQI+ rights at home and around the world.”