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Climate Futures Should Embrace Queerness



As a queer environmental activist, I always carry both identities with me and have never been able to separate the two. My queerness and awe for the beauty of the planet flow through me in relationship, reminding me that I shouldn’t have to silence parts of myself to be an effective activist. For so long, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to find the pillars of community so necessary for our health and joy. Shame is powerful that way, it drove me into isolation and doubt, of both my queerness and my generation's future at a time when the place I loved the most felt on the brink of collapse: this planet.


While my story is deeply personal, I know that so many other LGBTQIA+ youth, specifically the environmental activist ones are navigating a lot of emotions. This Pride Month is the perfect time to pay some attention to the connections between climate and queerness, and specifically to honor the knowledge youth, trans, and QBIPOC communities bring to the fight.


It is important to remember that LGBTQIA+ people are already susceptible to rejection + social stigma, leaving them disproportionately vulnerable to homelessness, health inequality, pollution, and natural disaster, putting them on the frontlines of the climate crisis.


A reported more than 1 in 3 LGBTQIA+ Americans faced discrimination in 2020, according to the Center for American Progress, impacting access to employment, housing, mental health, and safety.


40% of unhoused youth in the U.S. identify as LGBTQIA+, despite representing just 7% of the population. As the climate crisis accelerates, unhoused people—and majority LGBTQIA+—will be subject to the brunt of extreme weather, wildfire, sea level rise, heatwaves, and displacement. Exacerbated by anti-gay bills, during disaster response, queer people—particularly trans & BIPOC individuals—will likely face discrimination in the distribution of aid, intensifying the physical challenges and mental toll of climate migration.


While the blend of anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment + policies and the climate crisis compounds the struggles of the queer community, queer people bring an enormous history of organizing, adaptation, and resilience, essential in dreaming to life a world of environmental equity + balance. Queerness serves as a paradigm to this vision by uniting us in qualities central to climate solutions: fluidity, transformation, and resistance to extractive systems and limiting institutional conformity.


Not only must queer + trans voices be centered in the fight for environmental liberation, but to restore our relationships with the land, we must understand the intricacies of how nature + queerness are interwoven.


Insights rooted in the interconnectedness between queer and ecological theory are fundamental to dismantling systems with cornerstones of injustice; systems responsible for destroying the earth’s biodiversity: colonization and capitalism. Unsurprisingly, these systems are also designed to exploit the queer community, attempting to crush our diversity and resistance to business as usual.


Like queerness is often seen as “unnatural” and “other” by mainstream social thought, in viewing nature as “separate” from “normal” human life—and an entity to exercise dominion over—society limits itself to a dualism, erasing opportunities for harmony and interconnectivity. Here we can draw parallels between the anti-gay and trans bills that seek to control those who fall outside the gender & sexuality binary and the systems that control nature. Queer ecology enables us to reconnect to nature and redefine our relationship with the more than human world.


This Pride Month, the environmental movement must remember that before letting all lofty “innovative” solutions eclipse everything else, diversity is the most important touchstone in navigating the rocky journey to building a brighter future.


Sources:


Brady, Aletta, et al. “What the Queer Community Brings to the Fight for Climate Justice.” Grist, 9 Apr. 2019, https://grist.org/article/what-the-queer-community-brings-to-the-fight-for-climate-justice/.


George, Owen. “Climate Solutions Need Queerness.” YES! Magazine, 8 June 2023, https://www.yesmagazine.org/environment/2023/06/08/queer-climate-solutions.


“Queering Environmental Justice.” Yale School of the Environment, 27 Jan. 2022,


Simhoni, Shanee. “How Environmental and Climate Injustice Affects the LGBTQI+ Community.” Center for American Progress, 16 June 2022, https://www.americanprogress.org/article/how-environmental-and-climate-injustice-affects-the-lgbtqi-community/.


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