Rainbow umbrella amongst pride flags at pride march.
Photo by Mick De Paola on Unsplash

Climate justice is a queer rights issue

The queer community is on the frontlines of the climate crisis — and might also hold the solution

A queer person’s existence is an inherently creative one. 

We have to carve out space for ourselves, fight to exist and search for and build our own communities grounded in safety, love, resilience, and joy. 

We look for and define our own meaning of “home” — transforming it from a tangible thing to a feeling that we hold within ourselves.

We are no strangers to living in a world that can’t hold us — a world that seems like it’s burning up — both literally, because of the climate, and figuratively because our rights and bodies are constantly under attack, subject to discrimination, heteronormativity, homophobia, and transphobia. 

“Queerness has been invaluable to me in the fight for climate justice. Imagine knowing another world is possible, not by way of some force outside of you, but by the makeup of who you are.”

The LGBTQ+ community is at the forefront of climate change. Queer and trans-identifying youth have disproportionately high rates of both houselessness and houselessness risk, making them more vulnerable to the severe weather events that are exacerbated by climate change. 

Members of the queer community are often pushed to the margins of climate justice, as they lack access to resources or information about severe weather and how to prepare for crisis. This gap exists because of systematic inequalities and discrimination.

“Movements should always be led by the people who experienced the most marginalization. I think that those are the perspectives and the people that we really need because we have to understand how drastically this [climate] crisis impacts people and families,” Liv Schroeder, the National Policy Director for Friday’s for Future in the United States, told Currently.

Adaptation is not always as accessible to queer communities, either. In the event of an severe weather event, it is often harder for queer individuals to recover from the damage and shock, as they do not always have access to resources or a consistent support system. Climate change intertwines with several different oppressions

“When you look, statistically, at who experiences poverty in this country, in the LGBTQ community, it’s [transgender] people,” Lindi von Mutius, a board member at Out4Sustainability and Sierra Club Chief of Staff, told Earthjustice

“Our trans brothers and sisters are going to be the ones excluded from emergency disaster relief. They’re the ones who are going to face violence. So asking questions like, ‘How is climate change going to hurt our communities specifically?’ has become so important,” said von Mutiu.

It’s harder for members of the LGBTQ+ community — particularly those with intersectional identities, who experience transphobia, ableism and/or racism — to receive proper healthcare and medical assistance, find adequate housing and achieve financial stability. And, these systems of injustice are only magnified in low-income communities — especially low-income communities of color, where many major corporations take advantage of communities lack of resources in order to use the land for hazardous waste landfills and toxic dumping sites.

Climate change is also causing many beloved, coastal queer destinations — safe spaces for the community — to disappear, or become at risk of disappearing, due to rising sea levels, fossil-fueled climate change, and the resulting storms. 

For example, the sea levels on Fire Island, which has been a haven for New York’s queer community for nearly a century, continue to rise each year, eroding the beaches. It’s the same case in Miami, as the city’s surrounding waters rise and its gay beaches slowly disappear. Hurricane Katrina interrupted many queer peoples’ lives, jobs, healthcare plans and relationships. Gay bars and other queer sanctuaries were destroyed and many queer New Orleanians were forced to leave the city; the ritual of rebuilding far too tiring to consider. 

The bottom line is that queer oppression is linked to climate change

Adam Powers, a climate activist and Currently’s Washington D.C. weather reporter, explained that there has been an “elite capture” of both climate and queer issues, in the form of “white supremacy [and] rainbow capitalism.” 

“Fighting for queer justice is fighting for climate justice,” Schroeder said, “Supporting marginalized communities is supporting climate justice.” 

Climate change, like the oppression of queer people, largely stems from and is reinforced by, the reigns of white supremacy and colonialism. This white supremacy is deeply entangled with capitalism, resulting in exploitative and extractive relationships between major corporations and queer and trans people, particularly those of color.

There are many other ways in which queer liberation and climate justice intersect as well. 

“Fighting for queer justice is fighting for climate justice,” Schroeder said, “Supporting marginalized communities is supporting climate justice.” 

The movements also connect in their shared values or guiding questions:

“Joy as a form of resistance, fortifying resilience in found communities, the seeming beacon-impact of visibility and the question of how that really results in equity or power with deeper systemic forces at play,” Powers told Currently. 

Ideas like queer ecology reinforce how natural it is to be queer, in a society that promotes a monolithic type of love. Queer ecology is a perspective that dismantles the binaries within the current understanding of nature.

The theory stands against the belief that notions of “nature” and “naturalness” are synonymous with being straight. So, the disproportionate rate at which extreme weather affects queer people is ironic; to be queer is to be one with nature — the environment is ours to own, to thrive within.

“I do like to point towards nature’s thriving in biodiversity and dying in homogeneity as an obvious universal signal of how queer ecology is ‘it,’” Powers said. 

Queer ecology is useful as it focuses on connectedness and level of criticality in conversations. It reimagines environmental politics through an inclusive, queer lens, interrogates society’s default, heteronormative way of thinking, and makes way for more innovative and inclusive climate solutions.

The deepest roots of climate work are alive in all of us

The answers to the climate crisis can only exist in conversations of creation and innovation. Who better to turn to, then than the LGBTQ+ community who have, historically and repeatedly, been forced to develop creative solutions and break down barriers? 

“Queerness has been invaluable to me in the fight for climate justice. Imagine knowing another world is possible, not by way of some force outside of you, but [by] the makeup of who you are,” Powers said, “I can’t not carry forward what’s been fought for me to know this. The queer community has extended the intersections in the fight for liberation of all, showing me how very Not Alone we are in all of these fights.” 

Queer and trans liberation is intrinsic to climate justice movements; they are linked to each other, both involving the protection of something sacred and larger than themselves.

So, support your local queer and trans climate activists and organizers. They know exactly what to do and need your support, now more than ever.

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