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Solidarity for a Brighter Future: The Intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and Environmental Justice Movements

Pride month is a time of celebration for many, but it can also be a time for educating ourselves about the issues that affect global and local LGBTQ+ communities. Unsurprisingly, our treatment of the planet has a bearing on our treatment of individuals, which means that the goals of sustainability and the goals of queer activism are inherently linked.

A changing climate means that circumstances are always shifting, and social movements need to continue adapting to the times. As a part of Clearloop, I’m hoping to shed some light on this rainbow by explaining how environmental justice work and LGBTQ+ rights are intersected and how they can be mutually beneficial.

The Toll of Climate Change on the LGBTQ+ Community

It has become clear over the past several decades that climate change is something that will impact everyone, but it is also apparent that underserved communities will bear the brunt of this burden. What I have learned from my own experience and research is that members of the LGBTQ+ community in particular have been greatly impacted by the effects of climate change. 

In an article titled “There is No Planet B: Why Climate Change is an LGBTQ Issue”, Noah Goodwin writes that the increased levels of homelessness experienced by LGBTQ+ folks, especially queer youth, put them at a greater risk of encountering the negative effects of climate change. LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to suffer from the impacts of an altered climate because they are, according to True Colors United, up to 120% more likely to be without stable housing. 

pride march by Rosemary Ketchum
Photo by Rosemary Ketchum

Friends of the Earth Scotland claims that disparities in care and safety caused by climate change more commonly affect those who are already marginalized. Pre-existing issues are compounded by the climate crisis. With reduced access to the wealth and resources necessary to adapt to a changing climate, queer individuals are often forced to endure the worsening conditions brought on by a deteriorating environment. 

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

Shared Goals and Intersections

Despite this clear potential for harm, there have been incredible strides made towards a better, more equitable, and more sustainable future for all people. Collaboration and overlap between the LGBTQ+ rights and environmental justice movements have resulted in the recognition of mutual goals, the understanding of a shared struggle for a brighter future. According to Inside Climate News, “climate justice is a logical extension of… advocacy for sexual and gender rights.” Many of the goals of climate action are driven by the desire to make the world a better and safer place, which aligns with the hopes and actions of queer activists. 

environmental justice march by Vincent M.A. Janssen
Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen

Not only do these movements share common ground, but they can also benefit each other. As Friends of the Earth Scotland puts it, solidarity and coalition building are assets that queer folks have been cultivating for decades. Over time, leaders in the push towards sustainability have been recognizing and adopting these strategies as well. 

Our LGBTQ+ siblings, especially those of color, have been at the front lines of activism in America since the mid 1900s, including the Compton’s Cafeteria riot and the Stonewall riots. These took place alongside the rise of the civil rights and environmental justice movements, demonstrating that oppressed communities were empowered to organize and to fight for the changes that they wanted to see in the world. Now, these movements are once again gaining traction. The article from Earthjustice continues, “Once we stop seeing these fights for humanity as separate, we open ourselves up to the possibility of learning from each other in deeper ways.”

Clearloop and the Future of Social Movement

I myself am honored to be a part of this effort, both as a queer person and as a member of Team Clearloop. In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of Clearloop is what we are seeking to accomplish in making clean energy more accessible to those who need it most. States like California have decisively implemented new solar technologies — which is certainly important — but other areas of the country have been left behind when it comes to clean energy development. Much like other underserved groups, the queer community is not confined to one part of the U.S.. Alongside LGBTQ+ organizers and environmental justice coalitions, Clearloop is motivated to serve these vulnerable populations and to provide them with an accessible way of engaging in climate action. 

We must protect this earth that we seek to make more accepting. Our collective work in pursuit of environmental and energy justice should be two-fold, acknowledging how climate change is impacting the population as well as who it is impacting the harshest. With dedicated LGBTQ+ and environmental activists, reporters, and sustainably-minded organizations working together, however, this mission is possible. 

Marianna Hiles is a rising Senior at the University of Georgia, majoring in English and Women’s Studies and spending these sunny summer days interning for Clearloop.

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