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By Greg Padgett, Director of External Affairs, Communications, & Storytelling

The climate crisis is an escalating global challenge that impacts everyone, but it hits marginalized communities, including LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly hard. This reality is exacerbated by the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters due to climate change. While disasters themselves do not discriminate, the relief and recovery systems often do, leaving vulnerable communities further marginalized. Understanding these challenges and advocating for inclusive disaster response strategies is crucial for ensuring equitable support for all.

I-diem

The Disproportionate Impact on LGBTQIA+ Individuals

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasizes that marginalized populations bear the brunt of climate-related impacts. LGBTQIA+ individuals, who often face societal stigma, higher unemployment rates, and inadequate housing, are particularly susceptible to these adverse effects. The numbers are staggering. Data provided by the Trevor Project for an upcoming training course offered by I-DIEM on How Disasters Impact the LGBTQIA+ Community state that although 7% of the youth population in America identify as LGBTQIA+, an astonishing 40% of all LGBTQIA+ youth are homeless. Those challenging circumstances are amplified when you consider that approximately 42% of LGBTQIA+ youth in the United States say they live in communities that do not accept their identities. These socio-economic vulnerabilities heighten their risk during climate-induced disasters. Understanding the issues and challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community is crucial in identifying mitigation strategies to address their needs after a disaster.

Gender-based violence, especially against transgender individuals, tends to surge during climate disasters. This violence, coupled with pre-existing social stigmas, exacerbates the difficulties faced by LGBTQIA+ communities in disaster situations. Emergency shelters and relief centers often lack the necessary provisions to accommodate the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals, leading to exclusion and discrimination. According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, two trans women were arrested for using a women’s restroom in an emergency shelter, highlighting the systemic issues within disaster relief operations.

Global Examples of Exclusion

The exclusion of LGBTQIA+ individuals from disaster relief is not limited to the United States. During the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Aravanis—a stigmatized group in India—were systematically excluded from relief processes, temporary shelters, and even official death records. This exclusion rendered them invisible in many relief and reconstruction agendas, further marginalizing the vulnerable group.

Activism and Advocacy: Creating Inclusive Spaces

Incorporating LGBTQIA+ perspectives into the climate and environmental justice movements is essential for addressing these disparities. Activists within the LGBTQIA+ community are crucial in driving this change, advocating for inclusive policies and practices that recognize and address the unique challenges they face.

Education and awareness are vital in this regard. By learning about the intersectionality of climate change and LGBTQIA+ issues, individuals and organizations can better advocate for policies that ensure equitable disaster response and recovery. During PRIDE Month – and throughout the year, it is essential to reflect on the principles of environmental justice, which emphasize mutual respect and justice for all, free from any form of discrimination.

Organizations Making a Difference

The Climate Reality Project has gathered a list of organizations actively working to address the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community related to climate change and environmental justice, including:

  1. Out for Sustainability (O4S) This organization brings LGBTQ+ voices to the forefront of the environmental movement through service projects, summits, and events. Their initiatives include Plastic Free Pride and Qready.
  2. Queers x Climate (QXC) QXC supports LGBTQ+ activists in their efforts to combat the climate crisis, leveraging their unique perspectives and skills for the broader climate movement.
  3. Our Climate Voices: This organization focuses on sharing the stories of those impacted by the climate crisis, centering queer voices to highlight the intersection of climate and LGBTQ activism.
  4. Queer Nature: Aiming to create inclusive environmental spaces, Queer Nature provides justice-centered learning, nature education, and ancestral skills training, particularly for queer and trans BIPOC individuals.
  5. Queer Eco Project: Operating at the intersection of ecological justice and queer liberation, this project supports queer individuals impacted by environmental injustice and advocates for climate justice.
  6. The Venture Out Project: This organization facilitates wilderness trips, workshops, and nature-focused events, providing safe access for LGBTQ+ individuals to connect with the natural environment and build community.

Conclusion

As climate change continues to intensify, it is imperative to recognize and address the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community in disaster scenarios. By supporting inclusive policies and advocating for equitable disaster relief practices, we can ensure that all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receive the support they need in times of crisis.

About the Author: Greg Padgett is the Director of External Affairs, Communications, & Storytelling for I-DIEM. He has spent over two decades responding to disasters, supporting FEMA as an External Affairs consultant, and previously served as the All-Hazards Program Manager for Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Before his emergency management career, he covered disasters as a climate journalist and broadcast meteorologist in several TV markets across the Southeast and East Coast. He currently serves on the Steering Committee for the National Hurricane Conference and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

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