As a queer person, as a gay man, it’s been hard for me to figure out how to feel and think during Pride Month this year. We are living at a time of massive backlash against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and against trans and other gender diverse people in particular. Hundreds of bills have been brought forward in state legislatures across the country to try and curtail trans rights and 2SLGBTQIA+ rights more broadly.
Twenty years ago, we saw the same sort of moral panic over gay marriage, which ended up being used as a wedge issue during the 2004 presidential elections. It’s not hard for me to see the parallels between then and now, and to feel concerned for future. At the same time, I’m proud of who I am and proud of the diverse 2SLGBTQIA+ community that I’m a part of—and I take hope in the fact that it’s a community that has changed and continues to change the world for the better.
Member Spotlight: UTOPIA Washington
The United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance of Washington (UTOPIA Washington) is led by and supports the queer and trans Pacific Islanders (QTPIs, pronounced “cutie pies”) community in South King County. They are a grassroots organization born out of the struggles, challenges, strength, and resilience of the QTPI community in the region, and they are a Front and Centered coalition member.
Led and founded by women of color who identify as transgender and/or fa’afafine, UTOPIA does it all, from hosting amazing events like their Miss Island Goddess pageants to addressing disparities in healthcare access in the QTPI and QTBIPOC communities. Recently. UTOPIA opened their Mapu Maia clinic which provides free wellness care, gender-affirming care, and vaccine access to their community.
Whether it’s being a part of our events like Earth Deserves More Than a Day or coming to Olympia with us to advocate for policy change, UTOPIA is a very active coalition member who always make it a priority to show up and represent the community in spaces where their voices are needed.
Queer/Trans Justice is Environmental/Climate Justice
The connections between 2SLGBTQIA+ rights and environmental and climate justice are many, and we can’t have one without the other. Queer and trans youth, especially queer and trans youth of color, make up a disproportionate amount of the population of young people for whom the system has failed to provide housing for. For folks who are unhoused, the impacts of a warming climate or environmental harms, whether it be a heat wave or pollution from a nearby facility, will be felt more keenly than for folks those who at least have some sort of permanent and reliable shelter.
2SLGBTQIA+ people are also less likely to have access to safe, gender-affirming, and reliable healthcare, which means that any health impacts they experience due to environmental pollution or climate change will be less likely to be addressed with reliable care.
If there’s anything that 2SLGBTQIA+ are good at, however, it’s building community and taking care of each other. Because we are used to being on the margins and often have experienced alienation from our social networks and even our own families simply for being who we are, we understand firsthand the importance of building connections, creating a “found family,” and, as UTOPIA would put it, “weaving ecosystems of care.”
But while housing and healthcare justice are two ways by which queer and trans rights intersect with environmental and climate justice, there are other, more direct ways to think about the connections between the two:
When we think about environmental and climate justice, we often think about fairness in the distribution of benefits and harms. In other words, in an environmentally just world, you would expect that everyone shares an equal burden of environmental harms but also an equal share of the benefits. Additionally, we might also talk about fairness in procedures as a way to advance environmental and climate justice: what are the decision-making structures that affect our environment and influence the climate impacts we face? Do our frontline communities who are hit first and worst by climate change and environmental harm have enough of a role and power within those decision-making structures to make the outcomes just?
What often gets left out of environmental and climate justice is the fairness in your experience of and interaction with your environment. Even if you have an environmental benefit in your community, can you actually meaningfully interact with it and experience it? For example, I may live in a place that has a lot of green spaces and parks. However, if I don’t feel safe enough to bring a date to these places or to hold another guy’s hand in these places, I don’t have the same experience of these spaces as everyone else. To me, an environmentally just society is one that also makes 2SLGBTQIA+ folks feel safe enough to fully be themselves in the outdoors, and to be full participants in any other environment they choose.
If you’re a part of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, your existence in this world challenges mainstream, settler-colonial norms around gender and sexuality. You reflect the diversity that already exists in the natural world, because we are that world. You are part of a community that has already been doing work for generations to repair harm and to weave new ecosystems that will nurture us and keep us resilient and thriving. You are part of a community that shows that another world—a just future—is not just possible, but inevitable. And for that, you should be very proud.