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Why Queer Liberation Is an Environmental Justice Issue

Why Queer Liberation Is an Environmental Justice Issue

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.

A participant in New York's Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality holds an umbrella over the crowd on June 28, 2020.

A participant in New York’s Queer Liberation March for Black Lives and Against Police Brutality holds an umbrella over the crowd on June 28, 2020.

Erik McGregor / LightRocket via Getty Images

As the uprisings all around the country remind us, the first Pride march was the anniversary of the Stonewall riot led by Black and Latinx trans and gender non-confirming individuals against police brutality. This rebellion was part of many riots against state-sanctioned raids of LGBTQ+ bars. Even today, for every victory we have that ensures our rights, there are so many people who are not here to celebrate with us, and another right that’s being taken away. This is true in the fight for queer liberation, for racial justice, for Indigenous sovereignty, disability justice, and for climate justice.

Indeed, these struggles against oppression are indivisible from each other. “The people who are going to be most impacted by climate change are our people,” says Lindi von Mutius, a board member at Out4Sustainability and Sierra Club chief of staff. “They’re queer Brown people. They’re Brown people, they’re queer people, they’re poor people. And when you look statistically at who has poverty in this country, right in the LGBTQ community, it’s trans people. It’s our trans brothers and sisters that are going to be excluded from being in an emergency disaster relief shelter… They’re the ones that are going to face the violence. And so really thinking about those kinds of things, like how is climate change going to hurt our communities specifically, has become really important.”

Any meaningful movement for justice must center the lives and vision of Black trans women and Black trans femmes. The Transgender Law Center says, “We want a world where Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes are thriving and leading solutions for social, economic, and political change… Collective liberation requires not just policy & legal change but the shifting of hearts and attitudes about the value of Black trans lives.” What changes do we need to make to our power structures for this to be true? What would it feel like for all our communities to uphold this vision?

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. At a recent rally, Dr. Angela Davis said, “If we want an intersectional perspective, the trans community is showing us the way. The trans community has taught us to challenge that which is perceived to be normal. If we can challenge the gender binary, we can challenge prisons.”

For queer folks, mass incarceration uniquely affects our communities, as Black and Latinx “queer youth are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system… [and] queer adults are overrepresented in prison and jail.” Organizations like TGI Justice Project recognize that the fight for queer survival and freedom must be paired with advocacy and support for incarcerated queers, because  those fights  are one and the same.

And when you start to recognize that prisons are often built on environmental hazard sites such as coal ash dumps, it becomes very clear that one single issue has many, many layers of oppression. The fight for queer rights is often interwoven with the fight for justice for the earth and its people.

Right now your social media feeds might be returning to normal, but for so many Black queer and trans folks, “normal” includes a litany of injustices that no one should be subjected to ⁠— from insecure housing to violence to criminalization to police brutality to medical racism. The most important thing that we can do right now is to keep listening to Black, radical visionaries and to keep fighting for justice until all Black Lives Matter.

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