by Mac Davenport, KTB Summer 2023 Communications Intern
Cover Photo from LGBT Outdoors
Environmental Justice and the LGBTQ+ Community
June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and advocate for social change. We honor the history of queer activism–commemorating the Stonewall riots–and continue to fight for progress, as the queer community faces ongoing discrimination and violence. The past couple of years have seen a tidal wave of harmful legislation targeting the transgender, non-binary, and drag communities, particularly in Texas. The queer community is especially vulnerable to social, economic, and health inequities and disparities.
LGBTQ+ rights and environmental justice are intrinsically linked, though the connection may not be immediately clear. LGBTQ+ young adults are over 2x more likely to experience homelessness and live in poverty, often due to unsupportive family situations. Queer individuals experiencing homelessness are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as more intense natural disasters, rising temperatures, and drought. It may be more difficult for them to shelter or escape in times of disaster, or to afford food in times of drought. Additionally, queer and transgender individuals often experience discrimination or violence against them in resource centers such as homeless shelters or churches providing aid, particularly transgender women. Therefore, they may not be able to safely access the resources or assistance needed to rebuild after a disaster has occurred.
Low-income, marginalized groups have historically been forced to live in areas occupied by heavy industrial activity, exposing such communities to harmful pollutants and safety hazards. These communities are more likely to experience detrimental health effects and chronic diseases related to environmental exposure, such as respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. Because LGBTQ+ folks often live in poverty and in underprivileged communities, these chronic diseases are found at higher rates in the queer community than in cisgender, heterosexual populations.
LGBTQ+ Environmental Activists & Organizations in Texas
There is a clear link between queer communities and environmental effects, due to the social and economic inequities they face. Many queer individuals have taken on activist roles within the environmental space to promote environmental justice and advocate for their own community. We’d like to spotlight a few LGBTQ+ activists and organizations advocating for the environment in Texas.
DeeDee Belmares is a queer, Latina climate justice activist based in San Antonio. She was first involved in activism for LGBTQ+ rights, formerly serving as the co-chair of the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA), where she worked to get a non-discrimination ordinance passed in 2013. DeeDee joined the environmental movement as an organizer for the Environmental Defense Fund, and currently works as a climate justice organizer for Public Citizen. She works to fight air pollution, promote clean energy, and protect vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change.
Yudith Nieto is a queer Mexican-American organizer, language justice worker, and multidisciplinary artist originally based in Houston. She works as a core member of Another Gulf is Possible Collaborative and co-founder of BanchaLenguas Language Justice Collective. Born in Mexico and raised in the fence-line refining community of Manchester in Houston, Yudith saw first-hand the effects of heavy industry pollution and environmental racism on the health and wellbeing of her community. Yudith has dedicated her skills in art, multimedia, and advocacy to develop and amplify community-led media around environmental and language justice in marginalized communities. She also collaborates on youth leadership initiatives and art in activism trainings to teach people about environmental issues that affect their communities through arts, media and cultural organizing.
LGBT+ Outdoors is a non-profit organization based in Dallas. Their mission is to strengthen connections between those in the LGBTQ+ community, while fostering a love for the outdoors and engaging with the environment. The organization was founded in 2019 by Justin Yoder, who sought to create a safe haven for other members of the LGBTQ+ community that share a love for the outdoors. LGBT+ Outdoors has expanded to include chapters across the US. Their projects include a chapter ambassador program, outdoor recreation events, educational clinics, a podcast, and an annual Outdoorfest to engage the community.