As we’ve mentioned before, environmental justice isn’t so much about the planet, but about the equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens among all individuals and communities, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or other social factors. This month, we’re bringing to light the detrimental impact of the absence of environmental justice experienced by one of our most marginalized communities,– the LGBTQ+ community. Dating back to the 1920’s and even before that, this group has had to fight tooth and nail to receive the same rights as the white supremacists have received from jump. The injustice the LGBTQ+ community has and continues to fight for remains a prominent issue within today’s society.
Facing adversities when it comes to basic human rights like health care, lack of safe housing, and even struggling to find employment means we cannot define environmental justice without Pride.
Photo Creds: Sebastian Rubiano for Fine Acts
These burdens extend beyond the traditional environmental concerns where LGBTQ+ individuals often encounter significant barriers within their built environment, hindering their access to safe and affirming spaces. Being disproportionately closed out of spaces like being active in certain sports, groups, and clubs further isolating them from society. Approximately 40% of the homeless population consists of LGBTQ+ youth leaving them exposed to poor air quality, hunger, and even poor physical and emotional health. One of the strongest examples of the lack of social justice and proper health care within this community was the refusal of treatment during the height of the HIV vs. AIDS crisis. The stigma associated with these diseases was that the only people it could affect were young gay men despite the fact that these diseases surfaced years prior and impacted everyone. Society often referred to these diseases as the “gay disease.” Not only did this result in the denial of health care, but it also led to severe social isolation from both family and friends.
The same way environmental justice encompasses social and racial justice, it strongly advocates for queer liberation as well. Our social environment strongly contributes to our environment. It can affect our mental health, our willingness to socialize, and even our comfortability with ourselves. Approximately 40% of the LGBTQ+ community are people of color. Meaning, not only are they receiving hardships due to their sexual orientation but also facing adversities from the neighborhoods they live in, such as being exposed to poor air quality, inadequate access to healthy foods, and even inadequate housing.
I can recall watching a documentary during my NYC Pride course at Temple University on the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faced. What I recall most about my experience was the feeling of complete sorrow and devastation over the treatment our people had to endure. Pride is environmental justice. While we cannot undo the trauma this community has experienced, we can help to cultivate a better social environment for all moving forward. Whether in your town or online, there are many ways, both large and small, that we can work together to promote these safe spaces. This Pride month, try starting a support group, a book club, a walking club, online group chats, or even a social media channel to help expand room for more LGBTQ+ spaces within your own communities. Pride is acceptance. Pride is authenticity. Green Pride being the strongest of all.