April 21, 2014

Queering the Climate Movement

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“Queer: It’s a Coalition Building Word.” – Eli Clare

 

There are plenty of queer and trans* people in the climate movement.  We are leading organizations, organizing strategic actions, and winning campaigns.  So how come our movement so rarely talks about the intersection of queer, trans*, and climate justice?

That’s the topic of exploration in Queering the Climate Movement, a workshop facilitated by Lauren Wood of Peaceful Uprising at the 2014 Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence. 

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Queer invisibility can be systemic in the environmental movement.  Even in spaces that foreground the values of environmental justice and take direction from communities who are experiencing the direct impacts of fossil fuel extraction and combustion, queerness is often ignored or disregarded as not as important to examine as the intersections of class or race.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has exploded in the youth climate movement.  Active at 400 universities across the US and even more internationally, students are demanding their institutions take their money out of fossil fuel companies and invest in renewable energy and local economies.

The climate movement, and the divestment movement in particular, serve to challenge “business as usual.”  This includes hegemonic systems of patriarchy as well as capitalism, as embodied by the divestment movement’s fossil fuel industry targets.  We are challenging the colonized ways our systems force us to exist upon this planet. 

It wasn’t always this way.  We must pay homage to the indigenous communities in North America and their acceptance, even reverence, of “two-spirited” people.  Western colonizers found this challenge to heteronormativity particularly threatening and those people were some of the first to be wiped out during the colonization and genocide of American Indians. 

As native peoples were forced onto reservations, their land was conquered by the same colonizing forces.  The birth of the environmental movement was focused on preservation of nature as something that existed in a particular space and place.  This conservation mentality is based on a purity in nature, the kind of perfection that can be traced back to the eugenics movement. 

Through the environmental justice movement, over time the climate movement’s conceptualization of land has evolved to encompass our lived environments.  Further queering this notion means embracing deep ecology – breaking down the binary between anthropocentrism (foregrounding people) and ecocentrism (foregrounding land).  To overcome cultural erasure, queer bodies and communities have to coexist not compete.

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There are groups within the climate movement that have not embraced this notion of an interlocking LGBTQ and climate movements, and have fought tooth and nail to exclude our trans* sisters and brothers.  Most notably is Deep Green Resistance's support of transphobia with their fervent TERF ideology - “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism.”  Despite coming under harsh criticism from the majority of the movement, DGR has only become more confrontational about their beliefs. 

The more visible queers and trans* folks can be in the climate and other movements by defending access to land and justice for marginalized communities the more successful we will be in subverting those interlocking systems of domination that oppress us.  Only then can we truly achieve collective liberation, both from the impacts of climate change and patriarchy.  

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