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Queering Climate Justice

This week, I traveled to the COP25 (25th Council of Parties) city-wide Global Climate Justice Summit in Madrid, Spain representing Orlando and QLatinx. I’m here with the Gulf South Rising delegation, an amazing group of frontline communities from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. We represent diverse identities of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and rural communities. Many of us are queer. We have diverse interests in plastics, water access, flooding, racial justice, economic restructuring, migration, reproductive justice, and gender justice. All of us recognize the systems that create these injustices are the same that cause climate change: racism, capitalism, colonialism, neoliberalism, imperialism, patriarchy, and extractivism.

While these systems of oppression are now centered in discussions on climate, there is room to grow when it comes to discussions of gender and sexuality. Today, I attended a presentation on feminist economies. Because of the very binary approach to gender, it was difficult to contextualize the material. The presenters spoke about different consumption patterns between men and women in Barcelona and chose meat consumption, transportation patterns, and engaging in care-taking professions. They had us classify different aspects of this into a masculine-feminine binary and shared how behaviors coded as “masculine” are harmful for the climate. They shared how societal pressure to perform masculinity encourages these behaviors. While I liked some of the points, it was impossible to apply to the reality of our diverse experiences. When we look at gender and relationships in this very binary, reductive way, we erase the experiences of trans and gender diverse people, as well as those with LGBTQ+ identities.

The COP25 was supposed to take place in Brazil, but was then moved to Santiago, Chile after Bolsonaro refused to host after his election. In an effort to keep worldwide attention from the widespread protests, the conference is now being held in Madrid. These protests are led by women, working class people, and indigenous communities. The irony of hosting this conference in one of the birthplaces of colonialism is not lost. Spain is part of what is considered the Global North, a division of the world that has amassed wealth and resources from extracting from the Global South. Global North countries make up 10% of the world’s population and are responsible for 50% of global emissions. On the flip side, the 50% of the world’s population with the least resources contributes only 10% of emissions.

Within our lifetime, climate change will affect every aspect of our lives. We won’t find solutions to these problems under the same thinking and systems that created them in the first place. That’s why expanding our understanding of gender is critical to the climate crisis. We must revolutionize our economies, relationships, and communities by dismantling systems of oppression. If these international conferences and local convergence spaces are not adapting to the expansive reality of gender and sexuality, they are further marginalizing people at the frontlines.

Monday, December 10th is International Human Rights Day and was recognized by the United Nations Climate Change Conferences as Gender Day at the COP25. Even here, when gender is being highlighted in the discussion of climate change, the approach still is antiquated and insufficient. Climate reparations are a process of redistributing resources to correct centuries of inequity and extractive practices. We can’t have this conversation without including those who have been the most historically marginalized, transgender and nonbinary people of color. Current models of gender are mechanisms of colonialism and deny the diverse understanding of gender by indigenous people throughout the world. Challenging heteropatriarchy is part of the fight for climate justice.

These are some thoughts after today’s presentations. We all hold a piece of this puzzle and only through building power and solutions together will we confront the climate crisis.

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