Reflecting On This Year’s Pride Month: How to Move LGBTQI+ Justice Forward Year-Round

    By Jono Anzalone

Pride Month is both a commemoration of the LGBTQI+ community’s march towards equality and justice, and a reminder of how much further there is to go. 

hand holding small pride flag
Courtesy of Zakharova_Elena on Shutterstock

Last year, I wrote about Pride Month’s storied history and its connection to the justice being sought by youth in the climate space. With the most recent rollback of rights coming from the Supreme Court, we cannot lose sight of the shared struggles and inextricable link between climate justice and social justice movements. 

As the LGBTQI+ community fights for liberation, we must acknowledge and address the unique ways in which LGBTQI+ folks experience inequality and discrimination as a result of broader systems of oppression. In this work, it’s essential that we take an intersectional approach – recognizing the often overlapping and compounding ways folks experience homophobia, sexism, racism, etc., and this includes understanding the impacts of the climate crisis.

Setting an Example

The single truth that underpins the fight for LGBTQI+ rights is the fact that no society on Earth has ever achieved true equality. Creating a more equal society doesn’t just relate to LGBTQI+ folks, but also to how we all thrive collectively, both in the US and in the rest of the world.

The slew of anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans legislation sweeping the country, as well as the rollback of privacy rights and reproductive health rights, have tangible and far-reaching impacts. In discussing this with my husband Andy Gleason, Gender Equality & Social Justice Advisor at Save the Children, he mentioned the grave global implications we will see as a result of the rollback of rights, particularly the overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

“We know that the recent Supreme Court decision will greatly impact women and people who can become pregnant, but especially folks who already face difficulties accessing sexual and reproductive health care – inclusive of LGBTQI+ people, black, indigenous, and people of color,” Andy said. “How can we as a nation have the authority to advocate for gender equality and human rights, when we fail to uphold these values in our own backyard? It makes our march toward equality and justice that much harder.”

It also makes a difference when the US is participating in multilateral global forums such as the UN or IPCC but is not necessarily acting in the spirit of freedom and democracy. 

Of course, we can’t ignore that the climate crisis is unevenly impacting the most disadvantaged communities, including LGBTQI+ folks and people of color, who face a higher risk of housing insecurity, displacement, and lack of basic necessities, leaving them vulnerable to climate disasters. If rights continue to be removed, this issue will be exponentially exacerbated.

“Creating a more equal society doesn’t just relate to LGBTQI+ folks, but also to how we all thrive collectively…”

When we think back to precedents set by Brown v. Board of Education, the Clean Air Act, Juliana v. The United States, Roe v. Wade, or Obergefell v. Hodges, the common thread is that each ruling defined and protected distinct, fundamental human rights. Civil rights, the right to clean air, the right to reproductive health, the right to equal marriage — without upholding these rights, we won’t be able to achieve true justice in any sphere, be it climate, racial, gender, sexual orientation, humanitarian, or even commercial.

How We Can Support Pride In the Climate Space and Beyond

When organizations, whether in the climate space, humanitarian space, or elsewhere, aim to advocate for LGBTQI+ rights, it’s important to center the work on addressing the root causes of injustice and inequality.  We must fundamentally transform the often rigid norms and behaviors that perpetuate homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. 

It’s long-term work to overcome the entrenched norms and biases that people hold, but those involved in social justice can’t simply pick one human right over another – we have to walk the walk and support all communities who are impacted by inequality. Here is how we can support Pride and LGBTQI+ rights beyond the month of June:

1. Partner with LGBTQI-led organizations

When it comes to addressing social injustice, issues are contextual and solutions are not necessarily one-size-fits-all. With that being the case, it’s vital to work alongside LGBTQI-led organizations, particularly in local contexts, in order to amplify their work in spaces where your organization has power and influence.

It’s also important to let these partners take the lead, as their work on the ground gives them unique insight and expertise into how to approach the issues their communities are facing.

2. Focus on justice-oriented work

“Even within the climate justice movement or the LGBTQI+ rights movement, how are we examining and addressing internal divisions and injustice?” Andy asked. “The LGBTQI+ movement is not immune to homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia and other forms of oppression; how do we continue to root-out these oppressions and work towards justice and liberation for all, not just some. So, what does this look like in practice?” 

It’s vital that organizations put a distinct focus on social justice, and that they start by addressing inequalities from within. Whether it be in governance structures, advisory boards, or staffing, having the rich perspective of members of the LGBTQI+ individuals can help organizations address key issues of uneven power dynamics, homophobia and transphobia, sexism and misogyny, and more.

Intentional outreach and relationship building with the queer community can also systematically change who is given a seat at the table, and it creates opportunities for LGBTQI+ individuals to assume leadership roles within the movement.

3. Push for legislative action

Whether it was women gaining the right to vote in the early 1900s, the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, reproductive health rights in 1973, or marriage equality in 2015, the common denominator is that they were brought about through legislative fixes. But that’s much easier said than done.

Pushing for legislation requires boldness, courage, and above all, tenacity — especially when attempting to get something into the highest court in the nation. Protests allowed there to be visibility, but in the end, it was introducing legislation that began to hardwire these civil rights and liberties into our legal frameworks. This is why The Climate Initiative focuses on providing youth with the insights to make meaningful systems change that sticks. It can’t just end with a protest, we have to push further and provide youth with the knowledge, tools, and resources they need to fight for legislation and secure social justice for their futures. 

And all of this can be done in a nonpartisan way. Nonpartisan does not mean nonpolitical.  After all, thriving democracies are steeped in civic engagement and participation in the political process.

Closing Thoughts

As Andy and I spent time reflecting on Pride Month and the disheartening current events of the past several months, our resolve to represent and advocate for the LGBTQI+ community in the spaces we operate has only strengthened. And as the Executive Director of The Climate Initiative, I’m immensely proud of the youth and entire team (full-time and interns) we work with who are not only blazing a trail for climate action, but are doing so with an intersectional and social justice lens at every turn.

Pride Month may be over, but the fight for both LGBTQI+ justice and climate justice is ongoing. This can be true of each month we pause to celebrate the mosaic of peoples that makes this planet so beautiful.