Proud at TCI

By Jono Anzalone, TCI Executive Director

Throughout Pride month, I’ve been reflecting on the intersection of issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community and climate activists. The origins of gay pride stem from the June 1969 Stonewall riots after police raided the Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village and have since then marked an inflection point for the LGBTQIA+ and ally community nationwide. On a larger scale, Pride pays homage to the people who have paved a path for LGBTQIA+ people to access rights and serves as a platform for education and awareness-raising of all issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community. 

(Pictured right to left) Jono and his husband Andy, Gender Equality & Social Inclusion Associate Director at Save the Children, live in Portland, ME with their dog Penni and enjoy all things outdoors and their love of family and friends.

At the root of the Stonewall riots was calling out injustice and inequality, parallel to what we see with so many parts of the climate movement. Climate action and the road ahead to truly slow the rise of global warming requires many of the same ingredients that brave members of the LGBTQIA+ and ally community took during Stonewall and other events to ensure equality was possible. 

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to a high public office, boldly stated that “rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.” The Pride movement wouldn’t exist as we know it without the voices of transgender women of color and gender non-conforming people of color, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy and countless others refused to submit to police brutality and oppression at Stonewall in 1969. Since the groundswell that Stonewall and the community mobilization of Milk in the 1970s, the voices of hundreds of thousands of voices have been activated to ensure the LGBTQIA+ rights are civil rights. Milk went on to say:

“We can set examples so that others will follow. We can start overnight. We don’t have to wait for budgets to be passed, surveys to be made, political wheelings and dealings…….for it takes no money……it takes no compromising to give the people their rights……it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

We have seen within the climate movement the urgency to act, as climate change continues to emerge as the top issue concerning youth, with 57% of youth feeling scared and publications illustrating mental health consequences with youth-related anxiety due to climate change. 

Jono’s interest in the intersection between climate and international development dates back to his formative days as a Red Cross youth member. Here, Jono is surveying historic flooding along the Amazon in rural Suriname and its impact on indigenous communities.

Extraordinary youth leaders like Greta Thunberg have made their voices heard, starting overnight, with no budgets or surveys, and have viewed the right to a sustainable planet as a civil right. Unfortunately, the very fossil fuel-dependent energy systems we have established have created an unsustainable future for future generations. The system unduly burdens communities of color and the indigenous. Like the justice sought from the LGBTQIA+ community, voices across the globe are activating to ensure communities are heard.  Deputy Director for energy justice at the US Department of Energy, Professor Shalanda Baker, makes this parallel:

“[Energy justice] is ensuring that the benefits and burdens of our energy system are equitably shared. It’s also ensuring that people have a seat at the table in terms of decision-making concerning their energy future, as well as economic justice and ensuring that, again, those benefits of the system can float up to individuals.”

I am privileged as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community to be entrusted as the executive director of TCI, and each day since I joined TCI in November of 2020, I am in awe of the agency of high school and college youth that are blazing trails to ensure their right to a sustainable future is possible. They wait for no budgets to be passed, surveys to be done, and make no compromises to give their generation their rights!  For this and more reasons, I am proud!