By Elise Peterson-Trujillo
The LGBTQIA community is not often thought of as one of those most vulnerable to climate impacts.
The reality is that queer and trans people are and will be disproportionately affected by changing weather, natural disasters, and migration in the U.S. and across the globe.
Corporations claiming to celebrate Pride are not allies when they contribute to systems that put lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) people at risk. You can’t pretend to care about people while destroying the planet.
AIG’s business practices are hurting LGBTQIA people.
AIG is fueling the climate crisis: the global corporation insures coal, oil, and gas projects that contribute to carbon emissions. It has also invested at least $26,800,000,000 in fossil fuel companies.
People with unstable housing are more likely to be harmed by extreme weather events like storms, floods, or hurricanes. Likely due to a lack of acceptance at home and in their communities, LGBT youth had a 120% higher risk for homelessness compared to straight, cisgender youth. Almost 1 in 3 transgender people (30%) have experienced homelessness in their lifetime compared to 7.4% of the general U.S. population, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. Living on the street already means vulnerability to harassment and unsafe conditions. As natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, homeless queer and trans people will experience these extreme weather events firsthand—and without shelter. Through its underwriting and investments in fossil fuels, AIG is contributing to this problem.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), LGBTQ+ people often lack the financial and social resources to withstand storms or other events and therefore are among the communities that are “more likely than others to be severely impacted by disasters.” In the aftermath of natural disasters, transgender individuals may be turned away from emergency shelters or face discrimination if they are accepted into them. A trans woman was arrested in New Orleans for showering in a women’s emergency shelter after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. LGBT Haitians reported that the 2010 earthquake “decimated the already limited physical spaces, social networks and support services available to them.” By fueling the climate crisis, corporations like AIG are risking the few safe spaces that LGBTQIA people have.
Over the next 50 years, unchecked climate change could place between 1 and 3 billion people in uninhabitable climate conditions, forcing most to flee their homes. Queer and trans people forced to relocate are unlikely to have access to support and resources upon resettling and may face discrimination, homelessness and violence even after resettlement.
Climate change endangers us all, but low-income folks, people of color, disabled people, and LGBTQIA people are most at-risk. Queer and trans people cannot be left out of the equation—and we will not be assuaged by a few rainbow updates to corporate logos each June.
Other corporations have come under fire this month for rainbow-washing: updating their social media icons to include rainbows and simultaneously contributing millions to politicians that are actively working to strip queer and trans people of their rights.
These present two perfect examples of what corporate pride has come to be: an opportunity for corporations to look and feel good for appearing to accept LGBTQIA people, while ignoring the impacts of their actions on our rights and our future. It’s easy and convenient to sponsor a Pride float—Pride parades are fun, rainbows are lovely, and it’s a big gay party (who doesn’t love a big gay party?). It’s much harder, and much more important, to do the actual work of protecting LGBTQIA people in the world.
AIG seems to support queer and trans people: it has scored 100% on the Human Rights Campaign’s measure of LGBTQ-friendly employment policies for 10 years running, indicating a commitment to fostering a safe workplace for staff. The corporation has donated $7 million to organizations working to protect queer and trans people—not an insignificant amount. But those contributions don’t waive AIG’s culpability for contributing to a problem that harms the LGBTQIA community.
Queer and trans people have an outsized role to play in reimagining a just climate future. We have a wealth of experience in imagining a world different from the one we’ve been given. Throughout our history, LGBTQIA people have banded together, fought for our rights, and prioritized community care over individual success.
Building a world that is equitable and equipped to address climate change is the challenge of our time. Meeting this challenge will not be accomplished by corporations like AIG changing their profile pictures to images of renewables or rainbows. It will be accomplished by reimagining our priorities as a society, centering those most impacted, and putting in real work.