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Community Philanthropy as a means to promote socio-environmental justice for LGBTQIA+ people

Celebrating World Environment Day and LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, a reflection on how community philanthropy for socio-environmental justice supports LGBTQIA+ people facing climate change.
By Yasmin Morais and Mica Peres
An estimated 12% of all Brazilians, or about 19 million people, identify themselves as LGBTQIA+, however, contrary to what we might assume when presented with the demographic data of a population, this is not official data produced by a Brazilian government agency such as the IBGE (in English, Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). This estimate is the result of a study developed by Unesp and USP, published in Nature Scientific Reports, since the IBGE only began collecting data on sexual orientation in Brazil in 2019, and even so, in a highly experimental manner, excluding any aspect of gender identity or sexualities beyond homosexuality and bisexuality.
So, how can we know how many we are, where we are, our level of education? How can we know what affects us, what we need, what rights to claim?
Information on the LGBTQIA+ population in Brazil is produced almost entirely by specific actions by state agencies, university studies, social movements and civil society organizations. The ABGLT (Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, “Travesti”, Transgender, and Intersex Association) conducted a study, in 2016, that found that 60.2% of the LGBT students questioned felt unsafe in the classroom on account of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. According to Mais Diversidade, 54% of the LGBTQIA+ population surveyed did not feel safe enough to state their gender identity and sexuality at work. According to Catho, approximately 33% of the companies in Brazil would not hire LGBTQIA+ people for management/leadership positions. According to Antra, only 4% of the transgender and transvestite population have formal jobs, 6% hold informal jobs, and about 90% are involved with prostitution. According to the Gay Group of Bahia, 35.5% of all LGBTQIA+ people murdered in 2019 were killed in their own homes, the majority by people they knew or family members.
This is just a portion of the chaotic, precarious scenario surrounding the access of the LGBTQIA+ population to basic rights. When we add the multiple forms of violence suffered by the intersecting oppressions endured by the black, indigenous, and quilombola populations, the disabled and the mentally ill, the practitioners of African or non-Christian religions, we find that the insecurity experienced by these individuals reaches unthinkable levels of neglect and invisibility.
How can we conceive of actions to face climate change for unseen people?
It is not easy, but here we propose a possible way forward: community philanthropy for socio-environmental justice.
Considering climate change and its negative impact on us, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and our intersections, we believe that community philanthropy can be a manner of advancing socio-environmental justice for these populations in a variety of ways.
First, community philanthropy for socio-environmental justice is based on an intersectional, systemic perspective since it recognizes the multiple forms of inequality and oppression we face. This perspective goes beyond a simplistic view of the impact of climate change, which considers only visible changes in landscapes and ecosystems, for example.
From an intersectional viewpoint, community philanthropy looks at how climate change affects different social groups, such as LGBTQIA+ people who are also Black, Indigenous, disabled, etc., and how it affects each territory, each socio-economic condition in different ways. It affects the conditions of survival of diverse populations differently in the countryside and in the cities, in forests, beaches and inland cities, in dry and humid climates. It affects different bodies and realities when the basic conditions they need to survive and thrive are affected directly or indirectly.
When the only choice for an LGBTQIA+ person is to work precarious jobs due to a lack of education, which jobs are not affected by climate crises? If they work on the streets, in informal jobs, what happens when all the streets are flooded? If they live in dangerous locations as a result of years of socio-economic exclusion, due especially to their LGBTQIA+ status, whose houses are likely to be destroyed by landslides?
This systemic view helps further to embrace the complexity of this issue, as climate change is part of the oppressions suffered by minority groups within a system that marginalizes us.
To fight this inequality, it is crucial to direct resources and efforts to address the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ people affected by climate change. Community philanthropy plays a critical role by supporting local efforts and community organizations that focus on addressing the environmental challenges faced by these communities.
Additionally, community philanthropy encourages collective bottom-up actions, thereby reinforcing the affected LGBTQIA+ communities. By investing in local networks, advocacy groups and community organizations, we empower LGBTQIA+ people to drive change within their own environments, leveraging socio-environmental justice.
Another important aspect is ensuring access to basic rights, such as proper health care, safe housing, decent work and quality education. Through community philanthropy, resources are made available to ensure that we, LGBTQIA+ individuals, have access to those fundamental rights, strengthening our ability to face the challenges posed by climate change and to mobilize on behalf of our communities.
Opening new spaces for political participation, shifting power, strengthening the foundation for LGBTQIA+ people to exert influence, lead and impact the political decisions that affect our lives are an integral part of the concept of community philanthropy. Community philanthropy can also facilitate LGBTQIA+ people’s access to the existing political spaces, both in the state and in the broader public sphere, through the production and dissemination of knowledge from LGBTQIA+ people and groups, for example. These efforts seek to reduce the data gap concerning this population, and to conceive specific public policies for it within its various contexts.
Independent philanthropic organizations, such as the member community philanthropy organizations of the Comuá Network, work with these issues directly, and have come together in joint efforts to face climate change and secure rights for the LGBTQIA+ population. In fact, 100% of the members of the Comuá Network work with the intersections between the environment, gender, race, and the LGBTQIA+ population, and 75% of the organizations develop actions that focus directly on climate justice, in addition to being present in the major national and international arenas holding discussions on these issues.
In the past two years, these funds have issued together more than 40 calls for proposals aimed at socio-environmental justice, gender, race, and the LGBTQIA+ population. More than 100 million Reais were donated to directly support social justice efforts in 2022, benefitting more than 1900 initiatives in Brazil. Funds such as Casa Socio-Environmental Fund, Fundo Positivo, Elas+ Fund, and Brazil Fund, are key players in this scenario and have contributed to change the situation, through community philanthropy and socio-environmental justice.
In short, this month, as we celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride and World Environment Day, we emphasize community philanthropy as a crucial pathway to promote socio-environmental justice for LGBTQIA+ people affected by climate change.
Yasmin Morais is a cis, pansexual woman. She holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Boston/Universidade Anhembi Morumbi and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Power, Participation and Social Change from the Institute of Development Studies. Program assistant focused on promoting the engagement and participation of member organizations of the Comuá Network.
Mica Peres is a non-binary, transgender, bisexual person and activist for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ population. They are the author of “Dossier on lesbocide in Brazil” (Livros Ilimitados, 2018) and several articles on lesbian rights. Operations coordinator of the Comuá Network and editor-in-chief at Ape’Ku Editora.


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