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Struggles in the Land of Milk and Honey: Water Security Among California’s Gender and Sexual Minorities

Authors: Michael Egge*, Portland State University, Idowu Ajibade, Portland State University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Water Resources and Hydrology, Gender
Keywords: Water Security, Queer, Gender, Sexuality, Political Ecology, California
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the face of climate change and growing social challenges, water security has emerged as an issue of global concern. Current research into household water insecurity highlights the intersection between physical water scarcity and social factors that limit the ability of marginalized communities to access water. However, the queer community remains disparately underrepresented in this research, leaving the question of sexual and gendered subjectivities with water struggles to a binary analysis between male and female. Furthermore, the sense of self in relation to material access to water, embodied practices, and broader hydro-social shifts have not engaged with the queer lens or how these identities intersect with other axes of marginalization to shape individual and household water insecurity. To address this gap, we analyze the experiences of gender and sexual minorities in Tulare County, California; a community affected by drought and water scarcity. Through participant observation, spatial-historical inquiry, and semi-structured interviews with residents and local experts, we shed light on the relationship between queer identity and water insecurity. We draw on theoretical insights from emotional and feminist political ecology to further interrogate whether queerness affects water access and use at the household and community level. We do this by focusing on everyday embodied relations with water while paying attention to the effect of local norms, politics, and culture in water distribution. Our preliminary findings open up further debate about the complexity of water insecurity and the need for a refined analysis of the intersectional construction of gendered relations with water.

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