Sexual and Place-Based Identity. Undergraduate LGBTQ+ Perceptions of Anthropogenic Climate Change in Appalachia.

Authors: Brandon Anthony Rothrock*, West Virginia University
Topics: Queer and Trans Geographies, Environmental Perception, Sexuality
Keywords: climate-change, LGBTQ+, higher-education, perceptions, Appalachia
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 44
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Climate change is expected to create differentiated vulnerability and insecurity across gender, race, and class (Sultana, 2014; Denton, 2002; Nelson et al., 2002). In particular, LGBTQ+ persons face heightened vulnerability in the wake of climate change disaster due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Fear of discrimination and lack of access to resources during disasters are manifestations of LGBTQ+ persons’ everyday vulnerabilities (Yamashita et al., 2017).

Yet, there are limited studies that examine how students, particularly in a higher-education setting, are thinking about the concepts and risks of climate change and then acting upon them (Stevenson et al., 2015). Likewise, a majority of studies on LGBTQ+ persons and climate change focus on experience during and after disaster, leaving a gap in understanding perceptions in the day-to-day (Gorman-Murray et al., 2017).

Grounded in 25 qualitative interviews with undergraduate LGBTQ+ students at large, public universities in Appalachia, this study examines the ways in which LGBTQ+ identity is influenced by and intertwined with place-based identity.

Appalachia is unique given its historical and collective identity which is often derived from a strong place attachment to the natural environment (Devine-Wright, 2013). This attachment directly influences the identity of younger generations and alters their perceptions and beliefs of climate change impacts in their immediate environment. I show that, as they are exploring their identity, LGBTQ+ college students in Appalachia contend with these everyday vulnerabilities which are further exacerbated by the struggles their families face as their livelihood is often dependent on extractive industries.

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