Queer and Present Danger: Understanding the Disparate Impacts of Disasters on LGBTQ+ Communities

Authors: Leo Goldsmith*, ICF, Vanessa Raditz, ICF, Michael Mendez, ICF
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Sexuality, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: LGBTQ, disaster planning, environmental justice, ecofeminism, discrimination, bias, cultural competency, faith-based organizations
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


LGBTQ+ communities make up at least 16 million individuals in the United States alone, yet this population is largely invisible within sub-national and federal disaster policies and responses. Institutional discrimination and stigma within sectors such as health, employment, and housing place the LGBTQ+ population in a vulnerable position even before natural disasters hit. Using a critical environmental justice framework, we explore current academic literature and journalism on natural disaster impacts on the LGBTQ+ population. We examine ways in which LGBTQ+ individuals are experiencing uneven impacts of natural disasters and response compared to heterosexual, cisgender individuals. We found that LGBTQ+ individuals are at higher risk during disasters due to the increase in faith-based disaster response, lack of protections in national disaster relief policies, lack of recognition of LGBTQ+ families in disaster response procedures, and existing social stigma leading to economic, legal, and health disparities. We conclude with policy recommendations for disaster professionals and policymakers to better provide for the needs of LGBTQ+ communities in natural disasters, with a focus on climate change-related disasters and COVID-19.

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