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27 LGBTQIA+ Climate Activists You Should Know

climate change activists list

Queer people have long been at the forefront of social change movements. Whether it’s the labor movement of the 1970s and its close ties with the gay liberation movement, decades of activism to end stigma and progress the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS, or more recent organizing in the Movement for Black Lives — LGBTQIA+ communities are no strangers to activism.

This is a powerful community that knows how to build strong, inclusive movements and sustain social change. It should come as no surprise that on the climate change activists list, many are LGBTQIA+ people! 

Climate Change and Its Impact on LGBTQIA+ Communities

The climate crisis will not impact us all equally. Studies show marginalized communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community is magnified when climate disasters strike. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lacks legal recognition for LGBTQIA+ families, a policy decision that led to the discriminatory distribution of relief aid following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

And, during the relief efforts after the 2020 earthquake in Haiti, sexual and gender minorities were denied access to emergency shelter and medical services

As climate-caused natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, these inequalities will be exacerbated as public aid is allocated to benefit non-queer people — at the expense of the already vulnerable.

Learn more about the small steps you can take to help fight climate change with our tips for reducing your carbon footprint.

The Role of LGBTQIA+ People in Climate Activism

Legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw created the theory of intersectionality to describe how our identities combine and overlap in systems of discrimination and privilege. Intersectionality encourages us to view issues through multiple lenses — how race, gender and sexual identity, immigration status, disabilities and other characteristics contribute to individuals’ experiences.

For example, the unhoused. Up to 45% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQIA+. The contributing factors — discrimination in housing and employment and inadequate legal protections — mean that LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to live in poverty and insecure housing, putting them at greater risk when climate disasters strike. 

Are prisons an environmental justice issue? While we know that mass incarceration disproportionately impacts LGBTQIA+ people of color, it’s also true that many prison sites are built on environmental hazards. Looking at the bigger picture, the connections between identity, climate, and justice become clear. 

It’s no surprise, then, that the environmentalist movement was started by a queer woman. 

In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a collection of writings detailing the environmental consequences of pesticides. The biologist’s book led to an awakening in conservation and activism. Carson compiled the evidence linking exposure to chemicals to increased cancer risk — as she herself was fighting breast cancer in private. 

If you’ve ever wondered what is Rachel Carson famous for, now you know she’s the mother of this movement. Carson’s work and influence also demonstrate the need for diverse representation in climate activism. 

The more voices that are included on how climate and the environment impact the lives and livelihoods of the most marginalized among us, the more effective climate policies will be. Governments and NGOs will be better equipped to create climate solutions that benefit us all — and don’t cause more harm (even unintentionally). 

27 LGBTQIA+ Environmental Activists You Might Love to Know About

In honor of Pride Month, June is a great time to recognize the leadership role that LGBTQIA+ climate change activists have taken in shaping the environmental movement. We’ve put together our climate change activists list, to celebrate the important role in environmental justice LGBTQIA+ people have. 

Aletta Brady (they/them)

Aletta Brady is the founder and executive director of Our Climate Voices, an award-winning organization using storytelling to humanize the climate crisis and center the voices of the most impacted. They are passionate about using their two decades of grassroots organizing experience to address the challenges climate refugees face. 

Follow them on Twitter @AlettaBrady.

Ceci Pineda (they/them)

Ceci Pineda is the executive director of BK ROT, a bike-powered food waste collection and composting service based in New York City. Their focus is on land regeneration and reciprocal healing for marginalized communities. They’re also a coordinator for Interlocking Roots, an LGBTQIA+ environmental justice network of queer and trans land workers decolonizing food production and ecology.

Follow them on Twitter @IamCeci and Instagram @Cecime.Seed.

 

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Christine Hallquist (she/her)

Christine Hallquist is the first openly transgender woman to run for governor in the United States, winning the 2018 Democratic nomination for Governor of Vermont. Her campaign focused on democratizing internet access, universal Medicare, and aggressive climate change action. Hallquist is currently the executive director of the Vermont Community Broadband Board, which aims to ensure all residents of the state have access to affordable and reliable broadband internet. 

Connect with her on LinkedIn

Cieara West (she/her) and Claire Greiller (she/her)

Cieara West and Claire Greiller founded Environmental Queers to create a community for LGBTQIA+ climate change activists (and total beginners) to clean hiking trails and beaches, plant trees, and/or share tips on living a climate-friendly life.  

Follow them on Instagram @EnvironmentalQueers

 

Dean Jackson (they/them)

Dean Jackson is a queen, non-binary farmer, and founder of Hilltop Urban Gardens, a grassroots organization combatting food injustice through urban farming. They’re also a member of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, an environmental justice organization protecting Black land and food sovereignty. 

Follow them on Instagram @QTPOCFarmer and @HilltopUrbanGardens.

 

Jamie Margolin (she/her)

Jamie Margolin is co-executive director of Zero Hour, a grassroots organization with 50 chapters in 15 countries that lobby in support of climate legislation. In 2020, Magolin published her first book, Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It, a guide for young activists with advice on organizing protests and sustaining long-term action.

Follow her on Instagram @Jamie_S_Margolin and Twitter @Jamie_Margolin.

Jeaninne Kayembe-Oro (she/they)

A true multidisciplinary artist, Jeaninne Kayembe-Oro creates art from sound design to sustainable home building. Under the moniker Oro 5, Keyembe-Oro is producing an exploration of sound and climate justice intended to bridge the gap between BIPOC cultures and climate justice work. They co-founded Urban Creators at nineteen and is the executive producer of HoodStock: Music and Arts Festival.

Follow them on LinkedIn

Jenny Bruso (she/her)

Hiking changed Jenny Bruso’s life. Bruso discovered her love of hiking and the outdoors in 2012 and has since been an outdoor leader passionate about making outdoor culture inclusive. As a queer, plus-size woman, Bruso founded Unlikely Hikers, a community for LGBTQIA+, disabled, plus-size and fat, and BIPOC people to find healing and connection in nature. 

Follow her on Instagram @UnlikeyHikers and Facebook

 

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Johanna Toruño (she/her)

Johanna Toruño is a Salvadoran-born visual artist who explores the aftermath of civil war through a queer migrant lens. Her work includes the Unapologetic Street Series, a collection documenting queer activists in order to share healing tools across generations.

Follow her on Instagram @JohannaReign.

 

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Jon Stryker (he/him)

Jon Stryker is an American philanthropist and heir to the Stryker Corporation fortune. He’s the president and founder of the Arcus Foundation, a conservation and LGBTQIA+ justice-focused organization that has awarded over $500 million in grants to over 700 organizations. 

 

Joseph Toolan (he/him)

Joe Toolan is a career environmentalist and chair of both the Annapolis Pride Parade and the State of Maryland’s Commission on LGBTQIA+ Affairs. Toolan serves as a mentor with the Choose Clean Water Coalition and is a program manager at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Follow him on Instagram @Toolan_Joe.

 

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Isaias Hernandez (he/they) / Queer Brown Vegan 

Living through food scarcity and environmental injustice while growing up in Los Angeles, Isaias Hernandez witnessed first-hand the need for accessible, inclusive environmental action. Known online as QueerBrownVegan, Hernandez draws on their lived experience and B.S. in Environmental Science from UC Berkley to educate others about climate action, environmental racism, and veganism.

Follow them on Instagram @QueerBrownVegan

 

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Kelly Fuller (she/her)

Kelly Fuller is an American conservationist and author, devoting her career to protecting the environment in more than two dozen states, including fighting the Keystone XL pipeline project in South Dakota. Fuller has worked with multiple organizations, including the American Bird Conservancy, Gila Watershed Partnership, Voyageurs National Park Association, and the Western Watersheds Project.

Lindi von Mutius (she/her)

Lindi von Mutius is an environmental lawyer with a career focus on sustainability, conservation, and environmental justice. Von Mutius served in senior roles at the Environmental Defense Fund and the Trust for Public Land, and as chief of staff of the Sierra Club. She is currently the director of Sustainability and Global Development Practice at the Harvard Extension School, where she trains the next generation of environmental justice scholars in meaningfully engaging communities in climate change and disaster response.

Mahri Monson (they/them)

Mahri Monson holds a Master’s degree in environmental policy, which they put to work in their role at the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office. Monson created policies supporting trans and gender non-conforming EPA employees through transitioning in the workplace, as well as how to stop water pollution by enforcing the Clean Water Act in marginalized communities. 

Mikaela Loach (she/they)

Author of It’s Not That Radical: Climate Action To Transform Our World, Mikaela Loach makes the climate movement accessible by focusing on the intersections of the climate crisis and oppressive systems. Loach was named one of the most influential women in the UK climate movement by Forbes, Global Citizen, and BBC Woman’s Hour in 2020. They co-host the Yikes Podcast, a show aimed at overcoming the overwhelm of the climate crisis and making action more accessible. 

Follow them on Instagram @MikaelaLoach.

 

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Pattie Gonia (she/they)

Pattie Gonia is the drag persona of Wyn Wiley (he/they), an American environmentalist bringing awareness to climate and LGBTQIA+ issues in the mid-west. Pattie Gonia and Audubon — a conservation organization devoted to protecting bird habitats — created an inclusive birding program called Let’s Go Birding Together (LGBT for short!). And, in 2020, Pattie Gonia was named one of the “most impactful and influential LGBTQIA+ people” in Out Magazine’s Out100

Follow her on Twitter @PattieGonia, Instagram @PattieGonia, and YouTube @PattieGonia7449.

 

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Paul Getsos (he/him)

Paul Getsos is an Adjunct Professor at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, drawing on his experience as a movement leader and strategist. He served as national director of the Peoples Climate Movement, advocating for a clean energy industry sustained by unionized workers. Gestos co-authored Tools for Radical Democracy, essential reading for grassroots organizers who need to mobilize large groups of people.

Follow him on Instagram @Toliny and LinkedIn.

Pinar Sinopoulos-Lloyd (they/them)

Pinar Sinopoulos-Lloyd is an Indigenous eco-philosopher and co-founder of Queer Nature, a community serving LGBTQIA+ members to build their knowledge of the natural world and land stewardship. Sinopoulos-Lloyd describes themself as a “multi-species futurist” and is on a mission to build thoughtful engagement with nature and inter-species alliances rejecting colonial systems and building an enduring sense of belonging for all. 

Follow them on Instagram @QueerQuechua

Rachel Carson (she/her)

Rachel Carson was a biologist and author whose 1962 book Silent Spring changed the course of the environmental movement, exposing the hazards of fertilizers and pesticides like DDT. Carson’s lasting impact is the knowledge that nature is vulnerable to human intervention. Before Silent Spring and the resulting President’s Science Advisory Committee investigation and eventual banning of harmful pesticides, there was little, if any, public awareness that the chemicals and technology we used could change the environment in unforeseen ways and lead to disease, genetic damage, and extinction. 

 

Rachel Kyte (she/her)

Appointed in 2016, Rachel Kyte is the first woman to be dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University — the oldest graduate school of international affairs in the US. Prior to that, Kyte served as a special representative of the UN secretary-general and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, a foundation fighting climate change and promoting sustainable development. Not only that, leading up to the Paris Agreement, Kyte was the vice president and special envoy for climate change with the World Bank Group and led efforts to promote green energy as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @rkyte365

Rikki Weber (she/her) 

Rikki Weber works for Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm fighting to end fossil fuel reliance and secure clean air and water as a human right. In her time there, she created a group for LGBTQIA+ employees to empower other queer employees to bring their whole selves to work.

Follow her on LinkedIn

Rose Marcario (she/her)

Rose Marcario is the former president, CEO, and board member of Patagonia, where she deepened the company’s commitment to conservation and responsible business. Marcario scaled the company’s impact to over $1 billion in sales and hundreds of millions in philanthropic giving. She left in 2020 to focus on direct climate action and stakeholder capitalism

Follow her on LinkedIn

 

Stephen Fry (he/him)

Stephen Fry is an English actor, director, and writer known for being half of the duo Fry and Laurie. Fry uses his platform to support many causes, including nature and conservation groups the Great Fen Project and Fauna and Flora International, as well as climate activists Extinction Rebellion.

Follow him on Twitter @StephenFry.

 

Stephen Shelesky (he/him)

Stephen Shelesky is a professional nature photographer who evokes an emotional attachment to the environment by depicting human connection in nature. Shelesky weaves his experiences of being openly gay to make his outdoor lifestyle content accessible and inclusive for folks of many identities. 

Follow him on Instagram @StephenShelesky.

Tori Tsui (she/they)

Hailing from Hong Kong, Tori Tsui is a Bristol-based LGBTQIA+ climate change activist, speaker, and author. Their debut book, It’s Not Just You, explores how climate change and mental health intersect, highlighting their focus on ensuring climate justice work is inclusive. Tsui is the co-founder of the Bad Activist Collective and a member of Unite For Climate Action

Follow them on Instagram @ToriTsui_ and Twitter @ToriTsui

 

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Resistance to Climate Action and LGBTQIA+ Rights

The hard-won progress queer people have made over the last 50 years is being systematically targeted by conservative lawmakers, with over 650 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills introduced in the first three months of 2023 alone

It’s a global issue; there are examples of governments trying to eradicate LGBTQ+ legal protection everywhere. For example, the UK government recently blocked Scotland’s Gender Recognition bill — an uncomfortable reminder for many of the anti-gay Section 28 laws of the 1980s. 

While the volume of homophobic and transphobic legislation proposed right now is devastating, let’s remember the vast majority of people support protections for queer people — nearly 8 in 10 Americans do. And, polls show two-thirds oppose bills targeting transgender people. 

Knowing most people don’t support these discriminatory policies, why are there so many? Some believe they’re political stunts to distract from climate and economic issues facing citizens, or ploys to get specific interest groups to vote. No matter the reason, we have the power to oppose these bills to change the public discourse away from reactionary rhetoric. 

And while 89% of Americans agree climate change is a problem, all 50 conservative senators have opposed climate action, placing fears of potential short-term economic challenges over the long-term viability of our planet. 

Interestingly, this type of inaction has led to activists bringing the climate battle to the courtroom — three climate activists sued the UK government over their failure to enact the country’s own net-zero emissions plans, claiming by failing to do so, have violated their right to live. We’ll likely see more and more of these lawsuits as we draw closer to the Paris Agreement’s 2030 emissions target deadline. 

The climate crisis is both a personal and political issue — interestingly, in more individualistic societies, recommending individuals change their behavior to curtain carbon emissions actually results in an unwillingness to change.

Research shows that regardless of the source, when recommending people prevent lcimate change by amending their behaviors — like changing their diet or taking public transportation — people were less willing to take personal actions and were less likely to support pro-climate politicians.  

Not only that, researchers found that conservative voters were more likely to oppose climate change mitigation policies — not because they didn’t believe the climate was a serious issue — but because of rejecting proposed solutions like emissions caps on ideological grounds. 

So how can climate activists overcome this ideological inertia? Surveys show that leading climate change prevention messages with outcomes or personal benefits of the policies resulted in greater support from all sides of the political spectrum. 

This is a strategy that many LGBTQIA+ climate activists already use; by showing the outcomes of policies, and framing them around benefits to the planet and the people, it makes climate catastrophe prevention a relatable, personal issue. 

The Future of LGBTQIA+ Climate Activism

What’s certain is that LGBTQIA+ climate change activists will continue to be leaders in the movement. For many, the political is personal, as studies show areas with more LGBTQIA+ families also have higher proportions of hazardous air pollutants

There are also the far-reaching impacts of anti-discrimination policies. Recently, a legal challenge expanding workplace discrimination protections under the Civil Rights Act to LGBTQIA+ employees may have set the precedent needed for the Supreme Court to expand the Clean Air Act, giving the EPA the power to regulate greenhouse gases. 

We’re seeing more and more overlap between the climate movement and LGBTQIA+ rights movements. For example, the Rainbow Rebellion is the LGBTQIA+ movement within the popular environmentalist group Extinction Rebellion and a key driver of the organization. Also in the UK, Pride and climate activism collide during London’s Pride festival — declaring there’s #NoPrideInEcocide.

The intersection between LGBTQIA+ and climate activism is highlighted by organizations like Rainbow Railroad, a global not-for-profit that helps with emergency relocation for queer people facing persecution in their home countries. The organization frequently works in the Caribbean, South Asia, and South America — some of the regions most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

To sustain the momentum for change, we look to the activists on this list and many others, who draw from successful movements that have mobilized people to action. 

The next few years are critical to reach the Paris Agreement’s emissions targets — a 45% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050. By supporting the initiatives led by the activists on this list, we can co-create a world with dignity and justice for all.

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