This year’s Pride Month is celebrated yet again against the backdrop of the worsening climate crisis.

 

Thus, in this month’s #Realitalk feature, we wish to bring forward real stories of how the impacts of climate change compounds the struggles of sexual and gender minorities in the country.
Thankfully, Climate Reality Leader Amiel Lopez graciously accepted our invitation to share his lived experiences, insights, and truths as a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and as a climate advocate.
 
A young Mindanawon dreamer, Amiel is a full-time MA Anthropology student at the Ateneo de Davao University. He works as a part-time college faculty under the same university and as a Climate Justice Researcher at Greenpeace Philippines. He is also the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Project Dyesabel—a non-profit, Bajau-and-youth-led organization that co-creates inclusive environmental initiatives through education and training, sustainable livelihood, research and innovation, and good governance.
 
In this feature, Amiel told us that we cannot truly achieve climate justice in the Philippines without ensuring equal rights for all vulnerable sectors of society, which include the LGBTQIA+ community.
 
We couldn’t agree more. For us in The Climate Reality Project, the pathway to a truly sustainable future for all includes undoing historic injustices and addressing systemic inequities.
 
To this end, we join Amiel and the rest of the Filipino people in calling for the enactment of a national anti-discrimination law that prohibits all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). We also vow to advocate for the inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ lens and the representation of LGBTQIA+ people in the climate justice movement. 
 

The impacts of climate change disproportionately affect the marginalized sectors of society, which includes the LGBTQIA+ community. How is the climate crisis compounding the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community?

 

Amiel: Since then, the LGBTQIA+ community has faced a lot of discrimination that made them think of being unworthy to even lead and participate in any of the solutions towards the climate crisis. Nevertheless, they are now leading and participating in their own way. Whenever there is a typhoon, intense drought and rainfall, and other impacts of climate change, it is experienced and felt by those that are vulnerable, in this case, our LGBTQ+ community. What makes them vulnerable is the existing social stigma, inequalities, discrimination, and violence that are triggered when climate change-related events happen.

To put it concretely, whenever I am leading an environmental initiative and I get to become true with my gender and sexuality, some people would invalidate my efforts because I am more of a feminine. And as a “male,” I should not do things at the frontline or even be too emotional whenever climate disasters are felt on the ground. As a queer who led and participated in climate actions, I battle with me this fear of being discriminated and invalidated for what I have been actively doing. This is a reality for us in the LGBTQIA+ community. Every aspect of our being is being questioned or denied especially when climate change impacts us in the process. This [climate crisis] exacerbates the present social stigma and inequalities that we battle every single day.

Despite being vulnerable, the unique experience of the LGBTQIA+ community is often left out from the climate conversation. How do we ensure that future discussions and policy decisions will include the perspective of the LGBTQIA+ community? 

 

Amiel: To make sure that the perspective of the LGBTQIA+ community is included in policy decisions is to include them in the process of making such decisions. We don’t need just allies who ‘represent’ them. We need to ensure that there is a seat for them in those negotiations and allow their lived experiences and voices to be heard and included in the formulation of such policies.

If our government is really serious about having inclusive climate policies, they would consult all vulnerable sectors including our LGBTQIA+ community. But for them to really include us in the process, they should also promote the rights and welfare of the community not just in climate policies but also in the SOGIE Equality Bill that has been hampered for decades already.

If we really want to ensure that they are included, we see them as partners and leaders in these conversations towards environmental and social justice. Gone were the days that we think they are a sin, a curse, or any worse than a being. They are humans, too. We are humans, too.

 
"I believe that each of us has a seat on the table when discussing the challenges of our shared climate and our shared planet. Climate movements are now growing, with the awareness of intersectionality now going strong."
AMIEL LOPEZ

Across the globe, we see LGBTQIA+ climate justice advocates making significant strides for climate justice. In the Philippines, how are the power and voice of the LGBTQIA+ community uplifting and further advancing the climate movement?

 

Amiel: Because it is felt and experienced on the ground, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, more and more vulnerable communities, such as the LGBTQIA+, are becoming more aware of the impacts of climate change and are pushing forward for climate justice. Because it affects us all, it is even more powerful when LGBTQIA+ demands climate justice along with social justice. These two are intrinsically connected. More and more LGBTQIA+ are at the forefront of these climate movements because they themselves are directly affected by the impacts of climate change.

I was a 10-year-old queer kid back then when I experienced firsthand a series of flooding in our village at the ceiling level of our house. I couldn’t share it with my friends because I was afraid to be discriminated against and invalidated for being gay and queer. Looking back, that pushed me to who I am now advocating for inclusivity at all aspects of our climate movement. I wanted to co-create a safe space for everyone including my own community to feel that all their climate stories are valid regardless of who they are. I wanted to make that 10-year-old queer kid self feel safe and free to express his/her/their climate story. I want to let my 10-year-old queer self that I matter and I am valued.

More so, because it is felt and experienced, I got to co-create and co-led my own organization—a Bajau-and-youth-led environmental organization that aims to make inclusive environmental initiatives. I believe that each of us has a seat on the table when discussing the challenges of our shared climate and our shared planet. Climate movements are now growing, with the awareness of intersectionality now going strong.

Broadening the scope of our climate activism to include social justice issues such as LGBTQIA+ rights is critical to ensure genuinely transitional climate justice. In your opinion, how does the Philippines fare on protecting LGBTQIA+ rights?

 
 

Amiel: As of the moment, protecting LGBTQIA+ rights is still a challenging reality for the Philippines. Without the passage of the SOGIE Bill, we are still far from achieving climate justice. As long as there is still a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, etc. violated, discriminated, or invalidated in the Philippines amid the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis, we cannot have a genuinely transitional climate justice.

News are rampant on the LGBTQIA+ discrimination and violence. To be honest, upon writing my answers to the prompt questions and knowing that my audience would be my fellow Filipinos, I am afraid that I could be discriminated against and invalidated for being who I am and for sharing my truth. Not until the next kid would feel safe or valued or free to share his/her/their climate stories, the Philippines is far from protecting the LGBTQIA+ community’s rights and welfare.

 
"Each one of us has a SOGIE and it is important that we afford all beings in our country with equal rights."
AMIEL LOPEZ

What is your message to the government, especially policymakers, regarding the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill?

 
 

Amiel: The SOGIE Equality Bill has been overly delayed for two decades already. It was first proposed in 2000 and I was born in 1999. Two decades later, I still face the existing social stigma expressed in discrimination, violence, and hatred towards me and my LGBTQIA+ community. Some of us die due to these prevailing social stigmas. This puts us so vulnerable to both social and environmental crises.

With this reality, I implore you to urgently pass the bill for us and for a better nation. This does not mean that we do not include the others because this is not a contestation of what sector shall be included but it is an attempt of allowing the LGBTQIA+ and all sectors to have equality, dignity, and justice for the years that we have been outstripped from it.

More so, I would not want the next generation to suffer the way we have suffered. This bill would mean a lot to those who have fought before us. As you read this, think of how beautiful it would be if all our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression are all celebrated and considered valid. 

Each one of us has a SOGIE and it is important that we afford all beings in our country with equal rights. What we have in common, regardless of our differences, is that we are all humans on a shared planet. This is your responsibility to the Filipino people. Do your part now.