Queering disasters: on the need to account for LGBTI experiences in natural disaster contexts

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This article is relevant for humanitarian practitioners involved in disaster planning, recovery or research in that it highlights the ways that a strengths-based approach can and should be used to promote LGBTI adaptive capacity and inclusion in DRR practice.

This journal article argues that taking queering research and policy approaches to navigating environmental disasters is critical for inclusive and effective policy and research. The article opens with a presentation of the world’s current ‘state of affairs’ with natural disasters (increasingly frequent and severe) before providing an overview of the ‘disaster cycle.’ The authors then move into concepts of vulnerability and argue that LGBTI people are largely excluded from disaster research, planning and mitigation activities.

The authors then delve into the major case study of the paper, Hurricane Katrina. The authors demonstrate that the heteronormative, middle class assumptions made by US disaster planners excluded LGBTI individuals and have thus excluded LGBTI residential, commercial and tourist areas from adequate rebuilding funding. Further case studies of the 2010 Haitian earthquake and South and Southeast Asian disasters are discussed in brief.

The authors argue that more data is needed on the experiences of LGBTI people and communities in natural disaster contexts through a systematic and focused research agenda. The authors argue that, following research, significant action must be taken to reduce the unique vulnerabilities LGBTI populations face during and after disasters—vulnerabilities that, the authors argue, are underpinned by heteronormative assumptions in disaster response and recovery.

The authors conclude with a recommendation that more needs to be done to enhance the resilience and adaptive capacity of LGBTI populations; this can only be done if the creative resilience of LGBTI populations is recognised and used through a strengths-based approach.

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"Finally, more needs to be done to positively enhance the resilience and adaptive capacity, not just reduce the vulnerability of LGBTI populations. It is important to acknowledge that LGBTI people, while facing heteronormative exclusions in policies and processes, also creatively harness specialised means of resilience, such as friendship networks and 'families-of-choice'."

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This journal article argues that taking queering research and policy approaches to navigating environmental disasters is critical for inclusive and effective policy and research. The article opens with a presentation of the world’s current ‘state of affairs’ with natural disasters (increasingly frequent and severe) before providing an overview of the ‘disaster cycle.’ The authors then move into concepts of vulnerability and argue that LGBTI people are largely excluded from disaster research, planning and mitigation activities.

The authors then delve into the major case study of the paper, Hurricane Katrina. The authors demonstrate that the heteronormative, middle class assumptions made by US disaster planners excluded LGBTI individuals and have thus excluded LGBTI residential, commercial and tourist areas from adequate rebuilding funding. Further case studies of the 2010 Haitian earthquake and South and Southeast Asian disasters are discussed in brief.

The authors argue that more data is needed on the experiences of LGBTI people and communities in natural disaster contexts through a systematic and focused research agenda. The authors argue that, following research, significant action must be taken to reduce the unique vulnerabilities LGBTI populations face during and after disasters—vulnerabilities that, the authors argue, are underpinned by heteronormative assumptions in disaster response and recovery.

The authors conclude with a recommendation that more needs to be done to enhance the resilience and adaptive capacity of LGBTI populations; this can only be done if the creative resilience of LGBTI populations is recognised and used through a strengths-based approach.