Challenging queer erasure in climate action and urban development: Make Change Happen podcast episode 22

To celebrate Pride month, this episode of ‘Make Change Happen’ invites queer activists and researchers to tell us more about their work to bridge the gaps between urban and climate justice and LGBTQI+ communities

Article, 26 June 2023

IIED’s ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides an opportunity to hear our researchers and guests discuss key global development challenges and explain what we are doing to support positive change. 

In this episode, marking LGBTQI+ Pride month, we want to spark conversations about how urban development and climate action can be truly inclusive of queer communities. What can we learn from queer thinking and practice? How can we challenge LGBTQI+ erasure in decision making to deliver stronger and more equitable change? 

Hosted by Tucker Landesman, senior researcher in IIED’s Human Settlements research group, this podcast features lawyer and urban planner Rodrigo Faria G. Iacovini, working with the Instituto Pólis in Sao Paulo, Brazil and queer activist Sarah Louis Montgomery, project coordinator at the global network GenderCC-Women for Climate Justice in Berlin, Germany. 

Both guests share their experience working with queer communities and activists to bridge gaps between LGBTQI+ civil society and urban development and climate action, respectively, to achieve a just result. 

Challenging LGBTQI+ erasure in development 

IIED’s work involving LGBTQI+ communities came out of staff working on gender justice having conversations about missing voices across our priorities and work programmes. ‘Leave no-one behind’ includes LGBTQI+ communities and saying that it is too political an area is no longer acceptable.  

Equally, IIED and others have much to learn from these communities to apply elsewhere in our research and communications.  

Community mapping for queer cities 

Rodrigo Iacovini talks about his work with Instituto Polis producing knowledge and data about gender and sexuality in the city to drive change. He discusses how this data can be used in negotiations with local governments for improving services or infrastructure.  

He also points out a critical issue – that lack of LGBTQI+ specific data keeps queer people invisible in policymaking and urban development, contributing to decisions that do not take their interests, aspirations and safety into account. 

Through community mapping of LGBTQI+ places and cultural references, Rodrigo is working to understand how LGBTQI+ people live and organise themselves, in terms of housing, activism, mobility, leisure and community building. This data will be essential to create policies that reflect the reality of queer communities and which acknowledge their place in society. 

The conversation also reflects on the importance of intersectionality when planning for inclusive cities: “When we have a city that is good for a black, young, women who is a lesbian or bisexual, we have a city that is good for everyone,” says Rodrigo. 

Climate resilience and queer communities 

Climate policies and climate change are impacting queer communities differently, explains Sarah Louis Montgomery.  

Homophobic laws and social norms make it harder for LGBTQI+ communities to access resources and support. Queer people may encounter barriers in accessing emergency services, relief aid or social support in the aftermath of climate-related disasters, due to discrimination or lack of inclusive policies.  

This is particularly complicated for transgender people when their documentation doesn’t match their gender.

These struggles also need to be documented, so they can be addressed. Tucker and Sarah highlight the need to fill this gap in data that connect climate vulnerabilities with gender and sexuality. “It is very important to have a database because it hasn’t been a focus on research in LGBTQ+ communities and climate justice yet,” demands Sarah.  


Head and shoulders photo of Tucker Landesman

Tucker Landesman is senior researcher in IIED's Human Settlements research group. He is a geographer with a multidisciplinary background and 10 years of experience researching and implementing projects on urban development, climate change and public health in Latin America as well as sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. He focuses on innovative, inclusive urban policy and governance for more equitable and sustainable cities.

Head and shoulders photo of Rodrigo Faria G. Iacovini

Rodrigo Faria G. Iacovini is a Brazilian lawyer and urban planner. He holds a PhD in regional and urban planning from the University of São Paulo. He coordinates the School of Citizenship in Polis Institute and leads the action-research project on LGBTQIAP+ territorialities and the right to the city. Formerly, executive coordinator of the Brazilian Institute of Urban Law, and international relations officer of the Global Platform for the Right to the City.

Head and shoulders photo of Sarah Louis Montgomery

Sarah Louis Montgomery (no pronoun/she) is a project coordinator for the global network GenderCC-Women for Climate Justice. Sarah has over 15 years of experience working on topics related to global justice, climate justice and gender equality. Sarah has recently been coordinating a project that researched the connection between queerness and climate justice.

Additional resources

Blog: Heteronormativity in development – what does queer have to do with it? by Tucker Landesman and Anna Carthy (2022)

How to listen and subscribe

The ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides informal insights into IIED’s work to create positive change and make the complex issues we face more accessible to wider audiences. The title refers to IIED’s 2019-2024 strategy, which sets out how IIED plans to respond to the critical challenges of our time.

The podcast is also available on IIED's YouTube channel.

You can follow some of the people you have heard in this episode on Twitter at @tuckerlandesman, and @rodrigoiacovini. Follow the podcast on @IIED_Voices for all the latest updates.