When it comes to environmental vulnerability, one group of people society often marginalizes has started to act up in Connecticut. Activists say one major category is missing when policymakers look at climate change preparation: the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) community. An environmental activist movement for LGBTQ+ people has been building in the New Haven area for a few years. Those involved in the movement say evidence is beginning to accumulate that makes a clear connection between environmental threats, sexual orientation and gender identity. Their environmental vulnerability comes mainly from this group’s higher poverty rates.
A new poll shows that, with one in 10 millennials and one in five Generation Z members in the U.S. identifying as LGBTQ+, the proportion of that population should exceed 10% of the total U.S. population in the near future. The Gallup poll found that roughly 21% of Generation Z — those born between 1997 and 2003 — identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual (LGBTQ+). That’s nearly twice as many as millennials, and the gap gets even bigger among older generations. Overall, the poll found that the percentage of U.S. adults who identify as LGBTQ+ has increased to a new high of 7.1%, double the percentage from 2012, when Gallup first began tracking LGBTQ+ stats. As part of the demographic information it collects on all U.S. telephone surveys, Gallup asked people in 2021 whether they believe they are heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Isolated from friends and the LGBTQ community, University of Connecticut senior Megan Graham at times found herself questioning her queer identity during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I felt a bit more insecure about my identity being away from my friends who are within the community,” Graham said. “I didn’t have the same outlet as I did to be myself without judgment. I questioned myself more and wished I had more people to talk to about it.”
At UConn, Graham is the president of the Queer Collective, an LGBTQ discussion-based support organization that is run through the Rainbow Center, the heart of UConn’s LGBTQ community. Graham said that some of her self-doubts stemmed from losing these LGBTQ affirming spaces as the pandemic shut down campus and moved classes online.
During 2018, members of the advocacy group CT Equality traveled around the state to listen to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community talk about their challenges and concerns about life in Connecticut. The conversations, said Rep. Jeffrey Currey, D-East Hartford, deputy majority leader who attended one of the meetings in Hartford, had common themes, including a need for additional services and programs.
Among other tangible efforts during the legislative session that ended June 5, such as a ban on the so-called “gay panic defense,” the conversations moved Connecticut legislators to create an LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, which is charged with creating a safe environment for members of the community. This comes at a time when the Trump administration is rolling back rights at a historic rate. In June, the administration announced it would cut funding for a University of California HIV and AIDS research program. Trump has announced plans to allow “religious exemptions” to adoption agencies that want to deny services for LTBTQ couples.
State lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit licensed professionals from performing conversion therapy on minors, a practice designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Medical and mental health experts have widely denounced conversion therapy, which also is known as sexual reorientation therapy, as being ineffective and detrimental. Critics of conversion therapy say it is based on the flawed assumption that homosexuality and bisexuality are sicknesses. “It’s disgraceful,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Currey, a Democrat representing the 11th House District. Currey introduced the bill along with Democratic Fifth District Sen. Beth Bye.