Two researchers from the Yale School of the Environment have published an article highlighting the environmental health burden faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Courtesy of Paula Pineda
A new paper from researchers at the Yale School of the Environment explores the unique environmental exposures and outcomes associated with America’s LGBTQ+ population and offers recommendations for policy, public health, and research.
In an article published digitally in the American Journal of Public Health last December, environmental health professor Michelle Bell and Leo Goldsmith ENV ’20 outline environmental health inequities in the context of the LGBTQ+ community. Divided into seven sections, the document raises the role of social institutions, examples of disproportionate environmental exposure, and implications for public health, among other topics. Ultimately, the paper acknowledges the mechanisms that contribute to potentially heightened risk factors for the environmental health of the LGBTQ+ population and calls for further research into environmental inequalities.
“The LGBTQ+ population is targeted by discriminatory policies that contribute to poorer health outcomes,” Bell said. “Environmental justice is a key theme in my research program, and we aim to investigate the multiple pathways through which people experience higher health burdens due to environmental conditions. The goal of this project was to explore how environmental exposures may disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ population in order to raise this issue in the scientific literature and hopefully catalyze new research and better understanding of this issue.
In one section, the document identifies three environmental exposures — air pollution, environmental disasters, and second-hand smoke — that disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ people. These consequences can be revealed in the rates of exposure or associated discrimination experienced due to people’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
For example, the article acknowledges how minority stress and gender stereotyping, in addition to LGBTQ+-specific stressors such as internalized homophobia, can lead to higher rates of passive smoking among LGBTQ+ people. Goldsmith noted that research from the Center of American Progress found that more than a third of LGBTQ+ Americans have experienced some form of discrimination in the past year and for transgender Americans, that number rises to over a quarter. three fifths.
“[T]here there needs to be a lot more research on this topic,” Goldsmith wrote in an email. “There are potential links between environmental disparities and sexual and gender minority status, but first we need to address the lack of health and demographic data for sexual and gender minorities at the national level and within health systems. health that prevent solid research on this topic.”
Bell highlighted the vulnerability of black transgender women in particular and highlighted the need for intersectionality when reviewing research on environmental health conditions. The document provides illustrative examples of discrimination influenced by race and socioeconomic status in addition to LGBTQ+ identity.
Goldsmith highlighted how his experiences as a low-income Latino, queer and transgender climate and health expert led him to create work that could “[validate] what LGBTQ+ communities experience and have experienced. While at Yale, Goldsmith was selected for the Environmental Fellows program and was involved with the intersectional student interest group Environmental Justice at Yale, or EJAY, in addition to the social and advocacy group representing the LGBTQ+ community called Out. in the Woods, or OITW.
Kieren Rudge ENV ’22, current co-lead of EJAY and member of OITW, said there is currently an increased focus on ideas of justice in environmental research and efforts to include missing voices.
“One thing about it [paper], and a lot of work that’s coming on justice and fairness that’s coming out these days, it’s just that these are things that a lot of people in the communities that are affected are kind of familiar with it,” Rudge said. “It’s really great to see a lot of these things that are kind of known to stakeholders being validated by science.”
The Environmental Scholars Program moved to Yale in the fall of 2020.