Oslo University’s Dr Gulnaz Anjum
Oslo University’s Dr Gulnaz Anjum

How do extreme climate events impact marginalised groups, particularly transgender people?

Today, Dr Gulnaz Anjum from the University of Oslo, explains the impact of extreme climate events on the transgender community and how social stigmas make them vulnerable to climate change.

First and foremost, climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and inequalities, and this holds true for the transgender community in Pakistan. Heatwaves and floods have a tendency to disproportionately affect marginalised communities, and the transgender population is particularly at risk due to their occupational and social circumstances.

Many transgender individuals in Pakistan are engaged in outdoor activities such as begging, street performances, or sex work, which makes them more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. Extreme weather events can cut off their primary or perhaps only source of income, pushing them further into poverty.

Secondly, floods pose another threat to the transgender community’s livelihoods. They can disrupt local economies and the events where transgender individuals might find work, such as local festivals, weddings, or other ceremonies.

Thirdly, transgender individuals may already be marginalised within healthcare systems, and this could be exacerbated during climate disasters. Lack of access to essential medicines, hormone therapies, and other healthcare services during times of disaster can lead to severe health complications.

At the same time, in emergency situations requiring evacuation and medical help, transgender individuals might not have access to medical services that are safe and respectful of their identity. This increases their vulnerability to the immediate and long-term effects of climate disasters, such as lack of treatment, homelessness or exposure to violence.

With all eyes on the UAE, where world leaders have gathered for the COP28 summit, Dawn is speaking to experts to answer pressing, everyday questions that are on people’s minds about climate change-related issues.

What are the physical and psychological effects of these disasters?

There is immense existing social stigmatisation and negative effects on the mental health of the transgender community. The stress and trauma associated with experiencing a climate-related disaster can have significant mental health impacts. Transgender individuals, already susceptible to high levels of social stigma and discrimination, may find their mental health disproportionately affected, reducing their ability to cope with or recover from the event.

This stigmatisation further exacerbates their economic vulnerability in the face of climate change. Growing aggression during climate shocks leads to further frustration and a lack of support or safety for transgender communities. Loss of livelihood due to heat waves or floods impacts this community more severely, pushing them further into margins and making recovery much more challenging.

Overall, climate change, therefore, acts as a threat multiplier, intensifying existing social, economic, and health vulnerabilities that the transgender community in Pakistan already faces.

The loss or severe limitation of income due to climate-induced extreme weather events means not just economic hardship but also reduced access to healthcare, housing, and even food security, adding another layer of marginalisation to an already vulnerable community.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2023

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