As International Pride Month comes to an end, we want to acknowledge the cities within our network that are taking strides to not only speak out in support of LGBTQ+ communities but taking active steps to ensure the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community within the urban context. These cities recognize that a resilient city is an inclusive city, which protects and uplifts its most vulnerable residents, acknowledges their unique needs and learns from their experiences.
Inclusivity plays a critical role in shaping resilient cities. Urban shocks and stresses from extreme weather events to climate change disproportionately impact marginalised communities due to pre-existing vulnerabilities—including the LGBTQ+ community. In many cities, queer communities face higher rates of homelessness, joblessness and poverty and lower rates of healthcare coverage, and they are often found in less stable, non-traditional forms of employment, such as gig work or the informal sector. This makes them more vulnerable to economic shocks, like the shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to chronic stresses associated with climate change, such as extreme weather events, food scarcity, and health risks associated with rising temperatures.
The path towards climate, social and economic justice is intertwined with the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Events like Pride, along with policies and initiatives actively supporting LGBTQ+ communities, indirectly reinforce intersectional justice, underscoring that effective urban action must consider the needs and rights of all people, including those within the LGBTQ+ community.
While 2022 saw many such initiatives, there has also been an increase in hate speech and violence, resulting in the tragic death of over 300 trans and gender-diverse people due to their gender identity. In several countries, new anti-LGBTQ+ policies came into effect, including policies that imposed restrictions on LGBTQ+ migrants and increased the vulnerability of LGBTQ+ refugees to deportation (IGLA, Europe). Initiatives aimed at building resilience must be intentionally designed with consideration for the experiences of marginalized communities, including the queer community.
Our journey towards more resilient cities must always ensure to create an urban environment where every individual feels not just tolerated but genuinely welcomed, accepted, and valued in the urban space, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. True resilience is not just about weathering storms or bouncing back from crises—it’s about doing so while ensuring the well-being of all residents. A city fostering discrimination, prejudice, or systemic injustice towards any part of its population cannot claim resilience as it is neglecting and weakening part of its foundation. We must therefore strive to create cities that promote and celebrate diversity, fostering environments where every individual can thrive.
Looking Ahead: from Resistance to Resilience
Queer communities worldwide offer invaluable lessons in resilience. Despite enduring extreme discrimination, marginalisation, and violence, these communities have showcased remarkable resilience, harnessing available resources to withstand and recover from adversity. Their resilience stands as a testament to the power of human spirit and tenacity.
Cities have served as more than just a backdrop—they’ve been a catalyst for significant strides made by the LGBTQ+ community over the last century. From New York City sparking the modern LGBTQ rights movement after the Stonewall riots in 1969, to Amsterdam City Hall, marrying the first legalised same-sex marriages in 2001, urban spaces have facilitated community building and activism.
Some of R-Cities members are shaping spaces and implementing policies that ensure the inclusion of queer voices and experiences. This inclusion ensures representation and acknowledges the role these communities have played in shaping their urban landscapes and recognising their history of resilience.
Buenos Aires: Fostering career development
Launched in 2017, the Diversa Network promotes diversity and encourages plurality within the Government of the city of Buenos Aires’ work teams, creating an environment where each LGBTQ+ employee can develop freely and exhibit their full potential. The network organises regular meetings for LGBTQ+ employees as well as the city’s partner organizations and relevant civil society partners in the urban space. It has over 100 members. Learn more about the network at https://buenosaires.gob.ar/convivencia-en-la-diversidad/red-diversa
New York City: Caring for health and safety
New York City launched the Equal Bathroom Access Campaign, the first government-led campaign in the United States to affirm residents’ rights to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. This campaign recognises safe and equal bathroom access as a human right shared by all New Yorkers, regardless of their gender identity. The campaign, launched in 2016, included posters which appeared across the city’s transportation system and ads in city newspapers in multiple languages to increase the campaign’s reach. Learn more about the campaign at Mayor de Blasio Launches First Ever Citywide Ad Campaign Affirming Right to use Bathrooms Consistent | City of New York (nyc.gov)
Paris: Increasing social connection and creating safe spaces for the elderly
Paris inaugurated its first co-living housing for LGBT+ seniors in 2021. LGBTQ+ individuals often suffer from housing insecurity as a result of economic precarity or facing discrimination in traditional housing establishments. Older LGBTQ+ individuals are also more likely to face social isolation, and less likely than their younger counterparts to have services targeted to their specific needs. Local NGO Grey Pride identified this gap and partnered with the city of Paris to create social housing specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of this population. Read more about Paris’ initiative here: Une colocation pour seniors LGBT+ inaugurée dans le – Ville de Paris
Establishing community centers that provide safe spaces, critical resources, and social opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals is a top priority for some cities. These centers play a vital role in the wellbeing of the community by promoting community education about LGBTQ+ issues and fostering a more inclusive and accepting environment. Additionally, these centers serve as crucial hubs for activism and advocacy.
Barcelona: Institutionalizing Community Support
Established in 2017, Barcelona’s first municipal LGBTI resource center hosts activities including social and health counseling, legal and employment aid, STD testing as well as several cultural and awareness-raising events. The center serves as the headquarters for several local organisations that work to support the city’s queer community and provides activities and events spaces for several more. Though it mainly serves the cities’ LGBTQ+ residents, the center works with local schools, care homes and civic centers to ensure visibility within local communities. Visit the center’s page at: Barcelona LGBTI Centre | Barcelona City Council
Rio de Janeiro: Reducing discrimination and hate crimes
Rio de Janeiro’s LGBT Citizenship Centers are public facilities offering legal, social, and psychological services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. They promote public policies to combat homophobia, transphobia and promote LGBT citizenship, acting as a network for the protection and guarantee of rights for the LGBT population. Learn more about the Citizenship Centers across Brazilian cities: Cities with Pride: Inclusive Urban Planning with LGBTQ + People (iadb.org)
Tel-Aviv: Advocating for tolerance and acceptance
The Tel Aviv LGBTQ Center serves as a safe haven for many LGBTQ+ individuals. For some, the Center represents their only source of communal support, especially those who have moved to the city for the opportunity to freely express their identities. The Center hosts a variety of activities, provides health services, and supports projects that address community issues, including initiatives tackling the loneliness experienced by older community members. https://lgbtqcenter.org.il/about-the-tlv-lgbtq-center/