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The End of 
the World as 
We Know It

The End of 
the World as 
We Know It

LGBT people of color will not be prioritized in a global crisis, so we need our own contingency plan.

The world is changing. Whether we are facing climate change, artificial intelligence, nuclear threats, water shortages, or some combination of everything, it's difficult to be optimistic about the future -- especially for LGBT people.

As I'm a child of the '90s, you can argue that Terminator films and Octavia Butler novels left too big an imprint on my psyche, but even the biggest skeptic should recognize that unless significant shifts happen, our incredibly volatile present will lead to an explosive future. Unlike the one-percenters, we can't all buy million-dollar escape plans for every doomsday scenario.

For many of us, life is already becoming unbearable. We battle daily to survive and try to maintain our human dignity. How do we as LGBT people, particularly those of color, prepare ourselves for what may come?

It can be a struggle to simply survive from one day to the next. But one of our greatest triumphs, and acts of sheer audacity as LGBT people of color, is our ability to take our joy back from those who seek to steal it. The evidence of our resilience is in our laughter and our stories.

Climate change, and the proliferation of natural disasters stemming from it, should be more prominent in our national political conversation. That's not to say it should silence the litany of other urgent needs, but it should certainly be added and prioritized. The most vulnerable among us, especially black LGBT people, will undoubtedly be more impacted. Existing social structures, and American institutions preserving the social order, offer little evidence that we will be protected in the face of natural catastrophes.

For flooding, extreme temperatures, fires, and freakish snow storms, we need to have a community plan and policy agenda offering direction for how we sustain our culture, our institutions, and our lives. It's time to rethink community resilience over the next few decades. But it must be coupled with our resistance to another looming disaster: white supremacy.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a total pessimist. That would require me to accept the suppressive social order. Instead, I seek to change it. I have witnessed firsthand how powerful our communities are. We have survived so much. Speaking as a black gay man who was politicized in black LGBT communities, I know that structural vulnerability does not mean weakness. We are fighters. We are visionaries. We need to channel those parts of ourselves in how we imagine the future of our communities.

A community resilience plan and policy agenda would focus on how resources are allocated to ensure the safety and security of our communities. We need organizations that can support our community in these moments. Philanthropic intervention is key, as are coalitions --made up of not only policy makers and donors, but also cultural workers, artists, grassroots organizers, and healers.

We must consider how to maintain LGBT rights and safety in a global context with tensions boiling over and threats of nuclear war amplified on the international stage. Human rights violations during global conflict and dwindling resources can be anticipated. The most radical project we can engage in, the ultimate form of dissent, is to dare to imagine our communities stronger, more powerful, more beautiful, and more equitable. That, and to embody not the worst excesses of neoliberalism, but the best promises of democracy.

CHARLES STEPHENS is a contributor to The Advocate.

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Charles Stephens