Love as a form of resistance to violence – both against people and the planet

Joshua Villalobos Gender, Rights, Violence Against Women and Girls

In our second blog for the 16 days campaign against gender-based violence, queer climate activist Joshua Villalobos explains the passion that drives opposition to both gender-based violence and the abuse of the climate that fuels it.

Image from the Queer Safety Affirmations campaign created in partnership with Oxfam teams in the Middle East, Central America, the Philippines and Canada (Picture: @studiokohl)

As the world comes together for two landmark moments for climate justice and against gender-based violence this month, I cannot stop thinking about the passion, drive, and love that activists in both areas hold for the planet, for its people, for its women and non-binary individuals, and for all those who have been impacted by both crises. For me, the campaigning around COP28 and the 16 Days of activism against gender-based violence, share a common theme: working towards that love’s inevitable victory.

As a young queer climate activist, I have a lot of stories to tell you about love: not only the type of love that you hold for a special someone, a significant other, your chosen family and friends; the other type of love – which is equally important, but often overlooked and underestimated.

It is the type of love that makes you go out of your way to minimise your plastic use; join a vigil against attacks on LGBTQIA+ people; organize a coastal clean-up; spearhead an environmental event, or even walk in the streets to protest an environmental or social justice issue despite the imminent threat of being ridiculed and tagged with names such as bayaran, insurgent, or just simply dismissed for being young.

On being young, queer, and idealistic

Being young and gay is often coupled with optimism, passion, and a strong feeling of we can change the world. And, in the past of my nation, The Phillipines, many passionate young people have changed the course of history. From winning revolutions against colonisers, to stopping fossil-fuel projects, and creating a cleaner future by advocating for renewable energy, young people have been at the forefront of these struggles. However, one will also meet those who will use the “you’re too young” card against you hoping to invalidate your cause and diminish your passion. Sometimes, you will believe them.
Then you realize that being young and fighting for a cause doesn’t happen because you are “trying to find a purpose” but because you hold a lot of love of the causes and the people that you defend, because you are, as an activist, a loving person.

Resistance to climate and gender injustice as a form of love

Today, that love and that activism means fighting the twin scourges of climate and gender injustice, which are two sides of the same coin. Women, girls, and non-binary people in all their diversity are massively impacted as a direct consequence of climate change, in many forms of gender-based violence. This violence manifests as forced displacement, food insecurity, conflict, systematic discrimination and exclusion – all of which disproportionately impacts women and non-binary folks from the global South. Then there is the violence from the backlash to our attempts to fight for climate justice: in the last decade, more than 80 women environmental defenders have been murdered.

You are a loving person because you fight against such injustice and discrimination committed against the people you love, whether they are strangers or known to you . You join the struggle of people who are extremely vulnerable to climate impacts and the violence that often follows. You campaign to shine a light on the fatal diseases brought about by dirty energy projects, or on communities that stand to lose their homes and livelihoods because of proposed reclamation projects.

You do this, not just because you love the environment but because you love the people who rely on the environment – and who deserve to live with dignity and free from violence in all its forms.

As the famous quote from Che Guevara says: “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” For a young queer climate activist, the link between fighting for justice and love is particularly relevant: I cannot openly love someone because, for some, it is seen as an abomination.

The invisibility of queer people in climate response

Highlighting the particular challenges faced by queer people in this climate emergency is vital to addressing the unique harms, discrimination and violence we face. Queer communities are marginalised during climate-induced disasters. Aside from discrimination based on our sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) and prejudice based on religion and dominant norms, the needs and context of the LGBTQIA+ community are often ignored in disaster  and humanitarian response. That leads us to have less or no access to social services, resources, and information, puts us more at risk, and makes us more vulnerable to climate shocks and stresses – including access to sustainable and clean energy. On top of this, in climate movements and policy-making, queer people like me are often left excluded and unrecognised.

We must continue to fight – and to love

We need a gender-just energy transition to advance a planet that is clean, sustainable, and resilient to climate change impacts, including the impact on violence against women, non-binary and queer people. That transition must put every marginalised community at the centre of discussion, planning, budgeting, and decision-making, and holding duty bearers accountable.
At COP and during these 16 Days, we must foster discussion on climate action that sees and addresses the way climate crises are fuelling violence against vulnerable and marginalised groups, many of who are often invisible in policy debates.

Let us continue to fight, and love. Because in the end, love will win. It always does.


Joshua Villalobos

Joshua Villalobos is a young queer climate activist from Negros Occidental, Philippines, who advocates for the intersectionality of climate issues with other social justice issues.

This is the second of two blogs for the 16 Days campaign against gender-based violence, which this year takes place at the same time as the COP28 climate talks. Both blogs highlight the link between GBV and climate. Read the first blog: How climate change fuels gender-based violence.