Listening and learning: giving voice to trans experiences of disasters

09 January 2020

This article gives voice to trans experiences of disasters, investigating their specific vulnerabilities and resilient capacities. We draw on findings from a project on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) experiences of recent Australian and New Zealand disasters. We present and analyse trans voices from a survey conducted across multiple case study sites and insights from interview data with a trans person who experienced the 2011 Brisbane floods. Conceptually, to provide a robust understanding of trans experiences of disasters, we bring socially sensitive disaster studies into conversation with trans geographies. Disaster studies have begun to examine LGBT experiences, with some suggestion that trans people are most vulnerable. We advance this work by focusing on trans lives. Trans geographies, in turn, underline the importance of space, place and the body in understanding trans lives, and the need to examine the lived reality of trans people’s everyday geographies rather than embodiment as an abstract concept. Applying these insights to the trans voices in our project, we examine four themes that highlight impediments to and possibilities for trans-inclusive disaster planning: apprehension with emergency services and support; concerns about home and displacement; anxiety about compromising the trans body; and the potential of trans and queer interpersonal networks for capacity building. We offer suggestions for trans-inclusive disaster planning and preparedness, and indicate how the insights from trans experience can enrich disaster planning and preparedness for wider social groups.