A Safe and Sustainable City for All

As I was asked by Ilana, our training supervisor, to be a respondent in the monthly meeting, I freaked out at first, not sure if I could do it. The topic for the monthly meeting was “Safe and Sustainable City,” in which panelists discussed the intersections of gender, sustainability, sanitation, poverty and disaster preparedness and resilience in urban setting and for urban women. I am not an expert in this topic, but Ilana told me to focus on my research interest and connect it with the safety and sustainability of the city. After days of thinking, I decided to raise some issues regarding LGBT people, their safety in the city as human rights.

On the day of monthly meeting, I was very nervous about being a respondent for the first time in front of an audience consisting of intelligent and experienced members. The turnout was good, and people were anticipating the panel. The speakers were Patricia Cortes, Special Assistant to Deputy Executive Director for Strategic Partnerships, Intergovernmental Support & UN System Coordinator, UN Women, Samantha MacBride, Head of Research, NYC Department of Sanitation, and Ms. Jan Peterson, Chair of the Board, Huairou Commission, New York, USA, with the moderator, Dr. Eugénie L. Birch FAICP, RTPI (hon), President of the General Assembly of Partners. All of them focused on adding women’s views in urban planning, both by including women in the planning team and taking women’s concern into consideration. MacBride, based on her research interest, emphasized the importance of strengthening infrastructures pertaining to food security, clean water, and access to them. She also mentioned the NYC Compost program being a caring infrastructure that is good for the soul and the soil, and that infrastructure should be built with care in mind, over efficiency and affordability for the builders, which, as she put, is the “politics of care.” Peterson proposed the idea that cities should not be safe just for some people, and some women, as other groups are left behind. If the safety of a city is available only for certain people, it will be worlds apart for women who could not enjoy the safety due to their social status or identity. Therefore, we should leave no one behind by “connecting worlds together.”

I was quite inspired by Jan’s remarks, which happened to resonate with my responses. I shook Birch’s hand, took the stage and talked. I said, due to homophobia and transphobia, LGBTQ people are more vulnerable than their heterosexual fellows. Many LGBT youth end up homeless and later cause or suffer violence. Also, according to the statistics of Human rights campaign, at least 25 transgender Americans were fatally shot or killed this year, most of them transgender women of color. When transphobia mixes with misogyny and racism, there will be fatal consequences. So I asked, is a city safe for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity?

A city should be safe for everyone, and everyone should feel safe in a city. I was happy to have the opportunity to voice my opinions about it and bring LGBT issues to NGO CSW/NY.

By Ching Kang (Ken) Wang 王慶剛