As an ecologist and queer activist, there’s something in knowing that there are lesbian lizards and gay giraffes, kissing zebras and sex-changing fish that makes me want to explore more. Knowing that each of us is a community – interwoven and connected – fills me with hope.
As so many young nature-lovers, I grew up with wildlife programmes on TV and I never once heard about these things. Complexity and diversity were reduced to simple stories of male bird meets female bird and does a little funky dance to impress her. They mate and make little baby birds and that’s the whole point of life.
As I began to research the few texts that exist on the subject, I discovered a world far richer than I could have imagined. I have now been writing and teaching about this subject for years and realise more each day that none of this is new. While the term ‘queer ecology’ might be relatively new, among many Indigenous communities living closer to the non-human world than the industrial society that I grew up in, this knowledge of more-than-human gender, sex and sexuality is ancient.
Queer Ecology has become a big part of my life – even finding a way into my novels. Here are some of the projects that I’m currently working on.
Human, non-human. Natural, unnatural. Sentient, non-sentient. You, me.
Our intellectual world is full of binaries that are disrupted the closer we look at them.
Trillion of microbes live in my body at this moment – possibly outnumbering my ‘own’ cells. Who am I?
There are no humans without non-humans. We are each a community and individuality is a myth. In Utah, US, a single quaking aspen tree has cloned themself to create a forest covering 43.6 hectares – they might be the heaviest known individual organism. And they are a forest. What are individuals?
94% of giraffe sex is between males. A quarter of tropical reef fish species change sex during their lifetime. There are whole species of lizards with no males at all. What is sex?
Queer Animals and Plants
Along with illustrator, Anja Van Geert, I created the Queer Animals and Queer Plants zines. A full-sized colouring book will be published in 2023.
Queer Ecology podcast episodes
In my first novel, Margins and Murmurations, I wrote about a herbal clinic run by trans and queer folk that forms part of a resistance movement against state oppression. In real life, my gorgeous sister Ayelet has created a herbal medicine clinic centering trans femmes and trans women in so-called New York City. In this episode, we talk about trans herbalism, Jewish connections, transmisogyny in holistic health care and choosing relationship with plants and life around us.
In my second novel, Conserve and Control, I imagined a futuristic museum with exhibits on queer ecology. Three years later I found out that Queer Animals zine was being featured in just such an exhibit in Switzerland. During a beautiful, noisy queer festival, I met up with Jo who teaches at the exhibit to talk all things queer ecology. In this episode, we also explored species loneliness, colonialism and finding connection.