Queer Ecology

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.

Queer Ecology teacher and writer, Kes Otter Lieffe.

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?

Events and walks

I give presentations and guided walks on queer ecology.

Queer Ecologies of Resistance

Queer Animals Colouring Zine and Queer Plants Colouring Zine by author of trans speculative fiction, Kes Otter Lieffe. Illustrated by Anja Van Geert. Celebrating the diversity of nature and our beautiful queer communities.

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 March 2023. The perfect gift for all your friends who love queer animals and plants! 💕

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.

Ayelet Adelman, Jewish educator and trans herbalist who runs a trans herbal clinic in Brooklyn, New York

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.

Jo is a queer, PoC person currently living and studying in Basel, Switzerland. They have worked in different exhibitions in Switzerland, one of which is the queer ecology exhibition in the natural history museum in Bern, where they give workshops to kids and teens. Gently floating down the Rhine or having a joyful dinner with friends and loved ones is Jo’s ideal way to pass time.

Queer Flamingos illustration from Queer Animals Coloring zine. Written by author of trans speculative fiction, Kes Otter Lieffe. Illustrated by Anja Van Geert. This coloring zine celebrates the diversity of animals and our beautiful queer communities.

Queer Animals and Plants profiles

Just for fun, some profiles of Queer Animals from the colouring books to share with your friends.

The secret sex life of gay giraffes.

Are flamingos really queer?

Yes! Penguins are sometimes gay

A mushroom with 23,000 sexes!

Gay lions!