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?
New to Queer Ecology?
Here’s an audio introduction with some nature audio I recorded near my home.
Like most queer subjects, queer ecology is being constantly defined and redefined. It can be something academic and abstract or it can be rooted in community and grassroots struggles for land and liberty. It can connect science, philosophy, politics, it can be gloriously geeky and it can also teach us something about who we are and where we belong in our more than human community.
I'm a writer, the author of Margins, a trilogy of queer speculative fiction novels. I've also written several short stories and a colouring book series on queer plants and animals. I'm an ecologist and I've been involved in grassroots community struggles for over 20 years focusing on the intersections of class, queerness and environmental struggles, always trying to create radical alternatives to the trash fire of capitalism.
I write and organise from a working class, chronically ill, transfeminine perspective.
As so many young nature lovers, I grew up with wildlife programmes on TV. And I never once heard about bisexual red deer, sex-changing parrotfish or binary-smashing lichens. 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, they make little baby birds. And that apparently is the whole point of life.
As I began to research the few texts that exist on queer ecology, I discovered a world far richer than I could have imagined.
I've now been writing and teaching about this subject for years and I realise more each day that none of this is new. While the term queer ecology might be relatively new, among many Indigenous communities and others living closer to the nonhuman world than the industrial society that I grew up in this knowledge of more than human gender, sex and sexuality is ancient.
I'm proud to be a queer ecology educator - I write, present, and give guided walks. You can contact me here.
Along with illustrator, Anja Van Geert, I created the Queer Animals and Queer Plants zines and a full-sized colouring book published in March 2023. They are the perfect gifts for all your friends who love queer animals and plants!
And here are some other great resources on Queer Ecology:
Myco Manchester – Community mushroom farm and workers’ co-operative
Queer Animals are Everywhere. Science is finally catching on (Washington Post) – This article by animal studies graduate student Eliot Schrefer highlights a recent surge in scholarship on same-sex animal behaviour.
Homosexual behavior in animals (Wikipedia) – How many species of animals are gay? How common is homosexuality in (non-human) nature?
10 animal species that show how being gay is natural (DW) – 10 of the gayest animals, from giraffes to lions to albatrosses.