Ring-billed Gulls sometimes form female-female pairs during breeding season / ethan.gosnell2 via Wikimedia Commons

Watch the discussion with Dr. Sandilands and Jasmine Maisonet!
There is nothing is more queer than nature.

“Queerness” is widespread among animals. For example: female-female pairing and chick-rearing is common for seabirds. And there are hundreds of other examples. So many, in fact, that homosexual or homosocial behavior in animals starts to seem pretty banal. As landscape ecologist Brigitte Baptiste observes, “There is nothing is more queer than nature.”

“Queering” is more than holding up examples of queerness or queer participation.

When we talk about “queering” conservation or the outdoors, we’re not just holding up plant and animal examples of queerness. While that is interesting and important for a full appreciation of the diversity of life, it doesn’t have anything to do with the human LGBTQIA+ community and their experience participating in conservation and outdoor activities.

We’re also not just talking about queer people participating in the environmental movement. That’s necessary and important, too. But “queering” conservation and the outdoors is more than representation. To queer conservation and the outdoors is to challenge heterosexual or binary assumptions implicit in how we think about, use, and protect plants, animals, and places. It also exposes how nature and conservation can be used to marginalize and oppress certain groups of people.

“Nature” has been used to marginalize people.

Nature is commonly defined as the set of all physical and biological phenomena of the world, excluding humans and human constructions (or destructions). This notion creates a false division: a natural world of plants and animals (often seen as pristine or virtuous), and an artificial world of humans (often seen as fallen or corrupt).

Appeals to nature have long been used against queer people. Heterosexual orientations have been the assumed natural, default condition of people and animals. And if something is natural, it is right or good, or so the argument goes. On the other hand, homosexual orientations have been considered unnatural, and therefore wrong and bad. The idea that homosexual behavior is unnatural and wrong remains codified in “crimes against nature” statutes in 10 US states. The status of “against nature” can easily be internalized by LGBTQIA+ people and in this way “nature” is used to marginalize and oppress queer folks.

Seattle Audubon hosted a discussion about queering conservation.

No matter where you reside on the rainbow, there’s a lot to unpack, learn, and do to make conservation more inclusive, effective, and fun. These are challenging but fascinating conversations. Seattle Audubon hosted a virtual discussion on the topic with internationally-recognized queer ecology thinker Dr. Catriona Sandilands and local queer organizer Jasmine Maisonet on June 15, 2022. We hope you’ll watch the recording to learn more about queering conservation and the outdoors.