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It’s Pride Month – Let’s Talk about ‘Queer Ecology’

by SLCgreen intern Mariah Trujillo

Happy Pride Month! With the 2022 Pride Festival coming to a close in Salt Lake City earlier this month, SLCgreen would like to extend our celebration by discussing some of the ways that LGBTQIA+ history and sustainability go hand-in-hand!

(The term LGBTQIA+ refers to people of “all genders and sexualities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and allies. While each letter in LGBTQIA+ stands for a specific group of people, the term encompasses the entire spectrum of gender fluidity and sexual identities.”)

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Sustainability, with its goals of protecting natural resources, slowing the effects of climate change, and building resilient communities, exists at the crossroads of environmental and social justice.

Sustainability work requires an intersectional lens to maintain a commitment to diversity, equity, and justice.

While it might not be obvious how LGBTQIA+ studies is related to sustainability, scholars and theorists from both queer studies and environmental studies have banded together to bring the two seemingly different fields together with the term “Queer Ecology.”

At its heart, Queer Ecology enacts a practice of intersectionality that calls us to action through an understanding that the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights is a shared struggle with desire and actions to save our planet.

While Queer Ecology refers to a very extensive set of ideas and practices that connect queer and environmental studies together, it is united in some central ideas. To begin, Queer Ecology asks us to reflect on the ways that we construct human identities and develop relationships with the natural world.

Queer Ecology aims to challenge the idea that humans are separate and distinct from the natural world. This “either/or” thought process transfers easily to other concepts: industrial infrastructure or sustainable infrastructure, straight or gay, humans or animals, cisgender or transgender. These binaries create a hierarchy that benefits one group and leaves the other side vulnerable to exclusion and invisibility; or even violence and abuse.

Queer Ecology works to build a world without these binaries that can oppress both people and planet. Emphasizing the interconnectedness of the natural world and wide range of human identity and expressions, Queer Ecology makes clear the ways that we can save the world and fight for queer liberation by reshaping our relationships to the world and people we may view as “other” than us.

A major application of Queer Ecology focuses on the resiliency and fluidity in both the LGBTQIA+ communities and the natural world. Around the world, Queer Ecology is revolutionizing the ways that people are responding to climate change and combatting the ever-changing threats to environmental health such as environmental contamination and clean-up.

Aerial view of Rocky Flats in Colorado, the site of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
Rocky Flats, National Wildlife Refuge

For example, Nuclia Waste, a Colorado-based performer, brought her drag persona to life by emerging from the ruins of a former nuclear plant, much like the transformation of the Rocky Flats nuclear plant into a wildlife refuge. Drag, as a creative medium, emphasizes the expansiveness of gender presentation and the possibilities of gender beyond the man-woman binary. These imaginative ideas can be connected to the transformation of a toxic and radioactive dump that is hostile to living beings into a nature refuge where wildlife can flourish. Nuclia Waste is a living example of how these binaries may be broken, unleashing the power of transformative relationships between humans and the Earth.

To get an idea of how important Queer Ecology is to environmental justice and sustainability, let’s look at two prominent LGBTQIA+ environmentalists, one foundational and one contemporary.

Rachel Carson: Carson’s name may sound familiar to you as the author of the groundbreaking 1962 narrative Silent Spring. We have Carson, a queer woman author writing in the 20th century, to thank for exposing the environmental risks of DDT and chemical pesticides.

Isaias Hernandez (he/they): Hernandez and their project “QueerBrownVegan” aims to educate people on intersectional environmentalism, including how queer identity relates to climate and environmental justice. His project can be found on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr @queerbrownvegan

Want to learn more about Queer Environmentalism? Check out these resources to get started!

Interested in how Queer Ecology is applied elsewhere in the world? Check out these articles!

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