This radical conversation was recorded and transcribed for Chain Reaction magazine between two radical, queer activists, facilitators and all round awesome folks who are part of the Friends of the Earth community.
We will call them M & Z and use they/them pronouns for them both.
Let’s ask some radical questions.
What would it mean to say the Earth is queer? Why might the earth be queer? How can we see, feel, taste, and sense this “ecoqueerness” all around us?
This earth is fluid, nuanced, vital, uncategorizable; beyond binaries, borders or beliefs. It’s the gayest, amorphous, most unknowable collection of beings, bacteria, elements and gases. To even begin to label or categorise something so complex and so diverse is a great loss, and the failings of Western patriarchal arrogance.
Western culture loves dualisms; heaven/hell, nature/human, mind/body; on one hand we see Nature as pure and holy, and then as dangerous and untamed. To be queer is to break boundaries, to live the questions, to challenge the prescriptions of binaries and the confines of traditional institutions. It’s both a re-wilding and primitive remembering; queerness as biodiversity and biodiversity as resilience.
The stories we tell about the more-than-human world matter, and now more than ever, it is worth examining the origins of those stories. As Donna Haraway, in Staying with the Trouble says, “It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what knots knot knots, what thoughts think thoughts...”. Queering the earth enables us to imagine an infinite number of possible natures. The Earth ain't just a Mother, it’s beyond anything we can comprehend. Resist the patriarchy and accept its delicious complexity.
Queerness opens senses to worlds beyond boundaries, barriers, boxes. Queerness invites us to take a deeeep breath, and let the world seep into our souls, our bodies, our songs. To dissolve the boundaries of what we think is real, and imagine something so much realer: the gentle touch of a fern leaf, or the blasting ache of sunlight. Queerness invites the polarity of us/them, male/female, earth/human, lover/friend to melt away until we can bathe in the sweetest of senses: connection.
For if I say I am more than a single box and I will seek to travel beyond the limits of my body and of names society gave me; and if I say in this journey I will become different and change; then - well, then – I might uncover miraculous things beyond the edge of a map that isn’t there. Then, I might discover that the trees and the animals are not so different from me after all. That the galaxies far, far away are as much my kin as the dust I just brushed off my skin. And maybe, just maybe… I might be able to feel all this and yet not be required to name it and box it, close it and interrogate it. Maybe, I can just let the wonder of life be, in their wonderful unknowns, messy entanglements, and crazy connections. For maybe queerness is nothing more than the permission to breathe beyond barriers and love beyond skin.
Maybe. And yet maybe, it is something so much more.
We often talk about ecofeminism. Why is this powerful? What does eco-queerness bring, beyond the ecofeminist discussion?
The idea that women and nature are inherently linked is a tacit acceptance of their mutual exploitation. Our ecofeminist mentors show us that the marginalisation of women and the destruction of biodiversity go hand in hand.
It is assumed that since “women have wombs”, they will always possess those nurturing qualities, just like nature. Yet not all women have wombs, and I have a womb and I’m not a woman. I’m a non-binary being, a wild collection of molecules, more bacterial cells than human cells, shifting as quick as a desert dunes. I’m not that interested in motherhood or providing for men and while I am a deeply nurturing person I know my devotion comes more from my animal-body than my socialisation as ‘woman’.
Throughout Western cultural history homophobia has been fuelled through narratives of heterosexual monogamy as being the norm, the natural. “Nature intended for a man and a woman to love each other”. Well nature can be monogamous but it can also exhibit orgies, hermaphroditism, cloning and very gay behaviour.
For hundreds of years, biology looked past and denied any explanations for homosexuality, transgender, and non-procreative bonding in animals. Well lots of dragonflies are GAY, so are lizards, seals, insects and fish, and weedy sea-dragons are natural and they are full time gender-benders. Those who traditionally hold more power in society (cis-white-straight men) have made their own qualities standard, and invisabilised entire worlds within worlds.
Yet, there is something beautiful in honouring the archetypes and myths that have shaped much our contemporary Western society. I feel in my heart of hearts that there is something to be reclaimed and reworked in out tired-out gender norms.
What are the qualities that we each value and admire in the gender we were socialised into? What are the qualities we value and admire in other genders? How might we inhabit all of these qualities – those we’re used to, and those that are different – irrespective of our gender or anatomy? And how might we express the very essence of ourselves irrespective of these qualities, recognising we continually change?
How might we be able to transition our reverence and playful loving with earth to include the understanding that we are earth, and that earth is queer?
So often earth is gendered - normally as a mother or as female. Gender is a binary, a polarity between two opposites. But at this time of earth-transition, how can we transcend this polarity?
Like us, earth has infinite facets and capacities, existing beyond the gender binary. Earth spans masculine and feminine traits. Sometimes it is useful to distinguish these traits - to say this is feminine/mother tree, this is a grandfather rock. And this distinguishing can deeply honour ancient stories, cultures, and realities of a being.
But sometimes, it is useful to play a little further. What if we feel the essence of each being and community is infinite? What if this rock on which I am lying and conversing with contains rock-y wisdoms that extend into the centre of all things? What if this mountainside contains the essence of fire themselves?
What if fire was neither feminine or masculine, the moon neither a goddess or a god? Perhaps the moon conveys to us infinite qualities and inspirations: fierce, effervescent, strong, emotional, creative, fighting, nurturing. These infinite qualities belong to all of us. These infinite qualities make very little sense when reduced to “man-like” or “woman-like”. Rather, these qualities infinitely infuse all of us, just as we are infinitely, and intimately, infused with Earth and Universe.
For me, there is hope in these explorations beyond binary polarity, hope in the edges of possibility. For it seems that in exploring queerness, in whatever form, we are able to sense into the deeper connections of all life. And for me, living and breathing these connections is essential in shifting our collective social consciousness towards our dreams of greater wholeness.
Non-binary people are liminal beings - what does this mean? Why? How can we see/feel/taste/sense this all around us?
The more I step into the liminal, the world between binaries, the more I surrender to complexity, to the shades less seen, the muddied, the unknowable. I am devoted to the Earth because I know I am embedded within it, made from it, perfectly natural.
A great metaphor of our times is that we are going through an apocalypsis “the lifting of the veil”, a time where structural inequalities, limitations of thought and multiple collapses are bringing us awake into great attention. Sometimes when I need soothing; I like to understand this time in mythic ways, through a larger story… I like to imagine that we are in a particular collective rite of passage.
The three believed stages of a rites of passage are; the severance stage, the threshold/liminal stage, and the reincorporation stage of returning and integration - to come home to community. If we are in this passage it is definitely somewhere in the middle, at the threshold/liminal stage, and I believe we need guides to help us move through this time of deep liminality, urgency, transformation and uncertainty. Gender fluid, non-binary and 2-spirited people exist in liminality, they know how to move between places. They are the perfect mentors and guides for navigating this time.
I’ll leave you with these powerful words by Pinar and So from Queer Nature;
The binary doesn’t need to be destroyed, but rather blown open and expanded to reflect the complexity of our ecological and celestial kin. I stand for a queerness that is inextricably informed by interspecies solidarity—by lichen, dusk chorus, swamps, coral and cryptobiotic soil. Queerness is not another venue for the simulation of human exceptionalism and white supremacy that serves the project of settler colonialism. It is a devotional practice of decentering our humancentricism to continually expand our co-liberation and remember that our queerness is a disruptive/remediative fruit of the earth.
These twisty turning passages of words are dendrites of possibilities into what we may dream to be. As we/you leave this page, we offer an invitation: to ask a question, unpeel a layer, bask in the sun and feel yourself becoming lizard, climb a tree and allow yourself to become tree, to look in the mirror and gaze deep into your eyes and ask: behind the mask, behind the stories, behind the skin, who am I really? And in the asking, clasp hands with your kin, your brethren, your lovers, your friends, and allow yourself to embrace and be embraced by the turning of all that is. Allow yourself to just simply be.
Z & M are activists and facilitators breathing in different parts of this stolen continent. They are both revelling in exploring being earth-queer beings.