THE ECOLOGY OF BELONGING
Queer Nature is a queer-run nature education and ancestral skills program serving the local LGBTQ+ community. We recognize that many people, including LGBTQ people, have for various reasons not had easy cultural access to outdoors pursuits, especially ‘survival skills’ like bushcraft, tactical skills, and (ethical) hunting. Our program envisions and implements ecological literacy and wilderness self-reliance skills as vital and often overlooked parts of the healing and wholing of populations who have been silenced, marginalized, and even represented as ‘unnatural.’ Our curriculums necessarily go beyond recreation in nature to deep and creative engagement with the natural world to build inter-species alliances and an enduring sense of belonging. This hands-on type of relationship building both serves to promote environmental stewardship and also nourishes and resources the human souls who have been made to feel that they do not belong. We also utilize traditional skill-building and naturalist knowledge to rekindle and revitalize our connection to all of our ancestors, as well as the ancestors of the land we are occupying. In that vein, we strive to understand further how this work can support the resistance to continued colonization by indigenous people in the Americas.
It is personally empowering to learn survival and earth-based living skills on both physical and emotional levels, and gaining proficiency in these sorts of skills also can offer peace of mind in uncertain times. Empowerment and preparedness are undeniably part of what we do, but our overarching vision is for a deep, resilient sentiment to take hold in human hearts, and that is the sentiment of solidarity. As LGBTQ+ people and social justice advocates, we tend to have some understanding of the value of human solidarity, but in these times of rapid habitat and biodiversity loss, continued displacement of indigenous peoples, and extreme political antagonism, it is clear to us that an even larger ‘ecological’ notion of solidarity is called for that defies easy political categorization. We don’t pretend to have ultimate answers about what that looks like, but we do believe that the more we discover about ecology and our place within it, the more we can grow our definitions of solidarity, allyship, and humanity, while also growing our inner resources for personal resiliency.
Skills like wildlife tracking, trailing, learning bird language, and situational awareness training in particular lend themselves to an expansion of our ability to feel oriented in the natural world, because these skills are essentially about training latent abilities for perception, awareness, and pattern recognition that allow us to literally see, hear, and feel more because we are expanding our repertoire of what counts as information. This is not only valuable to us personally on a tactical level, but it means that we can translate what we’re seeing to our wider human communities and increase ecoliteracy. Natural crafts like basketweaving, carving, and leather-making allow us to realize our vital roles as creators and collaborators with the natural world, rather than just consumers of it. Moreover, as we learn from the natural world, we maintain skepticism at the modern (and colonial) idea that nature is perfect, harmonious, or predictable. Ecosystems and living beings do what they need to do to survive, and this doesn’t always correspond to idealistic visions of what nature is like. Queer people often have diverse and varied experiences of survivor-hood, and it is powerful to have that reflected back by the natural world. There are many mysterious and beautiful ways in which nature reflects queerness.
There is a growing ‘market’ for survival and earth-based living skills programs, and re-skilling yourself in this modern context can be pricey! Since its inception, Queer Nature has committed to offering affordable skill-shares for those who otherwise might not be able to access similar curriculums. We typically charge a nominal registration fee of $10, and in some cases do donation-only offerings. This is accomplished through grants, community fund-raising efforts, and love!