Queer ecology

Queerness is natural

Love and sex are nuanced–even among animals.

Love and sex are nuanced–even among animals.

For a different perspective on this issue, see Brendan Trainor's column on page 7.

Meet Emily. She’s been told all her life that her true romantic and sexual feelings are choices, and that they can be curbed or “fixed.” Some people tell her that her identity is just for attention. She feels like she is broken, and it’s really bringing her down.

No, Emily is not the daughter of Satan and a jackal. She’s a person like you and me. And she identifies as queer.

I know what you might be thinking: “No! Don’t say the Q-word!”

Let me just explain what queer means. Though it has often been used as a derogatory term for gay men, the LGBTQA community uses it in a non-deprecating way. To most people who are part of this minority group, queer can mean a few things. First, it can mean identifying as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender (not born with matching gender to genitalia). Second, it can mean preferring not to put any specific label on oneself in regard to orientation/gender, but still identifying as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender.

This concept sometimes raises a question in the general population: Is it natural?

The answer to this question is yes. This is where we get into the mass of queer ecology.

“Queer ecology is the extension of that claim to all life on Earth,” writes Alex Johnson, author of How To Queer Ecology: One Goose at a Time. “All living things, we are now learning, are capable of a wide variety of behaviors.”

This means nature is already queer, and not always straight, monogamous and “traditional.” We, as sentient beings, are capable of being different than the perceived norm.

We can see this through studies done in nature. According to a 2012 story in Yale Scientific Magazine,“homosexual behavior has been documented in over 450 different animal species worldwide.” This challenges the idea that nature is automatically not queer.

Many other instances of queerness in nature include animals that possess multiple sex organs (like some worms, snails and small fish), animals that reproduce asexually, and animals that are able to change gender under certain circumstances.

So, now we know that there are actual instances of queerness in ecology. See, this is what happens when we focus on science instead of ideology. We learn things.

Now that we have evidence that queerness is a normal and an awesome part of nature, can we accept it into the whole of society and embrace the queerness of all? The answer lies within your upbringing, religious beliefs, political and economic background, and all that stuff that makes you who you are.

Nonetheless, society is heading in the direction of accepting nature’s queerness. Baby steps.

If Emily from the beginning of this article is reading this, I hope she feels like her identity and expression of it are justified. I hope she would feel that she is a part of nature and that she’s not broken.

Maybe one day everyone can feel that way.