The Queerness of Nature
- differing in some way from what is usual or normal
- of, relating to, or being a person whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual and/or whose gender identity is not cisgender
Those who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community have long been labelled as being abnormal or queer. While many of us have since claimed the term and use it with pride, it still carries the weight of a history of being outcast and labelled as ‘unnatural.’ Isn’t it strange, though, that nature doesn’t seem to be at all concerned with what we as humans find natural or not?
There are hundreds of documented cases of homosexual behavior in animals. Hermaphroditic animals are plenty as are transsexual animals. And just last year at the Denver Zoo, a Komodo dragon laid a clutch of eggs resulting in two baby dragons all on her own through an asexual reproduction process known as parthenogenesis. All these occurrences might be considered unnatural by certain human values.
Bonobos, commonly known to exhibit homosexual behavior. Source
Plants also have a variety of sexual forms and states. A single plant can have both male and female sexual organs, while other plant varieties have separate plants that hold each type of sexual organ. Some plants reproduce sexually through pollination while others reproduce asexually through vegetative propagation, fragmentation, or spore formation. In 2019 it was discovered that Solanum plastisexum, a species of bush tomato, exhibits “breeding system fluidity,” or sexual fluidity: at times the same plant might exhibit only characteristics of the female reproductive system and at others will have only the male reproductive system. What a weird and beautiful plant.
McDonnell AJ, Wetreich HB, Cantley JT, Jobson P, Martine CT (2019) Solanum plastisexum, an enigmatic new bush tomato from the Australian Monsoon Tropics exhibiting breeding system fluidity. PhytoKeys 124: 39-55. Source
“Nature” has often been used as the justification for the ostracism and animosity hurled at those in the Queer community. Queer ecology, a fairly recent ideology, attempts to break the understanding of nature that humanity has created, and instead allow nature to just be what it is. Stemming from Queer Theory which challenges the notion that heterosexual desire is “normal,” Queer ecology is about “letting go of the idea of what is natural and acknowledging the diversity of the natural world.” “Natural” is a completely human defined term, and so long as we continue to view nature through our limited understanding of what it should be, it’s likely we will never fully understand it.
Denver Botanic Gardens participating in Pride, 2019.
The queerness of humanity and the natural world outside of us provides a beautiful backdrop of diversity. Perhaps we should embrace the Queer.
The Helen Fowler Library has many books on environmental justice and topics like Queer ecology. The collection is always growing!
"The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World" by Andrea Wulf contains ideas about the interconnectedness of nature similar to Queer Ecology.
- Nothing more queer than nature | Brigitte Baptiste | TEDxRiodelaPlata
- Strange Nature, weird ecology, & reanimating "Queer"
- Queering Botanical Science: A Recap
- How to Queer Ecology: One Goose at a Time
- Feminist and Queer Ecology Reading List
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