Is Nature, the Universe and Everything Queer? By Mackerel Sky
It has been proposed that one of the main driving forces of evolution, far outstripping that of Competition is the process of Symbiogenesis. Symbiogenesis happens when two or more organisms have been living in a symbiotic state long enough for them to join together and create a new separate species. This process has been proven to have happened many times. Our own mitochondria and gut systems (and therefore us) owe their existence to this process, as do the chloroplasts in green leaves.
What has this got to do with queerness?
As I see it, being queer is in a large part to do with our relationships, sexual and other. From intimate relationships with other humans, relationships to other species, and relationships with our land and culture.
Without a diverse array of organisms, of all different sexes and species, being in free flow and finding different relationships that work, symbiogenesis, and therefore evolution would never happen.
It is diversity in relationships that creates strength and resilience in our ecosystems. And so on another layer, within human ecology and society, this pattern also exists.
To be queer in human society is to be on the edges, in the inbetweens, outside of a normalised, abnormal, binary society. Whereas to be queer in nature is to be an intrinsic part of the whole, a unique being finding a place, a role, and a purpose, giving and sharing in an endlessly complex and dynamic web of life.
Symbiogenesis is just one example of how, without the existence of a more than binary world, nature would be a 2 dimensional place of sheer dullness, and would probably have gotten bored of itself and collapsed back into nothingness within a minute of the big bang…
How could just two ways of being hold up an entire Arctic tundra, an Ancient Woodland, or a Human gut biome? Ecosystems need countless ways for species to relate to each other to achieve balance and a complex dynamic flow of energy.
If there were just two sides to anything, there would only be good or bad, war or peace, male or female, life or death, day or night…and when we start to believe that this is how it all works, an entire planetary ecosystem can be destroyed…but when we truly observe natural systems, we can see that a binary system just isn't and could never be the case.
The queer ability to flow and explore ourselves and ideas has helped us and communities as a whole to withstand the pressures of survival. In ages past we were often the diplomats of communities, walking between different worlds and perspectives with no judgement and maintaining peace between groups, or exposing and arming ourselves against injustice through story and oral history. We were the bards, story tellers, medicine people, scouts, adventurers, holders of wisdom and delight to get communities through dark times. Like complex coastal sand dune systems we were the wiggle room between catastrophic floods and stable community gardens.
The picture above was taken by Zsuzsa Zicho (instagram @boss_bean) during a nature walk I gave at a Radical Faerie gathering. It reminds me of everything I have been speaking about.Here I can see a human embodiment of a Lichen.
Lichens are a great example of queerness in nature. They are one organism made up of many species, typically of fungi, algae and cyanobacteria. You can see them as colourful growths on gate posts, grave stones, and tree branches.
They are often the first organisms to start building the soil on the surface of bare rocks, soil that will one day be deep enough to sustain a woodland perhaps.
To do this they have to be a very efficient community, one of the cell species needs to be able to scrape at the rock to mine for minerals, one has to make food from sunlight, one has to digest the minerals into a form tolerable to the photo-synthesizers, one has to save water, and on and on it goes.
I know most of the people in the photograph and I know that like the lichens, they each have their own particular unique set of skills, genders and sexualities. They are, lesbian, non-binary, trans, gay, intersex, asexual, queer and everything outside and inbetween. They are excellent cooks, philosophers, builders, storytellers, singers, fighters, musicians,poets,comedians.
Being part of that faerie gathering was exactly the same as being part of the lichens on the rock.
We were a community, formed as a safe space for queer people, healing the bare rock of trauma, lonliness and grief of thousands of years of oppression by building back the rich soil of belonging, play, community and peace. All through the sharing, acceptance and use of our diverse ways of being. Being Queer is to break the bonds of the invented system of heteronormativity and to step forward into nature, casting away shame and revelling in lifes diversity. Queers have never been in the minority in this universe, go ask the lichens.
In the last few years i have been studying and reading about Queer ecology. Being an ecologist and community gardener myself i have always seen a disconnect between accepted heteronormative views, (particularly in the environmental science world) and the way that nature actually works. Finding out about queer ecology/theory was a revelation in both my self acceptance as a non-binary person and in the reasons why i have always felt safest amongst plants and other wild non human beings. Having been introduced to plants from a very young age, I was hooked on them, I read and learned much of their ways of being, I gardened constantly and used this as an escape from socialising with other humans, the plants where my refuge and community, the birds where my friends and heroes, the butterflies and moths where my soul food. Being in nature was the only time I wasn't a dissociated, confused and frightened mess and I believe this was because I felt my queerness reflected in the plants and birds and beetles. In the hedges and edges I felt happy and normal. I honestly believe that if I didn't have access to nature then I would have fallen into addictive substance abuse and who knows where that would have got me. This feeling of belonging in nature has led me to find ways of helping others to feel it too.
For several years now I have been guiding people on short walks in towns, cities, suburbs and countryside, helping them to discover nature anew, away from the binary, and to find their ways of relating to the world. My favourite thing is watching people discover how they remember things, whether it be through story, repetition, song, colours or smells and seeing how they flow with it once they are allowed to explore.
I also help to create community gardens. Having zero access to land is one of the root causes of societal deprivation. We need areas to grow food and flowers, to play and relax in the sunlight, to gather around fires in winter. It leads to better health, free food and medicine, a place to re-learn our ancestral knowledge and create new stories. Once communities regain the rights to grow and roam and relax and swim, we begin to regain our strength as autonomous people, we can act against an oppressive government without fear of food shortages or no heating for example...
Learning more about natures queerness has given me strength, and joy. Queer ecology has led me down the road of accepting that we logically know very little of the universe, and having accepted this, I have found that more understanding and a deep sense of awe and gratitude has come back into my life. I can have way more fun now, I can embrace the wild animal I am and share the love of queer nature with everyone who needs it.