By Tess Davis – Bowdoin Summer Fellow
For most of us, the photos here seems out-of-the-ordinary. How often do we see drag queens out in nature? Or, for that matter, how often do we see openly queer people enjoying the outdoors?
Sadly, the media rarely represents outdoorsy LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) people. This often causes queer environmentalists to feel isolated and like they do not belong in conservation.
One queer environmentalist, Wyn Wiley strives to show that queer people have a role to play in conservation. In 2018, Wyn Wiley created the drag persona, Pattie Gonia. Drag is a performance genre where people dress as the opposite gender and lip sync, dance, or do stand-up comedy. Drag is part of queen culture, and many queer folks connect at drag bars and drag competitions. Wiley created an Instagram account showcasing Pattie in full drag out on hikes in the mountains, plains, and even the snow!
Pattie uses her platform to discuss climate issues—such as ocean plastic, the oil industry, and the intersection of white supremacy and climate change.
Furthermore, Pattie uses her platform to promote inclusivity. She pushes back on a harmful narrative—that conservation is exclusively for straight white men. Pattie works in conjunction with queer and BIPOC environmentalists to create a community. For example, she works with organizations such as Queer Nature and Native Womens Wilderness. By showing her confident, queer self, thriving in the great outdoors, Pattie inspires other queer people to do the same!
As Pattie wrote on her most recent insta post, “Biodiversity is the key to increasing resilience in all communities.” This has a factual, biological meaning. But also, we can apply this statement to conservation work: We need ALL TYPES of people in our conservation community in order to make change and a more resilient future.