This New Book Explores Our Queer Connection to Nature Amid the Climate Crisis

It’s fascinating to me that queer people, and especially trans people, are so much the subject of public discourse and debate because I think there is such a resistance. When you watch someone really come home to themselves, you sort of have two responses: You either see that and become inspired to do the same, or that concept is too frightening to you and you run away. I think there’s a parallel with environmentalism, where people are almost afraid to confront the level of separation that we have from our true ecological selves, which is being part of this large natural world. The same political parties who want to stop queer people from becoming themselves authentically — especially thinking about all of the anti-trans legislation and healthcare bans — are the same parties that are keeping us on this path towards ecocide. The parallels are just so obvious.

In the foreword, ANOHNI writes, “The erasure of trans bodies has been a crucial step in decimating the trail of breadcrumbs that might lead humanity back to its source: wilderness.” Can you share some thoughts on wilderness as humanity’s source and how trans joy and beauty are at the center of that source?

Everything ANOHNI writes just speaks to my soul so much. Over the years, she and I have talked about this notion of transferability. And this idea that being trans — or being queer, largely, but I’ll just talk about it from my own experience being trans — is about returning to your own wilderness and reclaiming that sense of wildness. I can only speak from my experience, but I knew who I was from a very young age and so much of my life has been about coming back to that, and allowing that inner sense of self to bloom and come to the surface. What is that if not a return to our own nature? That’s why I always think that these bio-essentialist narratives that trans people are unnatural or queer people are unnatural are almost laughable to me. Because what is it if not nature that is speaking through us? It’s so much a returning to who we are. I think queer people are connected to nature in a way that is so special.

There are a lot of different kinds of bodies — physical, metaphorical, allegorical — that you explore in the book. How were you thinking about the body as you were writing these essays?

I think of a body as being a whole. Something so beautiful that we can learn from bodies, whether it’s my body or in the terms we use like “a body of water.” We’re referring to it as something singular, but in actuality it’s a totality of many different beings and identities and organisms. I myself am made up of thousands of different species of bacteria and fungi that keep me alive. I call myself Willow and I refer to myself as a singular being, but our very selves are ecosystems. We are a body, but we are also a body of bodies. To me, that understanding of body is so inherently queer because it’s questioning what identity really is. We hold contradictions, we evolve and change, and there are so many different parts of ourselves that we are attempting to integrate.

[That concept] also speaks to another integral aspect of queerness, which is community. Given the ways queer people have been oppressed and continue to be oppressed, I think that has forced us to form strong bonds. Queer people are a body: this beautiful body of all these different diverse parts and identities, much like a human body or the body of nature. So much of what healing is is a sense of embodiment. It’s understanding how to be in your body.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Overview is available now via Atmos.

Get the best of what’s queer. Sign up for Them’s weekly newsletter here.