forward: in search of
a queer ecology
What is a queer ecology?
When I began conceptualizing the 2022 issue of you are here: the journal of creative geography, I had nothing like an answer to this question. The theme ‘queer ecologies’ was merely a happenstance collision of words, a provocative mash-up of meanings that seemed to emerge out of nowhere. Yet I kept coming back to it. I wasn’t sure quite what it meant, and I wasn’t convinced that anyone else would either. I figured I would loft it out in the universe anyway. Perhaps it would fail, but failure is a risk of any queer enterprise,so I went ahead with it.
I could not have been more wrong. The call for submissions spread like wildfire through social media networks, cropping up across an online pluriverse linking geography, environmental humanities, art-science collaborations, and queer communities. The call elicited a response, that is for certain. Several people commented that this is the call they had been waiting for,
that it spoke in an uncanny way to their work, to their visions. “This is just what I am working on right now,” said a number of artists. I eagerly asked them to explain, hoping I might come to understand what, exactly, it meant to ‘work on’ queer ecologies.
Before long I was fielding interview requests on the topic of ‘queer ecologies’, which left me rather awkardly explaining that I did not, in fact, know the first thing about this topic – I had only haphazardly proposed it as a theme for an issue of an obscure geography journal. The obscurity of the whole endeavor – the journal, the theme – made the attention it was receiving all the more curious. One day, in the late afternoon, I was stopped in the street in my neighborhood by a stranger who recognized me as the yah editor from my university webpage. “What you are doing is spot on,” he told me before launching into his theories of queer ecologies as the sun set and we were left chattering away in the darkness.
It seemed like every day there was another connection, another coincidence. My life began to take on a magical quality – a sense of synchronicity that outpaced my ability to follow it, to make sense of it. Everyone I met seemed to be a queer ecologist or knew someone who was. I was enlivened by the excitement, though I was also quite puzzled by the amount of traction ‘queer ecologies’ was gaining in my everyday life. I had settled on the theme out of a kind of academic interest, a sense that the phrase might tap into a certain kind of intellectual and aesthetic zeitgeist running through fields like political ecology, environmental humanities, and queer theory. I was certainly not prepared for the strange series of coincidences and synergies that ‘queer ecologies’ would prompt in my life – how it would come to mean everything, how it would come to change everything. Queer ecologies followed me around, posing itself at times as a question, at times as a response. I began to see it everywhere.
Now I see that I encountered queer ecologies everywhere I looked because I had been searching for it for a long time. This call – a call I now see emerged from my own inner wisdom, from my own need to recreate myself, to find a new world – came at just the right time.
Some months prior, I had come out as trans and had top surgery – an emotional, social, and physical trauma that reverberated through my world, leaving nothing untouched. Becoming trans fundamentally reshaped my life in a way I neither expected nor was prepared for. Foundational relationships in my life ruptured into total incommensurability as some cosmic force tore me loose from what I had known and what I had been known to be. At the
same time, my existence as a geographer came under new pressure – I viscerally felt the boundaries and exclusions of geography pressing up against my body, confining me. My personal and professional existence came to be experienced as a kind of geologic pressure that would either destroy me or force a fiery, molten, explosive metamorphosis. Or perhaps, in a moment of creative destruction, it would do both.
The sense of trauma, loss, and rage that I encountered at every turn left me with no option but to become otherwise, to reinvent myself, to rebuild a world. In a rather unexpected way, ‘queer ecologies’ became the horizon of this becoming, the name for a process of self-transformation. Without consciously knowing it, I quietly began to reassemble myself, to reassemble my world and my relations. My artistic process – its own queer ecology – made
a container, a space for that becoming.
Curiously enough, this process of self-actualization took the form of collecting taxidermy and shapeshifting into a satyr – a figure that I stumbled upon in a bizarre moment of intuitive vision, but that I now understand is something of an archetype for the transmasculine. Embodying the satyr – a mischievous boundary figure – allowed me to rework my relations to this world and re-encounter it from a position of newfound power, a decidedly queer
power rooted in my body’s symbolic and social transgression and its endless potential for transformation.
As I announced my intention to become-goat to the universe, allies and guides appeared from every direction. I stumbled into new queer spaces that activated something deep within me. I met countless strangers who, sensing the mythic dimensions of this project, eagerly offered to be of service – with sewing, taxidermy, astrology, custom hoof production, scholarly reference points, and other aspects of this collective ritual. To them, my vision needed no explaining, nor did the idea of ‘queer ecologies.’ For the first time in my life, I found myself in queer spaces and queer community where my selfhood was legible – legible to others when it was not even entirely legible to me – where my becoming-otherwise was recognized and supported.
These intimacies produced space, made worlds. Through this rather strange process of transformation, and the broader project of envisioning and assembling this journal issue, I found myself linked into a new web of relations – relations of mutual recognition, care, dependency, witnessing, creativity, becoming, transformation. Before I knew it, I had found myself, in other words, in the midst of a decidedly queer ecology.
As this project comes to a close, I think I may now have a better sense of what a queer ecology is. Queer ecologies are the visions shared in these pages, for certain – a queer ecological impulse can be detected in the blurring of boundaries between self, other, and environment; the reimaginings of our collective selves and futures; the shapeshifting into other beings; the yearning for other worlds. But I see now that the more subtle work of queer ecologies is the web of relations, the intimacies, that make other worlds imaginable, recognizable, and perhaps even possible.
I am deeply grateful and honored that you are here has become a space to hold this web, to sketch out a collective vision for other worlds, other ways of being. It is my hope that, in collectively dwelling in this space of possibility, we can make queer lives a bit more possible, a bit more liveable – that queer ecologies can help us to recognize and reclaim the joy, euphoria, creativity, and daring brilliance of lives lived at the boundary.
Eden Kinkaid, editor