Queering the Constructs of Heteronormative Dualisms Through the Theory of Queer Ecology

Mario de Napoli

6582 words

50 minutes

We recommend using Chrome for printingDownload & Print PDF

In 28 sections, I will explore how queer ecology can be viewed as both a theoretical and a practical framework, in the study of how queerness interacts with our environment. This ideology includes the premise that we are all connected, and questions the dominant heteronormative paradigms that have been placed within society, especially between queerness and ‘nature’.

By questioning how and why these constructs have arisen, we start to pull at the threads that slowly wove these mindsets into the veil that clouds us today. In response to my research, I composed 28 poems, with the first and last being used as examples of an analysis towards exploring this.


As Nicole Seymour explains, there is an important factor within queer ecology’s foundational understanding which has been contrasted to the usual public discourses (Seymour, 2020, p.1). These have focused on something that can be divided into neat, separate categories and boundaries, based on heteronormative constructs. Instead, queer ecology can be used to challenge this, and encourages us, instead, to see the environment as a complex and interconnected web of relationships, not as a separate entity. Queer ecology is a name for the intersection where queer theory, ecological interactions, politics, feminism, and de-colonialism all meet.


An Inqueery

The feeling of everlasting. An idea? A way of thinking? Bridged between methods what is it asking? If nature’s queer, why can’t we be? In finding the source finding the stream. Thoughts could collate as one to learn from sea bound horrors that once was. Continuously, organisms, life, and earth are in flux although we are contained by heteronormal constructs. Normalcy means nothing in evolutionary bloom.


‘An Inqueery’ is the first poem I wrote during my research. It first discusses a feeling associated with the heteronormal canon,and, in response, brings in another way of thinking. With this being the theory of queer ecology. The bridge then represents the intersection, and the source represents the mouth to the stream which symbolises the fluidity of life, gender, a train of thought, sexuality, and water. With the accumulation of thoughts towards this ideology that learns from colonial repression, this relates to the ‘sea bound horrors that once was.’ Also, this further stipulates that we are not in a fixed position. ‘We’ as in us, and our surroundings are infinitely undulating, changing, rippling, even though we have been contained. Nothing is normal. In a new day of evolution, we all bloom.


Queerness is not a static identity but is instead continuously evolving, changing and in a state of constant flux. No entity, being or life force stays the same, infinitely. There is always change, even if it’s so slight we might not notice. Any life forms or beings on earth, whether “human” or “non-human” start to age; developing, growing, eroding, degrading and changing. We become susceptible to falling into certain constructs learnt from society, family members or peers, who in turn have learnt certain constructs in a similar way, and quite possibly via the schooling system they grew up in. This has mainly involved recycling heteronormative dualisms, which are then fed back into one’s developmental years. Rachel Thompson quotes Nicki Thoroughgood , who says that “Sex education both constructs and confirms the categories of ‘normal’ and ‘deviant, which it regulates, monitors and controls. Sex education is a particularly resonant intersection of power/knowledge.” (Moran, p.77). One of the various acts of repression was Section 28, which arose in 1988. This Act illegalised the promotion and education of homosexuality in schools throughout Britain, which might have momentarily set back the futurity of queer ecology until the lifting of the legislation in 2003. Since then, work being produced in response to this ideology by theorists, creatives and the like has been able to develop. Much of the early basis and foundation for the contemporary scholarship of queer ecology was set down by observations in the book The History of Sexuality, by Michel Foucault. A French philosopher, historian and ally, Foucault did not specifically write about ‘queer ecology’, as this term was not in existence until sixteen years later (Seymour, 2020, p.1). However, he examined the emergence of sexuality and its discourses, and allthough his work was viewed as controversial by some at the time, a slow trickle of ideologists and academics have since developed this contemporary way of thinking in various journals and essays. The contemporary terminology ‘queer ecology’, has only been around since 1994 in a special issue on ‘Queer/Nature’ from ‘UnderCurrents’: Journal of Critical Environmental Studies (Ibid), and again with further ideas on the topic in Greta Gaard’s 1997 ‘Hypatia’ essay, ‘Toward a Queer Ecofeminism’, (Ibid) which identified erotophobia as a colonial logic and argued that ecofeminist critiques “must specify the linked [oppressive] dualisms of white/nonwhite, financially empowered/impoverished, heterosexual/queer, and reason/the erotic,’ alongside culture/nature and male/female.” (Ibid).


In the late Victorian period, queer repression became increasingly apparent as:

“Throughout the 19th century, gender and sexual transgressions were subject to a plethora of relentlessly queerphobic theological, legal and cultural proscriptions, prompting scientists such as Charles Darwin to repress such issues in their writings and in their lives” (Brooks, 2021).

Darwin failed to sufficiently validate same sex behaviours due to the suppression of that era. This veiling blurred out any futurity in queer behaviour being part of common knowledge within the non-human species as ‘Darwin’s narrational strategy often worked to negate the validity of such bonds by describing them as superficial and transitory’ (Brooks, 2021). This was also down to his theory of evolution, but nonetheless he paved a path, although somewhat crooked, for future peers and “For a new, modernist sexology to emerge” (Ibid) who holds a sociology and social anthropology degree with a PhD in sociology of health from the University of London.

Queer activity has subsequently been seen in over 1,500 animal species, with the first homosexual behaviour being depicted as an image in 1896 by French entomologist Henri Gadeau de Kerville as he “published one of the first scientific illustrations of animal homosexuality. His drawing depicted two male scarab beetles copulating and was part of a wave of descriptions of same-sex behaviour in insects that set the stage for animal observations in the 1900s.” (Bawagan, 2019). George Murray Levick observed and recorded the world’s largest Adélie penguin colony and recorded his findings of homosexual behaviour “However, none of these notes would appear in Levick’s published papers. Concerned by the graphic content, he only printed 100 copies of The sexual habits of the Adélie penguin to circulate privately. The last remaining copy was recently unearthed providing valuable insights into animal homosexuality research.” (Bawagan, 2019). Levick produced this private production run in Greek, as to not cause alarm if anyone should come across it outside of his privileged and educated private circle. Even in contemporary documentation, these behaviours have been omitted in televised documentaries by broadcasters such as the BBC fronted by presenters such as Sir David Attenborough, since these programmes continually concentrate on a singular representation of ‘normal’ heteronormative behaviour and environments. Dr Brett Mills of the University of East Anglia contests this constant ignorance towards the prospect of queerness in ‘nature’ in the following way:

‘heterosexuality is an upheld norm within wildlife documentary programming. The centrality to documentary narratives of pairing, mating and raising offspring commonly rests on assumptions of heterosexuality within the animal kingdom. This is despite a wealth of evidence which demonstrates that most non-human species have complex and changeable forms of sexual activity, with heterosexuality only one of many possible options.’ (Mills, 2013).

This again re-upholds the notion that queerness is ‘unnatural’ when compared to the perceived as constructed ‘natural’ heteronormative behaviour. Wildlife biologist Juliet Lamb discusses how “we tend to think of gender expression, and especially gender non-conformity, as uniquely human.” (Lamb, 2016). Although, many species show transgender examples within beetles, lizards, snakes, fish and birds to note some instances (2016)


In 1981, it was announced by the media that a new, perplexing disease, had arisen in San Francisco and Los Angeles, one that was dubbed the gay flu, or Gay Related Immune Deficiency Syndrome (GRID). At the time, only marginal groups of gay men took notice. This was later known as AIDS, Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome, which led to sufferers being subjected to widespread public phobia and moralism, which was applied not just to homosexuals, but to intravenous drug users and sex workers. This demonisation of the disease was challenged in 1983, when the Journal of the American Association reported that transmission is not a punishment specifically on homosexual men, but is also a sexual practice partaken by heterosexuals. After this, the mass media began to take an interest in AIDS and “its effect upon the so-called ‘innocent’ victims, meaning heterosexuals and children” (Lord, Meyer, 2013, p.30).


In respect to Section 28, the Conservative Government initiated this homophobic act in response to the explosive surge of the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s. The wording of the act is as follows: ‘Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act (which states that a local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality)’ (Moran, 2001), thus affirming the government’s stance that queerness was seen as an ‘unnatural’ behaviour and against allegedly ‘normal’ family values. On October 9th, 1987, the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said during the Conservative Party Conference speech in Blackpool that “Children are being taught they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life.” (LGBT+ Marketing, 2013). On the 24th of May the following year the act was instigated, and 15 years passed before the act was fully lifted in the United Kingdom on the 18th of November 2003, after first being repealed in Scotland on the 24th of June 2000.

On a first-hand account, based on being part of the British school system at this time and whilst developing into adolescence between the years 2000 and 2003, it was incredibly hard being queer. It was not considered acceptable among my school peers, and I didn’t fully understand the feelings that I was going through, so I suffered in silence, without help or guidance. I believe many of my peers and other queer adolescents had similar issues in other secondary schools during the late 1990s to the early 2000s, and this has led to an era of denial, repression, and trouble with self-acceptance amongst other millennials. A survey held in 2003 by Stonewall found that in 300 secondary schools, 82% of teachers were aware of verbal abuse or incidents linked to homophobia, with 26% knowing of physical attacks (Section 28 - LGBT+ History Month, n.d, p.7).


28 Minutes in Victoria Tower Gardens (outside The Houses of Parliament)

MONUMENTED and remembrance. An odd blue day in the winter phase. Lined trees angled towards Thames. The Strangeness and time spent transposed in flux through reflection. Sirens called amongst the undulating water. Increasing decreasing overlapping, merging. Life forgotten life detained life lost life reframed.

A silence A call, a slap, a brawl. To believe it then sat in the present rethinking the past before adolescence. No one can ask. Generated by fear falsely by trust. Is it moans you can hear?


This is the last poem I wrote during my inquiry. An accumulation of monuments litter this green waste land, imagining the days before 1967, in conjunction with the 1988 Act, in reflection alongside the river Thames, adjacent to The Houses of Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens. Twenty-eight minutes pass. The ‘odd blue day’ reflects upon the oddly cloud free sky, the prominent presence of police. The blueness represents the Conservative party when Section 28 was introduced, and currently in power when this was written. The phrase ‘Lined Trees’ hints to a certain construct, while showing defiance in positioning their selves through growth, towards a flowing body of water. Thames. Using the silhouette of infinite undulation as a symbol for queerness, I note a reference to sirens from police piercing through the white noise and the mythical sea creature that led 18th century colonial sailors to their demise. Voices begin to lose significance, and are eventually forgotten. Being detained for being queer and detaining oneself through induced rejection.


A retrograde period of 15 years during the time of Section 28 pointed towards the time before 1967, when male to male sexual relations were illegal. “In the United Kingdom, sodomy was first decriminalised in England and Wales in the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, and then in Scotland in 1980 and Northern Ireland in 1982.” (Han and O’Mahoney, 2014). This act had been in place since 1885, when a Criminal Law Amendment Act included Section 11 that criminalised males “committing acts of gross indecency with male persons” (British Library, 2022). One of the main descriptive words used to describe these acts in Section 11 was ‘Unnatural’ (Burnie, 1885, p.92), continuing and deepening this construct. In 1921, MPs attempted to include an additional clause in a new Criminal Law Amendment Bill that was being debated at the time which would have made female to female sexual relations, or lesbianism a criminal offence such that “any act of gross indecency between female persons shall be a misdemeanour and punishable in the same manner as any such act committed by male persons under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885”. (British Library, 2022). This was later dropped, as it was a concern that this would draw female attention to the “act of gross indecency” and encourage sexual exploration.

This mentality may have developed from the views of early modern Europe, as one of the appellations attached to lesbianism was known as amour impossibilis, meaning the impossible love, as some academics of this period viewed ‘lesbian’ copulation as inconceivable (Aldrich, R. et al. (2010). p125.)


In Europe between 1870-1940, a turning-point arose in queer history. The term ‘homosexual’ and ‘homosexuality’ emerges and is said to have been first used by the Hungarian writer Károly Mária Kertbeny in 1869. Within this letter to the Prussian Minister of Justice, Kertbeny is (Aldrich, 2010) “demanding the abolition of criminal laws against ‘unnatural acts’” (Ibid). In fact, Kertbeny coined the term ‘heterosexual’ a decade later for a book chapter contending to decriminalise ‘homosexuality’, but the editor, Gustav Jager, decided not to use it, although Kertbeny’s coined term featured in a book Jager later published in 1880 (Ambrosino, 2017). It then made its way into medical works, newspapers, and then became a regular occurrence in describing queer interactions (Aldrich, 2010). Jager’s term was then repurposed in 1889, when Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Kraft-Ebing included ‘heterosexual’ in Psychopathia Sexualis, a catalogue of sexual disorders, although within 500 pages, the word ‘heterosexual’ only appears 24 times with no indexing (Ibid). “That’s because Krafft-Ebing is more interested in “contrary sexual instinct” (‘perversions’) than “sexual instinct,” the latter being for him the ‘normal’ sexual desire of humans.” (Ibid). In categorising these terms to help with the decriminalising of same sex love or relations, it set up a basis for contemporary social constructs yet to follow and snowball.


Over time, most of humanity has put their self at the centre, by thinking that certain humans are the superior race. This has often been at the hands of male heteronormative activity by dominating nations, colonising vulnerable countries and stamping out indigenous communities by growth, suffocation, violence and power. This then shaped the repercussions of repression, sexism and homophobia we face today. As the colonialists encroached their repressive beliefs upon natives, they overtook land and benefitted from this system by draining resources and acts of exploitation. This predominantly happened during the Victorian era when the Empire was rife and increased in size at its most. ‘one of the hypotheses put forward for why some countries have laws that criminalise homosexual conduct and others do not is that colonialism is in some way responsible.’ (Han and O’Mahoney, 2014). This again is split into two claims that “the British Empire was responsible for spreading laws that criminalised homosexual conduct amongst its colonies, whereas other imperialists did not” (Han and O’Mahoney, 2014). The second relates to the fact that 20th century Britain may have tainted any way forward for reform as “not only did the British bring such laws to their colonies, but that they ‘poisoned’ the prospects for liberalisation and the repeal of those laws.” (Han and O’Mahoney, 2014, p.2-3).


Indigenous people have long been marginalised and oppressed by colonial powers, for exploitation of natural resources, manual labour or both. The forced displacement of indigenous communities, destruction of sacred sites, and the contamination of water and air has had a lasting and devastating impact. These issues can be addressed and recognised through queer ecological thinking, by looking at the interconnectedness of environmental and social justice, which centres the voices and experiences of marginalised communities since indigenous communities have a longstanding connection to the land and its environment. As the privileged attitude of the human white heterosexual male took dominance over minorities, this played a part in the decline of planet earth’s ecology and relished its constant pervasive hold. As Alex Johnson claims in his online article ‘How to Queer Ecology: One Goose at a Time’ “those who traditionally hold more power in society — be they men over women, whites over any other race, wealthy over poor, straight over queer — have made their own qualities standard, ‘natural’, constructing a vision of the world wherein such qualities are the norm.” (Johnson, n.d). Male heterosexual dominance has ruled in positions of power within corporate companies, government, the art world, education, or religion. It feeds off fear and is commanded by wealth.


Churches were like banks before banks ever existed, as records denote temples within Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome loaned money and kept valuables safe for its patrons, these regularly functioned as financial centres for cities. As the Romans emulated their Grecian counterparts, they improved this system by being expert administrators and builders, but as the Roman Empire crumbled, some of their banking institutes lived on and remained within the Middle Ages in the guise of the Knights Templar and papal bankers (Beattie, 2023), although, the Knights Templar was still under jurisdiction from the pope.

One main purpose for medieval churches was to collect money from the (both scared) fortunate and less fortunate, in gladly accepting money in exchange for repenting sin, driving a force of terror within society to reap its rewards. Churches held power, land and money. They drove a fear of queerness while holding highly eroticised nearly naked effigies of Christ. Whitney Bauman discuses in the 2018 book Meaningful Flesh how “the intersections of religion, nature, and queer theory have largely been left un-touched. With the exception of Dan Spencer” (Whitney, 2018, p.17). Spenceris one of the early forerunnersf with his book Gay and Gaia and Greta Gaard, who I mentioned earlier in section four. Gaard’s work builds towards an ecofeminist queer thought. (Ibid, p.17). In respect of academia, largely religion and “nature” or religion and ecology have been overlooked within the sphere of queer theory (Ibid, p.17).


The Garden of Earthly Delights is a triptych alter piece painting created by the Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch between 1490-1500. This intricate and enigmatic masterpiece becomes almost indescribable with its complexity, and the painting has long been the subject of academic and artistic interpretation. Being divided into three wood panels, each panel shows in succession from left to right, with the first portraying a paradise-like garden which symbolises The Garden of Eden. This is where Adam and Eve are depicted, and all living things coexist in a symbiotic relationship. The central panel exhibits a disordered allegorical, but voluptuous scene, with nude ‘humans’, nymphs or ‘human-like’ figures indulging in debauched sexual activities amongst florae, animals and imagined beings, with a notable and memorable figure bent over and displaying a spray of flowers out of his anus. (Gotthardt, 2019).

Many are depicted couples bathing and openly making love in the portrayed bodies of water around them. Interestingly in these times, water inherently symbolised love (Rowlands, 1979, p.4). “For the children of Venus, lovers, were always represented embracing water” (Ibid, p.4) This panel is called ‘The Sinful Descendants of Adam.’ (Ibid, p.6). It is supposedly showing the ‘Fall of Man’ (Ibid, p.6). What follows on the third panel is a terrifyingly apocalyptic vision of hell (Gotthardt, 2019), where human-made entities such as chairs, sharp knives or daggers overshadow and dwarf the mortals that fashioned them, in severe juxtaposition within the adjoining Garden, in which “natural objects were oversized” (Ibid).


If we interpret this again through queer lenses, the painting becomes a commentary on the interconnectedness of all living things and the destructive consequences of human’ behaviour. If we look further, the painting also portrays genderless or non-binary characters, androgynous and hermaphroditic figures, as well as same sex relationships and eco-sexual activities. In showing the fluidity and diversity of “nature” in particular, the painting shows relevance to today’s Earth where our environment is facing significant threat from human activities. Reindert Falkenburg remarks on his essay In Conversation with the Garden of Earthly Delights that “maybe the function of the painting was to start a conversation—and not stop it.” (Gotthardt, 2019).

In looking back at one of the earliest written and surviving descriptions of the triptych, by historian and theologian Fray José Sigüenza around 1605, he labelled the painting as the ‘Strawberry Plant’. Sigüenza described the content as “the vanity and glory and transient state of strawberries”. In other words “the fleeting nature of pleasure.” (Ibid). For this period, there is a curious link in comparing plant life, or ‘the fruit’ with transitory sexual pleasures. Although, in the fifteenth century “to pluck fruit” (Beagle, 1982, p.90) drew references of sexual relations or to fuck. Interestingly this draws some comparisons to more current associations, such as the early 1920s, as a popular lawn within Central Park, New York had been nicknamed ‘the fruited plain’ due to its popular pickup site for closeted queers (Prager, 2020). And in today’s culture, to be called a ‘fruit’ is a slang term to be regarded as a queer man, although this is considered offensive by some (Cambridge Dictionary, 2023).


Saint Sebastian has been regarded as the first queer icon and this has been a source of inspiration and influence through history to queers and artists, since versions of this image have been featured as effigies, painted as artworks, depicted as photographic images, and interpreted in film. ‘Sebastiane’, the first feature length film by Derek Jarman, was released in 1976 and featured the first erect penis on a cinematic mainstream screeni.

Jarman, who was an avid queer activist, purposefully included this as a sign of defiance, and as eroticism that pushes past constraints. There is possibly a metaphoric meaning to the tree trunk that Sebastian is constrained against. Although when shown on British television in the 1980’s, this scene was cut from the film by the broadcasters. To refer to the origin of St. Sebastian, he was said to be a Christian martyr in around AD 256–288. Known as the patron saint of archers, pin makers and athletes. Honoured for their religious defiance against oppression , Sebastian continues to resonate with queer people in contemporary times, although he more associated with homosexual men. Thee naked make body ,pierced by projecting arrows and tied to a tree trunk, has become an icon with a metaphorical meaning of penetration, eroticism and symbolism (Doble, 2020). Richard A. Kaye discusses Sebastian as a contemporary gay martyr in his essay featured in the book Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities and Visual Cultures. He states that “Saint Sebastian has emerged as the very distillation in art of an emotionally and politically fraught homosexual person” (Horne, Lewis, 1996, p86.). In symbology, arrows denoted divine wrath expressed through plagues in classical times. (Ibid, p.87.) So, the AIDS epidemic particularly thrusted Saint Sebastian back into contemporary association with homosexual men. Although the saint has been understood as a homoerotic icon through generations of queer men, for others, he has symbolised a queer icon that is menacingly narcissistic and suicidal. In an enduring paradox, this goes to the heart of the martyr’s lasting resonance and solitary aesthetic (Ibid, p87.).

This queering of this religious iconography offers a reinterpretation or reimaging of the conventional image of Saint Sebastian that challenges societal norms and expectations, in the same way that queer ecology challenges these views


The social or heteronormal construct of the term ‘natural’ also comes under question when Timothy Morton, a contemporary philosopher and a leading voice in the growing field of queer ecology, states in his journal article ‘Text Is Ecology, Ecology’ that “forests appear 'natural', yet they follow the quite logical order of algorithms programmed by tree genomes. An algorithm is a script - a text - that automates a function, or functions, and in this case the script is encoded directly into matter” (b.Morton, 2010). By using this code, one can also determine the number of trees in its vicinity.


Modern Nature is Derek Jarman’s touching diaristic journal during the AIDS epidemic, documenting his friends dying around him and the gradual decline to his own death. For a public figure, he was bravely one of the few that announced his HIV status and was considered a figurehead in queer circles (Jarman, Laing, 2018, p.7). Within this documentation that formed Modern Nature from the 1st of January 1989 to the 3rd of September 1990, Jarman uses his garden as a form of therapy and contemplation, while recording his thoughts and the mythology behind the botanicals he was growing. He self- penned poetry about his garden, which was at Prospect Cottage, an old fisherman’s house is situated on Dungeness beach. In Jarman’s mind this was Britain’s only desert, which he nicknamed ‘the Ness’ (Ibid, p.8). Olivia Lang, the contributor to the Introduction of the 2018 edition, discuses that within previous editions of Modern Nature “It was here I developed a sense of what it meant to be an artist, to be political, even how to plant a garden (playfully, stubbornly, ignoring boundaries, collaborating freely).” (Ibid, p.9). As Jarman’s cottage garden of shingle contains no boundaries or fences, this could be metaphorical, by providing a lasting statement of breaking down boundaries within social constructs. Laing disputes that “Derek still seems to me the best as well as the most radical nature writer, because he refuses to exclude the body from the sphere of interest, documenting the rising tides of sickness and desire with as much care and attention as he does the discovery of sea buckthorn or a wild fig” (Ibid, p.9). With a sweet memory, I tasted honey from this exact location from Dungeness beach, I felt quite emotional how possibly I was tasting the pollen, the landscape, and ‘the Ness’, as Jarman nicknamed the area around his garden. I felt connected. Prospect Cottage and its garden of herbs, flora and sculptures made by surrounding found objects of driftwood, metal items, flint and large pebbles are the legacy of Derek Jarman. One could say it was his last artwork, one that to this day continues to grow in remembrance, although maintained by another. The garden. His most loved subject.


Numerous types of flora have been associated with the queer community as a way of communication in incognito, with these developing as metaphors over time. This has been contemporarily coined through the term ‘queer botany’. Sappho, a 6th century poet who resided on the Greek island of Lesbos, wrote about one of the earliest connections to flora and queerness or same sex love within her poems. She references numerous blooms of roses, garlands of violets, crocuses, honey clover, lotuses, hyacinths and meadow blooms, spring flowers, golden flowers, and purple blooms. The colour purple or violet reoccurs multiple times, which is quite possibly where the colour became first connected with queerness. (Prager, 2020).

Another notable example is a green carnation, which was worn by the 19th century writer Oscar Wilde and encouraged fellow queers in wearing this on their lapel as a form of a secret code. Green carnations are not grown or found, they can only be created by allowing the white carnation to draw up green ink or dye. This becomes an Interesting queer metaphor for a purportedly ‘unnatural’ creation residing in a ‘natural’ form. Ironically, Oscar Wilde embraced the ‘unnatural’ association to homosexuality in the late 19th century.

In looking further, some florae are considered androgynous or hermaphroditic, with some examples being Lily (Lilium longiflorum), Rose (Rosa indica) and Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), although nearly all plants that have notable blooms are.

However, not all florae associations have been used in a positive light, the term ‘pansy’ is used as a derogatory term that has been used to demean and marginalize queer men who are especially effeminate. As the flower is delicate, the term has been used to perpetuate that effeminate queer men as weak, and especially contributes to the discrimination and violence faced by queer femmes.


French novelist Marcel Proust, wrote In Search Of Lost Time, Volume 4: Sodom and Gomorrah in 1921, and was related to the Biblical book of Genesis 19:24, which mentions male to male copulation or engagement as having a poetic resemblance or metaphorical relatonship to the process of flower fertilisation (Prager, 2020). Proust documents the character in anticipation of receiving affection and mutual copulation, through sticking their behind out and posing with a flirtatious behaviour that an orchid might have acquired, with an opportune moment on the arrival of the bee (Proust, p.7). Proust further includes that “This scene was not, however, positively comic, it was stamped with a strangeness, or if you like a naturalness, the beauty of which steadily increased.” (Proust, p.7). In being conflicting in description, with the use of ‘strangeness’ and ‘naturalness’ describing the act, it starts to break down constructed dualistic barriers to the reader. However, “this is simply a comparison of providential hazards, whatever they may be, without the slightest scientific claim to establish a relation between certain laws and what is sometimes, most ineptly, termed homosexuality” (Proust, p10.) Also, during this period in the early twentieth century, effeminate queer men were referred to ‘horticultural lads’ or late-night gentlemen that cruised for affection within public gardens or parks as ‘evening botanists’ (Prager, 2020).


The first book that introduced me to queer poetry was the 2018 book Soho by Richard Scott, and is an intimate portrait of tender memories, messy endings and recalled scars from sexual histories, played out within the queer streets and green areas of Soho, London. I might add that these poems are overlaid with metaphors, symbolism and ambiguity, with some being more ambiguous than others. In researching further into how queer ecology could be expressed through poetry, I came across the term ‘ecopoetics’. The Poetry Foundation describes this as “A multidisciplinary approach that includes thinking and writing on poetics, science, and theory as well as emphasising innovative approaches common to conceptual poetry” (Glossary of Poetic Terms, 2022). Although the term ‘ecopoetics’ is a contemporary name coined around the beginning of the 21st century, this was “highlighted by Jonathan Skinner in his 2001 introduction to the inaugural issue of the journal Ecopoetics, and later discussed by J. Scott Bryson in Ecopoetry: a Critical Introduction (Hume & Rahimtoola, 2018). Skinner discusses what this genre could mean and “offers ‘a site open to . . . contradictions’ and ‘ideally function[s] as an edge (as in edge of the meadow, or shore, rather than leading edge) where different disciplines can meet and complicate one another’” (Hume & Rahimtoola, 2018). What makes this genre different to any other type of writing to understand, is that it adds to the nonconforming venture of resistance to dominant cultural ways of thinking (Hume & Rahimtoola, 2018). Although, overall, “It would be a mistake to consider ecopoetics as merely an extension of romanticism; rather than advocating the “imaginative reunification of mind and nature” (Bate 245)” (Mambrol, 2021). Alternatively, poetry has been used as an art form to express viewpoints and issues viewed through queer ecology, the main ones I researched included queer geography poems, ‘nature’ poems and ecopoetics.


The term ‘fluid’ has become increasingly associated in modern times with sexuality and gender, to holistically represent the idea of breaking fixed heteronormal binaries and constructs.

This innately references an idea of flowing liquid or water which holistically links to an idea by Japanese researcher and Doctor of Alternative Medicine Masuru Emoto that “the water flowing within us is part of the water flowing through nature and part of the rhythm of life being played out throughout the universe.” (Emoto, 2014, p.41). Scientifically, we are made up of 60-90 percent water and this fluctuates with ageing, so Emoto’s claim isn’t entirely metaphorical (Neimanis, 2016, p.65). Water has an existential meaning in queer ecology; it’s the life force that bridges boundaries, while at the same time it cleanses, heals, baptises, erotises, gives life, takes life and contains life. Michael Walsh, editor of Queer Nature, a poetry anthology book, discusses how “water can be a representation of the changeable, formidable, and transformative, so too are bodies of water, which includes waterfalls and rivers.” (Walsh, 2022, p.17). A theory by Luis Frank Ohio State University, also confirmed by NASA and the University of Hawaii, proposed that the first emanation of water on Earth travelled from distant space contained as particles (mainly ice) within meteorites (planetesimals), that broke up and dissipated within the Earth’s atmosphere, releasing water particles that equated to the early foundation of Earth’s water. In a single minute, up to 12 comets enter the Earth’s atmosphere that could weigh multiple tons (Emoto, 2014, p.67). Such a queer origination.


Overall, queer ecology and art are intertwined fields that can work together to challenge dominant narratives, create spaces for marginalized communities, and imagine alternative futures for the relationship of queer individuals within the ‘natural’ world, in a visual and tangible form. Does the queer community conform to constructs? The queer community is diverse, and individuals may have different perspectives on the topic of conforming to societal constructs. Some members of the queer community who identify as male may feel pressure to conform to traditional masculine norms, such as being individuals who do not fit into these stereotypes and may lead to feelings of alienation and marginalisation. This echos my experience as a pre-adolescent within the schooling system as mentioned in section seven, and which took place during the era of Section 28. However, at the same time, there are queer people who reject these traditional gender norms and instead embrace a more fluid and nuanced understanding of gender and identity. It’s also important to note that not all queer people identify with either being male or female, as some may identify as non-binary, genderqueer, or agender, among other queer identities. Social constructs can also shape and be shaped by capitalism, as the economic system can influence societal values and beliefs, and vice versa. For example, capitalist societies may place a strong emphasis on individualism and material success, while constructs such as gender roles and class structures can also shape the opportunities and outcomes within a capitalist system.


“The manipulation and growth of a capitalist system was imperative for the interest and existence of the empire, distilling profits by commodifying the Earth’s resources and residing beings still persists today” (Sickmueller, 2021).

Capitalism, with its focus on profit and growth, has fed into the epoch of the Anthropocene and has been criticised for its role in environmental degradation and climate change. Both capitalism and the Anthropocene are interconnected with queer ecology as these both have significant impacts on the ecosystem and marginalised communities. Within a capitalist system, its emphasis on exploiting Earth’s resources for economic gain has contributed to the current environmental crisis known as the Anthropocene, which refers to the current geological era in which human activity has had a significant impact.

“the insatiable greed capitalism nurtures renders it the ideal justification for the exploitation of land and labour that is implemented within the empirical discourse through the theory of modernisation.” (Sickmueller, M., 2021)


If certain boundaries are blurred and broken down between heteronormal constructs, would queerness then be rendered non-queer? Surely certain voices will be lost.A

As black queer, trans or black trans are most marginalised, it is profoundly important to maintain that queer is queer, to ensure that these voices do not vanish.


Queerness in some form has habitually been more accepted within the art world, while being in tandem with the problem of being closed-off, ‘ghettoised’ or isolated. Meanwhile, a sense of allure is attached by the glamour to the art scene in a way that diffuses the jolt of queerness to some non-queer people (Mitchell, P. 2018).

Sexually fluid Artist Tracey Emin b.1963, reaffirmed her stance during a 2015 talk at the MCA Australia, embracing a blurred boundary between us and our surroundings “I am part of nature and I want to bond with that much more” (Tracey Emin Artist Talk at MCA, 2015, 56:20) Here, she establishes her role as an artist in inhibiting these constructs “even if it's concrete, whatever it is it doesn't matter, even if everything is man-made it’s also essentially nature too because we created it and we are nature” (Ibid, 56:40). A comparable narrative is reflected in my creative responses to this enquiry and relates to viewing this idea in simpler terms “You Inside Me, Me Inside You”. In the 20 years since the dissolution of Section 28, the notion of queer ecology is becoming more mainstream, and the veil is slowly lifting, as galleries and museums are increasingly exhibiting shows that highlight these issues. Organisations such as The Institute of Queer Ecology have been set up as a collaboration between artists and scientists. Founded in 2017, the Institute is supported in part by a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The institute raises awareness about ways in which marginalised communities, including those that identify as queer and that are disproportionately affected by environmental issues. In providing a platform for queer voices in the environmental movement, they foster collaborations between queer organisations.


Power seems to be an overriding arch. We have a false sense of what we regard as important and valuable. Queer ecology seeks to understand how societal norms and power structures affect the relationship between beings, our environment, and how this relationship can be reimagined and transformed. The futurity of queer ecology envisions a world where the interrelation and mutuality of every being is recognised and respected. This not only includes humans, but also animals, plants and the ecosystem that support them. In this future, traditional dualistic constructs are dismantled. We must recognise and register the ways in which systems of oppression, such as queerphobia, patriarchy, and the effects of colonialism have led to the degradation of people, plants, animals: in other words beings, and our ecosystem. Traditional dualisms such as nature/culture, natural/ unnatural, human/non-human and heterosexual/homosexual in western thought are socially constructed for convenient ce in ordering society, and are reinforced through power relations. My lasting thoughts are that ‘nature’ is undeniably queer. Nature is inside us, and we are inside of nature.

As the theory of queer ecology contains complex intersections between multiple elements, the surface is vast and I can only offer but to initiate discussion .