Happy Pride! It makes perfect sense to me that our little state would decide to celebrate in September - since when do we follow the status quo? I also love that I live somewhere that we celebrate Pride not once, but twice! Pride bookends the start and end of summer in Vermont with lots of queer joy to be had in between.
I am someone who identifies as queer in my sexuality and gender. For a long time I thought that this made me unnatural, weird, almost forbidden. My natural science classes made it clear that reproduction is the highest priority for animals, therefore deviation from male-female relationships wasn't only rare, but a waste of energy/resources and not worth studying. So while I knew for many years that I didn't feel like a boy or a girl and that I was attracted to all kinds of people, I never saw this reflected or validated in the people or nature around me. To be fair, queerness was most certainly present all around the world, but not openly in my small Connecticut farm town and at this point I had no language to describe my gender other than "tomboy". It's also worth mentioning that this is before gay marriage was legalized and gender expansive folks or language was night in the zeitgeist. In college I was able to find queer community and grow more confident in my sexuality, but my gender remained performative and in limbo. As an environmental studies major, I was in classes about animal behavior and still didn't see how my identity fit into nature - in fact, I still felt unnatural.
It wasn't until my AmeriCorps position with Audubon Vermont that I felt supported and ready to come out as nonbinary. I remember the first day I introduced myself to a group of elementary-aged students with new pronouns. "I use she/they pronouns," I proclaimed to the group. Guess what? The kids either didn't care or started experimenting with pronouns themselves. Slowly, I began changing my pronouns in other places, too. First, my Zoom pronouns and then my email signature. Soon I felt comfortable using them in my personal life among friends and in professional settings with colleagues. I've been misgendered plenty, and continue to be, but not once did someone question my identity or my choices. Towards the end of my second year of AmeriCorps, I had the privilege of bringing a Pride Month event to life as part of Audubon's Queer Affinity Group's Steering Committee. I wanted to explore the concept of queer nature and how most of what we know about nature is through the lens of a white, cis-gendered male scientist and their biases. I was encouraged by Audubon staff to moderate a panel of queer professionals working in conservation for an event called "Queering Nature" (Watch the recorded panel here). Panelists talked about "queer" animals such as same-sex couplings of Laysan Albatross, the four genders of White-throated Sparrows, same-sex penguin couples, and so many other examples of queerness in nature. I learned that these "deviant" sexual behaviors can actually result in more successful offspring rearing and lower rates of mortality - in fact, queerness in animals can be an advantage. To say the event shifted things for me would be an understatement, I closed out of Zoom with a huge smile on my face and felt a sense of belonging in my identity for the first time.
I'm also lucky that I can find queer joy in my workplace through our monthly Pride Hike program. The Pride Hikes are a collaboration between Audubon Vermont, Pride Center of Vermont, and occasional guest hosts from local organizations. Each month queer hikers and allies come together at different nature trails across the state and spend quality time outdoors in a safe, affirming, and fun environment. I love the opportunity to both host and participate in this space. We've been hiking together since 2018 and have no plans on stopping! A big thank you to my former collegue at Audubon Vermont who initiated the Pride Hike program and still serves as a fierce advocate for the Vermont queer community, Gwen Causer.
Upcoming Pride Hikes (please register in advance):
September 16: Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, 1-3pm (Richmond, VT). Register here!
October 21: Raven Ridge, 1-3pm (Monkton, VT). Register here! This Pride Hike has limited capacity due to parking.
November 11: Shelburne Farms, 1-3pm (Shelburne, VT). Register here!
Pride Events from our Community Partners:
Join Outright Vermont on Saturday, 9/30 for their annual Firetruck Pull fundraiser! Picture this: folks dressed in costumes, cheering, dancing, sweat, glitter, love and queer joy. Oh, and teams pull a FULLY-LOADED FIRE TRUCK up Church Street in Burlington. All the money raised by teams will go to support LGBTQ+ youth. The block party starts at 11am and the pull begins at 12pm!
Although lots of teams Pull every year, physically pulling the fire truck is just for fun and not required. There are lots of ways to show your support! You can:
- Make a team and fundraise without physically pulling the fire truck.
- Make a donation to support your fave team or your loved one's Pull.
- Attend the event on September 30 to cheer on the teams and celebrate queer joy.
- Volunteer on event day to help make the Fire Truck Pull magical.
More information: outrightvt.org/fire-truck-pull/
Sarah's Favorite Resources
Outright Vermont - Outright Vermont envisions "a world where LGBTQ+ youth have boundless possibilities for joy, and all people know liberation." They do this through regular programming and opportunities for queer youth age 22 or under.
Pride Center of Vermont - Pride Center of Vermont (PCVT) is the region’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and the health and safety of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) Vermonters.
Pride Rides - A bicycle club for LGBTQIA++ folks and allies to come together and ride!
We Are Out in the Open - Out in the Open connects rural LGBTQ+ people to build community, visibility, knowledge and power. They envision "a resilient community of communities that works toward the transformation of our economic, social, and political relationships."
Queer Nature Events with North Branch Nature Center - North Branch Nature Center is located in Montpelier and in addition to having a host of amazing natural history courses, they also have affinity programming for queer folks such as Queer Birding and Queer Owl Banding Night.
Queer Ducks (And Other Animals) by Eliot Schrefer - Young Adult
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell - PreK-elementary
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love - Elementary
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings - Elementary
Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon - Young Adult / Adult
- Jonathan hosts Eliot Schrefer on this episode: How Queer is the Animal Kingdom
- Jonathan explores queer mycology (mushrooms): Are Mushrooms Truly Magic? with Dr. Patty Kaishian
Thanks for taking the time to read, happy Vermont Pride! We hope to see you on our next Pride Hike.