Saturday, July 13, 2024

National Audubon Society teams up with drag queen for Pride

Environmentalist drag queen Pattie Gonia has joined forces with America’s bird protection society.

The National Audubon Society has partnered with drag artist Pattie Gonia to invite the LGBTQIA community outdoors this Pride month and to ensure they have a safe and welcoming experience while there. As part of the collaboration, Audubon has released the first two of four videos celebrating Pride in the outdoors, on June 13 and 21.

Pattie Gonia is the drag persona of hiker and backpacker Wyn Wiley. Wiley says the character was born spontaneously on a hike several years ago, but became a way to call attention to climate change crises facing North America’s wild lands. She quickly earned millions of views and hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. The four Audubon videos were recorded at Audubon’s Spring Creek Prairie Center, in Wiley’s home state of Nebraska.

“People ask me all the time, ‘how are the queer and environmental movements related’,” said Pattie. “I say, first, ‘no planet, no Pride!’ Second, there’s such an opportunity for people so versed in social justice, like the queer community, to join into the environmental movement. Similarly, there’s an equal opportunity for people versed in climate justice to help advocate for queer people. Why not take these two communities and work to cross pollinate them?

“The traditional narrative if you’re queer is to run to big cities for acceptance, and oftentimes I think that creates a severed connection to nature, so I hope that queer people take away that they are part of nature and the outdoors. And I think that it’s a necessary step for organizations like Audubon to lead the way and show others, ‘hey, this is what it looks like to diversify outdoor and environmental spaces.’ 

“I am so inspired by birds. Everyday birds tell us that climate change is happening through their songs and through the songs they no longer can sing due to habitat and species loss. So — are we going to choose to listen or not?”

Lets Go Birding Together at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center led by Jason St. Sauver andPattie Gonia (Wyn Wiley)

Audubon has celebrated Pride month since 2018 with LGBTQ-themed “Let’s Go Birding Together” bird walks, as well as other events including a “bird drag tutorial.” Audubon is committed to ensuring that all communities, including people of color and the LGBTQ community, have access to safe, welcoming outdoor spaces.

“I feel like a proud papa – seeing “Let’s Go Birding Together” take off nationally in so many ways,” said Jason St. Sauver, the program’s creator. “From its first beginnings at Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center in 2016, to reaching thousands through our collaboration with Pattie Gonia, it is great to see such a queer space being created outdoors for so many,”

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