Queer Birder Style

I have been birding for over a decade, and my passion for it has increased since my partner of 13 years has recently stopped her snarky “is that a pigeon” mocking of my pastime. She now too has become an avid birder, like so many others have during the peak of the pandemic. Not only has birding grown in popularity, it has become a favorite activity in age groups we might unfairly knee-jerk associate with being tied only to cellphones and screens, and not the trees and birds. In fact, according to InsideHook, “over the last year and a half, younger millennials and members of Gen Z actually seem interested in birding,” a pastime “reserved for retirees in gray New Balances and beige fanny packs.”

It’s that shade thrown at granny style which brings me to the fashion of queer birders. While we can intellectualize the definition of queer style, the bottom line is that queer folks get dressed every day to do everything from work in corporate offices, perform in drag, lounge to binge watch streaming programs, and ,yes, to bird! And, word on the fashion blogs is that vintage comfort is back, so you’ll also find queer GenZ birders rocking those “New Balances and beige fanny packs.”

But more importantly, I want to start expanding what we think about when we envision queer; to celebrate queer multiplicity that exists beyond what corporate Pride branding and television tropes would limit our existence to.

Chris Cooper, the Black man who was the target of a Karen threatening to call the cops on him in Central Park, is a gay birder. Chris was experiencing Black gay joy doing what he loved in Central Park – birding – when he was the victim of a racist attack.

Christian Cooper in Central Park .Credit: Brittainy Newman/The New York Times.

What’s important for me when I write style features like these is not to tell people how to do things the “right way” or push product on folks. What’s important for me is being seen, while also expanding how the world views the depth and breadth of queer diversity. Because, when you look around, we are there. Everywhere. We are in the park, birding, like Christian Cooper.

 

 

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As I mentioned in the Instagram post above celebrating Black Birders Week, many of ancestors, and even many of us today, were driven out of rural areas and our ties to nature in order to seek out “safer” spaces in urban areas. (I say “safer” and not safe because we are victims of discrimination and violence even in cities.) Our connection to nature is stolen, and then subsequently erased. The stereotype that Black and queer folks do not belong in, or do not love, nature is a colonialist byproduct of people being forced out / taken out of our lands, nature, and rural areas and into cities just to survive under slightly more progressive laws that provide inconsistent civil liberties. That is why so many people questioned – even feared – why Chris Cooper was in the park. He was a gay Black man connecting with nature. (And, for those of you who do not know, Central Park is one of the nation’s top birding locations, attracting birders from all over the world.)

Mikey and Eyeris started @outsideclothesnyc , an Instagram-based collection of stories about New Yorkers who love being outside. Their work reveals the beautiful collision of urban and natural environments, and the sometimes simple and often ingenious ways people inhabit them. Outside Clothes also serves as an informational hub for outside activities going on in cities. They state, “The culture belongs to the people. You want to learn about your neighborhood? Go to the park. We need to have public gathering spaces for people to relax, create, co-exist, they all have something to offer…”

 

 

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Queer birders are out here, in nature, dismantling the notion that only certain people are allowed to access nature and its benefits. And, we are looking mighty spectacular in our natural world alongside our fine feathered friends!

 

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Hike in the Rockies led by Queer Nature. Photo: Pınar Ateş Sinopoulos-Lloyd

 

@outsideclothesnyc

 

@senka10

 

 

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