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  • Queer Eros in the Enchanted Forest:The Spirit of Stonewall as Sustainable Energy
  • Pattrice Jones (bio)

I live in an enchanted forest. In the hundred-acre wood occupied by the denizens of VINE Sanctuary, an animal refuge established by LGBTQ people, beech trees synchronize their photosynthesis so that all may share the sugar. Flying squirrels nest with birds in the cavities of hollow trees and might stick their heads out to see who's there if you come knocking at dusk. Wild turkey hens collaboratively raise their young, sometimes taking them on walks to visit Pete and Repeat, two captive-born toms who share a coop with chickens rescued from egg factories.

In the wooded back pastures, a cow who rescued herself and her calf from a beef farm mingles with dozens of similarly self-possessed bovines. If you hike up to visit, their pheasant friend—who rewilded himself after being hatched to be hunted—might fly alongside you for a moment before returning to his own projects. Down at the duck pond, feral descendants of birds purchased at pet stores socialize with wild waterfowl. Back at the barn, sheep give rides to survivors of egg factories, and a group of peace-keeping geese help with the project of rehabilitating roosters formerly used in cockfighting.

One of those roosters—Sharkey—once teamed up with a Muscovy duck called Ready to coparent a duckling who had been cast out by her own mother. Along with their friend Rocky the peacock (who had a crush on Sharkey), they cocreated a vibrant community of care without regard for what people think about who should love who. In so doing, they transgressed manmade categories, stereotypes, and boundaries, motivated by the joy of mutual affection rather than the demands of procreative productivity. That's the spirit of Stonewall, and it may be our only hope to avert climatic catastrophe. [End Page 76]

As ecofeminist Val Plumwood has written, "our relationships with nature are currently failing."1 Repairing those relationships will require us to surrender the prideful idea that humans are separate from and superior to everybody else on the planet, but—as anybody who has ever fallen in love knows—decentering yourself can feel delicious and prompt creative activity. Because animals have been knocking down fences and other artificial barriers built by people for millennia, we might be able to learn something about resistance, too. So let's make friends with queer ducks and other transgressors of Eurocentric conceptions of sexuality and identity.

Queer Ducks

The first time I saw Jean-Paul and Jean-Claude having sex, I thought they were fighting and promptly separated them. Three times, I broke up what seemed to be a vicious attack, removing the victim to another part of the sanctuary, only to later discover that he had climbed a fence, walked through the woods, walked down a road and up a driveway and then climbed one more fence to reunite himself with his . . . boyfriend? Yes, even though I knew that ducks are among the hundreds of nonhuman animals for whom same-sex relationships are common,2 some combination of speciesism and internalized homophobia had led me to separate a bonded pair who remained together (albeit not monogamously) until the end of their lives.

Jean-Paul and Jean-Claude were survivors of a foie gras factory where they had been confined in the dark without adequate access to water and force-fed massive quantities of grain in order to induce the fatty liver disease that defines that cruel delicacy. Let us pause for a moment to reflect upon the courage and tenacity Jean-Claude displayed in finding his way back to Jean-Paul again and again despite their forcible separation by a mystifying mammal. We know how it feels, don't we, to want to be with somebody—whether lover, comrade, friend, or family—that much?

Let's call that heartfelt drive for relationship eros and join Audre Lorde in recognizing the erotic as our most sustainable source of power.3 "Eros" is the Greek word for love in all of its manifestations, including but not limited to the sexual. In her germinal essay "The Uses of the Erotic...