Birthdays, wedding days, holidays… these are all wonderful days. But celebrating the LGBTQ community? This gets a whole month. June is Pride Month around the world, when all people get to show love for their queer friends and family, honor all who fight for equality and–hopefully–party down.
Here at the Conservation Lands Foundation, we celebrate Pride and the LGBTQ people who do so much for conservation and public lands. We recognize there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations in our community for whom we need to identify and eliminate barriers, to ensure everyone’s full participation in the work we do—and that includes LGBTQ people. This principle is captured in our Equity, Inclusion and Diversity (EID) Initiative, which CLF staff wrote and launched about four years ago.
Shortly after we began our ongoing EID work, President Obama used the Antiquities Act to designate several monuments that better reflect the history and rich contributions of all Americans. This included designating the Stonewall National Monument in New York, commemorating six days of public protests in June of 1969 and a milestone in the quest for LGBTQ civil rights. Today is the Monument’s third anniversary, and June 28th will mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.
Led predominately by African-American trans women and joined by hundreds of gays and lesbians the Stonewall uprising marked a time when people said “no more,” and demanded an end to police raids, arrests, and frequent violence inflicted on them that went unpunished. They refused to endure discrimination because of being born–being born just as nature intended.
Stonewall Forever, a web-based experience created through partnership between NYC’s LGBTQ community and the National Park Service, invites people to explore the living monument and Christopher Park from anywhere in the world.
In the professional field of conservation, most of our queer ancestors couldn’t bring their full selves to their places of work. They feared for their safety and jobs, they kept their relationships hidden—often at great personal and sometimes tragic costs. This includes countless LGBTQ people who worked in government, land management agencies and for venerable conservation organizations like Audubon, The Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club.
They didn’t have the support of organizational structures, policies or new initiatives, like our Diversity Initiative, that have proliferated so much during the last 10 to 25 years. And yet, they built campaigns, or helped achieve, some of the greatest conservation “wins” in history.
Today we are experiencing an era when queer-identifying people are finding their power, nurturing their identities, and reveling in the complex joys and challenges of being human – and natural. Nature has always been “accepting.” Thankfully, people are becoming that way too.
We all bring to the work of conservation our diverse perspectives, work experiences, lifestyles and cultures. Embracing these differences drives innovation and allows our organization and the field of conservation to thrive. We also seek inclusion for people, which is a state of being valued, respected and supported.
Nature has never cared who you may want to kiss on that beautiful overlook at sunset, or whose hand you hold while walking on a trail. The natural world and public lands conservation needs every single voice–and to that we say, Happy Pride.