American Birding Podcast



Genesis: How the Gay Birders of North America Came to Be

I think very few birders would disagree that when we seek out to bird with others, it is to share in the joy of birds. Whether intended or not, along the way we build a sense of community. In order to appreciate that joy to its fullest, we shouldn’t have to worry about who we are or be second guessing our most basic actions around others in that community. As Jennifer Rycenga explains in “Genesis: How the Gay Birders of North America Came to Be”, that is precisely why groups like GBNA (Gay Birders of North America)–now called QBNA–exist. Her article is featured in this issue of Birder’s Guide to Conservation & Community.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that I am a gay birder; not only that, I’ve been deeply involved with QBNA for a bit over 13 years now. I administer its Facebook group and email list, and I help run its biannual meetings. But, you may be wondering, why have meetings–or a group–at all?

When straight couples go to a festival or on a local bird walk, they’re free to show affection tastefully–to hold hands, to lean on one another during a long bus ride, to give a peck on the cheek. In sharp contrast, many same-gender couples are constantly looking over their shoulders, knowing that by showing any kind of affection, indeed, by merely acknowledging that they are a couple, a non-tolerant person in the group may cause a stink and ruin the day for everyone–or worse yet, that they may experience some kind of violence. Have you ever noticed how many times you show affection with your partner? Unless you’ve had to hide it, probably not, and you might be surprised how often it happens. Holding back who you are from the world is emotionally exhausting. Take it from me: I have first-hand experience.

It has been suggested that “gay birding” events are divisive: that their goal and/or effect is to shut others out. On the contrary, QBNA events are not meant to be, nor are they, exclusionary. The idea is that anyone who is tolerant of and kind to others is welcome, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, race, politics…you name it. When LGBTQ birders organize trips and conventions, there is not a “no straights allowed” sign. All people are welcome to attend, and indeed, many straight friends do. But the LGBTQ+ birders who attend do so knowing that the straight birders also in attendance are accepting of them, and that they can be themselves without fear and without reservation.

No matter who you are or how you identify, I welcome you to attend any of our QBNA events. (We have one coming up in Panama in 2020.) If I may toot my own horn, we’re a very fun bunch, and we have a great time. You’ll probably see some neat birds along the way, too!

To learn about past QBNA events and how the group began in the first place, you can check out its Facebook group and read Jennifer’s article by clicking here. The entirety of Birder’s Guide to Conservation & Community is available online. It’s just one of the many free services the ABA provides to the greater birding community!

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