What makes nature most beautiful is its fluid ephemerality. A butterfly emerging from its cocoon; a river carving a bend in the landscape; a polar bear returning to the Arctic sea ice; a clownfish changing sex from male to female…

In the face of adversity, between the threshold of what once was and what is to come, nature is both at its most powerful and its most vulnerable. This balance is maintained by the biological diversity of our planet—systems that depend on one another for survival.

Our existence on Earth is determined by much more than hunting and gathering, mating and reproducing, living and dying, however. By reducing a species’ value to its role within a trophic level, we eliminate its potential—its agency—to thrive.

Only when you can appreciate the richness and vibrancy that arises from life beyond the binary can you see the world in every color of the rainbow. It’s in that spirit that we celebrate Pride Month!

Old Faithful geyser Yellowstone National Park vibrant rainbow blue skies summer day

Photographed by Nat Hab Staff Member © Megan Brief on our Hidden Yellowstone & Grand Teton Safari

It’s Only Natural: Same-Sex Relationships in the Wild

You may be wondering, What about the theory of evolution by natural selection? “Survival of the fittest?”

Although perhaps not the application Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace imagined, centuries of scientific discovery have taught us that same-sex animal behavior is advantageous for reproduction and evolution.

Research into animal homosexuality has been documented as far back as the 1700s and 1800s, but only a handful of studies survived society’s scrutiny; the rest were consigned to dust or destroyed.

Fortunately, conservationists at The Natural History Museum were determined to bring the taboo topic out of the closet and into public purview. In the spring of 2020, the NHM at Tring in England announced their plans to digitize the unpublished notebooks of zoologist Dr. George Murray Levick, the first person to witness the entire breeding cycle of Adélie penguins.

After returning to Britain in 1913 from the three-year Terra Nova expedition in Cape Adare, Antarctica, Levick published some scientific observations while omitting others. Upon deciphering mysterious Greek passages and unearthing buried truths, the NHM was granted insight into a world that had, until now, been rendered invisible.

Rear view of pair of Gentoo penguins, Pygoscelis papua, standing on rock, Mikkelsen Harbour, Trinity Island, Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica

A pair of gentoo penguins on Trinity Island, Antarctica.

Levick’s Sexual Habits of the Adélie Penguin details several instances of non-procreative penguin sex and homosexual behavior. Although his accounts were completely valid, Levick feared becoming a social pariah for distributing work deemed too “indecent.”

A few thousand miles away in Australia, two male gentoo penguins (a close relative of the Adélie) were making history at Sea Life Sydney as the aquarium’s first same-sex couple. Amid the political war over gay marriage rights, Sphen and Magic found love, inspiring a nation to follow in their flippers.

Today, the bonded pair are the proud fathers of two young penguins abandoned as eggs: Lara (Sphengic), born in October 2018 and Clancy (CC), born in November 2020.

But penguins are just the tip of the iceberg! Scientists have discovered more than 1,500 species of wildlife that engage in some form of same-sex sexual behavior.

Bonobos are among the few species in which all adult members of one sex engage in habitual same-sex sexual interactions at similar or even greater frequencies as heterosexual interactions to reduce social tension, prevent aggression or form social bonds.

Bonobos are among the few species in which all adult members engage in habitual same-sex sexual interactions at similar or even greater frequencies than heterosexual interactions. Experts believe they do this to reduce social tension, prevent aggression and form social bonds.

Various lines of evidence indicate that female Japanese macaques are best characterized as bisexual because of their preferences for same-sex consortships, even in the presence of a suitable male partner.

In a recently established Laysan albatross colony on Oahu, Hawaii, one-third of pairs consist of two female parents. These unrelated same-sex individuals pair together and cooperate to raise offspring. Female-female pairs fledge fewer offspring than male-female pairs, but these pairings have proved to be a better alternative than not breeding at all. This innovative behavior has become increasingly crucial to the species’ survival as their nesting sites will likely be submerged by rising sea levels due to climate change in this century.

Laysan albatross colony on Oahu, Hawaii

Queering the Climate Crisis

In moments when I find myself consumed by existential dread over the future of our planet, going outside can often quell the eco-anxiety.

Wildlife and wild lands help me reorient and remember that the climate crisis cannot be solved by detaching oneself from the environment and the people and other creatures that depend on its equilibrium.

Nature nurtures a deep sense of belonging in me. As a Queer woman, it is where I feel safe, alive and free. But just as the outdoors can cultivate kinship for some, it can alienate others.

‘The Great Outdoors’ should be enjoyed equally by all people. Still, access to natural resources and inclusivity in green spaces have historically been determined by race, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

According to the 2023 study, “Queering Climate Change: Exploring the Influence of LGBTQ+ Identity on Climate Change Belief and Risk Perceptions,” “LGBTQ+ individuals experience greater rates of homelessness, mental health challenges and social and family violence. Climate change will exacerbate these inequalities, making it an LGBTQ+ issue of concern.”

In the first three months of 2022, nearly 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment breeds discrimination, which can have catastrophic consequences during a natural disaster or extreme weather event that requires shared resources and collective shelter. This issue was first realized during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Trans and Intersex people faced barriers to accessing evacuation shelters and restrooms.

Namibia desert rainbow

Photographed in Namibia by Nat Hab Expedition Leader © Abner Simeon

Fighting for Environmental Equality

Although not always recognized for their contributions, members of the LGBTQ+ community have long been on the frontlines of conservation.

In fact, the green stripe in the original Pride flag represents nature. Unfurled at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade in June 1978 by Harvey Milk (the first openly Gay man elected to public office), the flag celebrates diversity in all forms.

“This stripe emphasizes that being Queer is in nature’s design,” writes Zoe Kanga, Yale University student and author of the Earth Day article “How Climate Change Affects the LGBTQ+ Community.”

“Caring about climate change is a radical part of the Queer identity. We must remember that injustice against any minority, including the environment, threatens all other marginalized communities.”

Pride Month is celebrated each June in recognition of the Stonewall Inn uprising of June 28, 1969, which catalyzed LGBTQ+ civil rights worldwide. Drag performers Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were prominent figures in the Gay Liberation Movement. In addition to their fight for social justice at Stonewall, they opened the first LGBTQ+ youth shelter in North America, making them the first Trans women of color to lead an organization in the United States.

The 1960s civil rights movement also gave rise to the environmental justice movement.

In 1961 World Wildlife Fund was established at the International Union for Conservation of Nature headquarters in Morges, Switzerland. The next year, lesbian biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, exposing how DDT and other pesticides are detrimental to ecosystems.

In 1963, Congress passed the Clean Air Act, and in 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed, preserving millions of acres of land as national forests, national parks and Bureau of Land Management territory.

Photographed by Nat Hab traveler © George Penokie on our Discover Amazon Machu Picchu adventure rainbow peru

Photographed by Nat Hab traveler © George Penokie on our Discover Amazon & Machu Picchu adventure

Travel with Pride: Celebrate Outside with Nat Hab & WWF

LGBTQ+ Americans are more than twice as likely to have a valid passport than non-LGBTQ+ Americans. Before the COVID pandemic, LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. averaged 6.8 trips per year and spent $63.1 billion annually on travel.

The LGBTQ+ tourism market is expanding rapidly due to increased social and cultural acceptance, legal recognition of LGBTQ+ rights and greater visibility and representation of queer people in media and advertising. It is predominantly characterized by a strong sense of community and advocacy, with many Queer travelers actively seeking out travel companies committed to diversity, inclusivity and social and environmental responsibility.

This trend is substantiated by the latest industry analysis by Reports and Insights, which predicts the total value of the global LGBTQ+ tourism market will reach $568.5 billion by 2030.

Travel organizations such as the International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, Proud Experiences and Out of Office offer a range of budget-friendly and luxury itineraries, catering to culturally immersive and environmentally sensitive experiences across the globe. These companies specialize in queer-friendly trips but are not alone in their mission to make seeing the world a safe and inclusive reality for everyone.

Natural Habitat Adventures recognizes that just as biodiversity strengthens ecosystems, human diversity strengthens social systems.

Our conservation travel partner WWF reinforces this sentiment with the following statement:

“As we celebrate Pride Month, WWF-US speaks out against discrimination and violence directed at people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. While we have seen much progress in the 51 years since the Stonewall Uprising, we must continue to work toward equality for LGBTQ+ individuals in the United States and around the world.”

“We urge everyone to take time this month to reflect on how we as individuals, as a country, and as a global society can contribute to a world in which all people can live their lives with a greater sense of safety and opportunity.”

Our friends at National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions embrace LGBTQ+ travelers on their cruises around the world, demonstrating how pride for people and the planet goes hand in hand.

Happy #PolarPride from the guests, staff and crew aboard #NatGeoEndurance in Antarctica!

“Happy Polar Pride from the guests, staff and crew aboard Nat Geo Endurance in Antarctica!” ©lindbladexp

Women in the Wild

Are you a woman who wants to explore nature in the company of other women? Nat Hab’s Women in the Wild adventures cultivate a safe, inclusive and comfortable environment where travelers are empowered to be their most radiant and authentic selves.

Travel solo, with a partner, or with friends or family members as you embrace new experiences in Earth’s wildest reaches. Visit local communities and witness the vital roles women play in conservation.

Learn about women explorers and researchers shaping our understanding of the natural world. Relish intimate wildlife encounters as you discover the intuition of elephants, the tenderness of beluga whales and the noble fierceness of wolves.

Find kinship and camaraderie among other women adventurers and foster friendships that endure long after your adventure ends.

As Nat Hab’s Marketing Coordinator, I have the power to emotionally connect travelers with nature so that they might become ambassadors for conservation.

As a Queer person, I have the power to show the LGBTQ+ community that they belong in nature and nature is more beautiful for it.

What do you intend to do with the power you hold?

Happy trails and happy Pride!