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Queers Going Wild: Expressing Queerness Through Nature

Image via Unsplash and edited by Options Magazine

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Tam Willey's last name as Willie.

As we enter Pride season here in New England, it is important to see other ways for the community to connect and express the joy of being Queer and Trans. In that effort, Options’ own Grant Pike went exploring to see how Queer and Trans people connect to nature. Here they lay out their journey of finding Queers in the wild!

Connecting to the land as sacred and nourishing is an act of joy and self-care. As the Black Lesbian Feminist Audre Lorde says, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” So, follow this gender-expansive fey in the woods to see why being in nature in New England is fun and essential for the Queer community.

I've always felt myself when in the forest. It's my spot to be myself and feel most connected to what is around me. Memories of wandering around the state park that my family lived next to as a child remind this writer of feeling fey and free. In school and later at work, this feeling of fey – fairy energy – and Queerness was pushed down. As a Queer kid, turning to nature always created an authentic reflection of who I was. I never saw that later as an adult at clubs or bars. It never fit into those spaces and it didn't match expectations.

In work and school, there was always this sense that one must limit how we could self-express our gender and sexuality if it was anything other than heterosexual and cis-gendered. Gay bars and LGBTQ clubs had their own rules on what was and wasn’t Queer.

The forest, on the other hand, always accepted me. To feel at home under the trees. To touch the rich earth. To express oneself as a fey feminine lithe being. To run free. At the same time, one could channel one’s masculinity and climb a tree or build a fort. In the wild, one is free to simply be a gender-expansive being who doesn’t have to explain oneself to the forest.

This experience had me thinking: Am I the only one who feels this way? When most Queer expression is pushed to bars, clubs, and commerce, one may doubt themselves or our own Queerness if we don’t fit into that part of the LGBTQ+ community.

This led to a journey to find and chat with Queers who go out into the woods rather than clubs and bars — and asked them how do other Queer folks in the area find ways to express their Queer identity and love of being outdoors and in nature?

This led to sit downs with two very different leaders in New England to discuss what is so unique about nature to them and how they act as leaders for others to get out into the wild. Tam Willey is a certified Forest Therapy Guide who brings folks into nature for its therapeutic benefits. Jordan Goldsmith runs Moonrose Farms with their wife, Melissa Denmark, in Rehoboth, MA, and Cranston, RI. Each brought a sense of awe and inspiration as leaders in bringing the LGBTQ+ community closer to nature.

Tam Willey Forest Therapy in New England

Photo of Tam Willey

This writer first heard about Forest Therapy a few years ago and instantly became excited about it. The concept comes from shindin yoku (forest bathing) the idea is that going into the forest creates calm, joy, and relaxation.

It has been studied since the early 1980s and gained prominence in the past decade. As someone who grew up wandering around the woods and feeling so magical and connected, it was a natural attraction. So, to find a local certified guide in the southern New England area who is Queer was outstanding. This writer met Tam Willey while I was completing a 5-day intensive training for Forest Therapy and was excited to know they were living near Rhode Island.

Willey leads Forest Therapy walks as a certified trainer, and they sat down with Options to discuss their work. They are a mentor and trainer with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) and have actively gotten Queer and Trans people into nature over the past decade. Listening to Willey, they spoke calmly and peacefully and they radiate the serenity one often searches for in nature.

Willey explained what Forest Therapy and being in nature is. Going into the forest has been a part of everyone’s lives, as Willey explained that “it is very core and activates a primal side of us” and that “being in nature is really second nature.” As one who went into the woods for play, this writer shared their sentiment. When we touched on what being Queer in nature is for them, Willey explained that Queer and Trans beings “get really stuck in our heads and on the internet too much, that we’re just having these kinds of conversations about gender and identity.” Yet, Willey noted “I think it’s really hard to know what’s true for us without being immersed in having a regular nature connection.”

There is a genuine sense that Willey has deep care and compassion for others and what they call “the other than human world,” being “all the inhabitants of the forest.” They related that being in nature made them feel more of themselves, more alive, and more present and engaged: “When I say nature connection, I mean in the form of getting outside, touching dirt, being in the woods like any kind of unplugging from technology.”

They discuss how it started for them: “I know that there was something really rewarding about hiking” and that after their first hiking experience, it was “really mind-blowing to me that you could pack a backpack and just walk off into the woods.”

Willey is a gender-expansive person who gives off this serene and welcoming sense. Living with their partner in Boston, they get out of the city a lot and they work to encourage others to get out to the forest as well. Sitting down with them made me feel at ease, and I can see why they can easily lead others into nature so often.

Willey is a dynamic person and brings who they are to their love of nature. “What I offer people is Tam Willey, Forest Therapy Guide, and mentor.” For Willey, being Queer in nature has meant they bring more of themselves to others. “The biggest thing that Forest Therapy has brought me is this more expansive perspective in holding space for people.” They weave in who they are as a Queer transmasculine people into their love of the natural world: “I think it’s super important to just get offline. I think Queer and Trans people could really benefit from getting offline and just being with people in person.”

This is the core part of Forest Therapy, to see the mental health benefits of getting outside. With the recent legislative attacks on the Queer community, finding ways to be Queer and joyful are so important. The therapeutic benefits, finding a deeper connection to who we are, and becoming more aware of what is important are all big reasons for the Queer community to access Forest Therapy.

Willey leads forest walks in the Boston area and in collaboration with Base Camp in Vermont, part of VentureOut a Queer hiking non-profit that centers outdoor adventures for the LGBTQ+ community in New England. You can reach Willey – who holds regular forest walks – at their website

Jordan Goldsmith’s Queer Farming in the Rhode Island area

Goldsmith at Moonrose farm.

Being connected to the land is so essential and vital. Knowing where your food comes from and is local is an amazing feeling. Better yet, to know that local Queer farms are feeding the Rhode Island and south coast area is extraordinary. That is why Options sat down with Jordan Goldsmith, who co-runs Moonrose Farms in Rehobeth, MA, with her wife.

She had a steady and grounded demeanor to them as we talked. One can easily see the welcoming effect of having such a presence a farm has on one visiting their farmstands in Cranston, RI, or Rehobeth, MA. There was a lot of excitement in Goldsmith’s tone as she talked about the work she is doing with her wife to create a community supported agriculture (CSA) and educate local Rhode Island Queer young persons on how to farm.

Goldsmith wanted a better way for the Queer community to connect to the land, though it didn’t start that way as she explained, “I didn’t always feel like my gender and Queerness were celebrated in who I was as a chef.” She went on to say the shift from being a chef to farming made sense, as she related that “what we are doing is making food accessible to people who are experiencing food insecurities and build community through it.”

Goldsmith and her wife both have a clear intention of getting access to the land for the Queer community. Being a Queer Women-run farm was important as Goldsmith faced a lot of barriers in learning how to farm and wanted to make others' experiences easier and more fulfilling. She explained, “That was important for us to create the ability for people to have a safe learning environment, group, program where they are not going to feel that their gender, sexual orientation, ability, or anything is discriminated when they are learning how to farm.”

It was clear that community and building positive connections were important for Goldsmith. When asked why it was so special being Queer in nature, Goldsmith talked about the feeling of being connected to the land and how much that makes her feel alive and interconnected to others and other species. She went on to say: “It's also that theirs no judgment. The ability to feel connected to others by being connected to the land.”

Access to nature for Goldsmith creates opportunities for Queer people to have a deeper connection to nourishing their bodies: “With how much hate and harm is directed at the Queer and Trans community, it is a space where it is free of persecution, and having access to nature gives people the ability to sort of shut things off for a little while and let your mind rest.”

Goldsmith and her wife help create pathways for Queer folk to learn about agriculture “even if they don’t fit the bill on what a farmer looks like”. Right now, Moonrose Farm is beginning to be a full swing with the growing season. You can visit them at Moonrosefarms, find them online at and check out the many ways to connect to food, farming, and agriculture near Providence.


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