Backcountry drag queen and environmental and social justice advocate-in-progress, Pattie Gonia opens up on how Mother Natch inspires her to be herself.
Towering at nearly seven feet tall in high heeled boots and with a rainbow flag often billowing in her wake, Pattie Gonia’s (she/her) presence feels like a force of energy. Since photographer Wyn Wiley (he/his) created his first video as Pattie Gonia two years ago, Pattie has become a phenomenon in the outdoor community for creating space for Queer visibility and using her growing platform to center marginalized voices.
Through her videos and photos that turn the dusty trails into her runway, she educates about important issues from plastic pollution to allyship with compassion, humor, vulnerability and honesty in an imaginative flair that’s wholly her own.
We caught up with Pattie to hear how the outdoors has provided a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community and why allyship work should be taken seriously and be creative.
Wyn Wiley and Pattie Gonia.
Tell us about yourself, Pattie Gonia! What inspired you to create your first video in high heeled boots and how has your mission evolved since you started?
My name is Pattie and I’m a drag queen, advocate-in-progress and I’m focused on intersectional environmentalism and creating Queer visibility and community in the outdoors. A lot has changed over the past two years since I was born in the backcountry but the biggest way my mission has evolved has been to realize my responsibility to my community and to Mother Natch.
How does nature inspire you to be yourself?
Nature is everything! We so often forget it isn’t nature and humans, but rather, we are nature itself. Nature also gives me the space and backdrop to be most true to myself in every way in and out of drag. Nature is also where I find my queer community through group hikes and volunteering at a LGBTQ+ summer camp named Brave Trails.
How have you seen the outdoors and (outdoor community) provide a safe and secure place for the LGBTQ+ community?
I think we’ve seen more actions of allyship than ever towards the LGBTQ+ community in the outdoors. But I also think that there is so far to go to ally more intersectional people like Black Trans lives in the outdoors.
How would you define what it means to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and BIPOC communities?
Allyship is when you leverage your privilege to accomplice others in the fight for social, racial, or environmental rights/justice. Your privileges are all your forms of capital a person has—it can include anything from your money to your social media platform to your voice to your skills to your position at work or in your community.
What does it mean to you to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and BIPOC communities?
It means everything. I’m learning more and more every day how much work it requires but how passionate I am about this work.
What advice do you have for people who are learning about allyship?
My number one piece of advice is to make allyship a daily habit and to always remember to make it fun. Actions of allyship have a domino effect and an action of allyship in one area is almost always linked to potential action in others. Also, make allyship fun for you—I don’t mean to not take this work seriously but to do it with collaboration, community, art, your story and your culture in mind. See allyship as a form of creation just like a piece of art—because it is an art form!
How have you seen the outdoor space evolve to welcome people from all walks of life?
I’ve seen affinity communities grown by outdoor leaders grow over the past two years in the most beautiful ways. Giving everyone from Black to Queer to women all spaces to be in community with each other.
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride to me means celebrating all that you are and reminding yourself that there is so much beauty that can happen when you live true to who you are and inspire others to do the same.
If you could tell one thing to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t be so afraid, zip up your boots, there’s a whole world out there that’s going to love you and there’s a whole lot of work to do.