Words: Thomas Stichbury
Category is saving the mothertuckin’ planet as Wyn Wiley, aka environmental drag queen – or rather ‘thing’ – Pattie Gonia, speaks up about activism and his efforts to queer up the outdoors.
With over 300,000 followers on Instagram, Wyn grabbed the world’s attention a couple of years ago when he unleashed his alter-ego, Pattie, into the wild, sharing pictures and videos of himself hiking in heels.
What began as “kind of, like, this joke” evolved and became Wyn’s life work, to build LGBTQ+ communities to help in the fight for the environment, from advocating climate action to tackling plastics dumped in the world’s oceans.
“A lot of drag artists are professional makeup artists and stylists and can sew and can make, and I have such mad respect,” he starts.
“[But] we often forget that the art form of drag was born out of activism and advocacy and protest and I’m hoping to get it back there. I think we need a lot more queens standing up for a lot more things than just stunting and looking pretty.”
Wyn – who collaborates with sustainable designers and, as Pattie, wears wigs fashioned from rubbish (like litter-ally) – says a huge part of his mission involves getting queer people to care about and embrace the outside.
He explains: “The conversation around environmentalism has been primarily held by white, straight, cis people in power that just claim – yet again – for another thing.
"The intersectional environmentalism movement is about centring the voices of those most affected by climate change and realising that climate action starts with realising who you are and what is uniquely available to you and only you.
“For me, that’s building queer community in the outdoors because if we can’t be connected to the outdoors, how the hell are we going to fight for it? If we don’t get the most marginalised and underrepresented and – specifically for me – queer people outdoors, then we’re missing a whole group of humans that could also uniquely put their oomph and energy behind the movement.”
From organising hikes and volunteering to uplifting the work of his peers, 28-year-old Wyn blazes trails, literally and figuratively.
However, Wyn wishes to make it clear that the reason he is able to take up space in this sphere is because of his privilege.
“Why we’re here and why you know that I exist is because I am a very – I hold a lot of privilege; I’m straight-passing, I’m white, I’m male,” he lists.
“There’s a lot of trans, POC and trans, differently-abled queer people that have been in the outdoors for ever, but no one’s been noticing because I’m a lot more palatable for people to swallow.”
“That’s really important for readers to recognise, that this is not a movement that I’ve started: I do this work on the shoulders of greats,” he adds.