Permaqueer – Isn’t They Lovely

Guy Ritani knows permaculture design is limited only by the imagination of the designer and our society. That’s how Permaqueer enriches us. Guy runs Permaqueer with their partner to facilitate access for lesbian, gay bisexual transsexual, asexual LGBTQIA plus and bipod communities.

Our interview with Guy Ritani of Permaqueer

‘The Edge Is Where It’s At’

Guy has discovered that the queer community “sits on the fringe, on the edge of society” with unique perspectives. “And a lot of the systems don’t necessarily cater to our ways of being.. our ways of knowing… our ways of relating. The spaces that our community sits in is typically in the cracks and the edges of the system. What we’ve realized is that getting feedback and designing from the cracks manages to close those cracks”. Inclusivity makes that system more resilient and makes the society more resilient.

‘We know in permaculture that we need a vast diversity of organisms interacting in a rich ecosystem. And that’s the same in social spheres’ says Guy. Yet, we are conditioned in our society to have certain beliefs and understandings about how society should work.

Pink, Blue or Rainbow?

Permaqueer call these sets of expectation Binaries. “so it’s one or the other – it’s hot or cold… it’s rich or poor, when in reality there’s a whole spectrum of how things exist, as you know. It’s not just a top canopy and ground cover. But we see many things in between and all the insects and animals that interact within the forest.

A lot of assumptions exist in our society predicated from these binaries. They are as restrictive as monocultures in agriculture. There is cross-pollination, growth, diversity and resilience. To gain abundance we need complexity. If we stay rigid in social ‘monocultures of thought’ we miss opportunities for growth.

Beyond Our Binaries

Permaqueer explores the binaries. Firstly, and most obvious is the binary of gender. This about the individual unit that’s about our personal zone. That’s about how we relate to ourselves and it’s about how we relate to others. We know this horrific history of gendered roles and rights to women and there’s also horrific implications of toxic patriarchy. Above all, we see this binary in horrible roles and ideals of how women and men should be. Yet, in reality, we’re all just people with inherent qualities.

We need to shed a lot more light on this gender issue because it drives our culture of destruction and extraction. At the core of this we need to start inspecting our culture on a systemic level.

It takes education initially to understand you know what are these queers talking about. They’re wearing makeup and earrings and women’s dresses and maybe that appears a bit ridiculous. But, we see a lot of the systems aren’t working. We know how damaging they are.


Making of A Non-Violent Culture

We’re seeing a younger generation not wanting to identify with any of that. And actually, they’re discovering an exciting, beautiful and amazing space of love and expression. They feel accepted by others in a space that doesn’t align to toxic behaviors and simplified ‘monocultures of thought’.

On one hand, it’s about personal identity. But it’s also about disassociating with damaging behaviours that are causing climate change and violence against women and children.

Dragon of climate change

Honesty and Integrity

After is the issue of personal identification comes the concept of sex and gender. This is something widely misunderstood. Gender and sex are different you know how we choose to identify and express ourselves. Guy is gender-fluid. at one stage Guy was Sarah with supportive parents saying “you do you sarah”. Throughout Guy’s life gender never really mattered. “I’ve never run into issues until I come across people that are very set in this binary. And they think ‘hey! you’re not doing the things that you’re meant to do’. They go “I need to bully you. I need you to change.” To Guy, they are being the weird ones. Because there’s no reason to be nasty or horrible to people.

Gender appears in whichever way people want it to. But a lot of people are uncomfortable with that. Also, if people choose to identify differently this doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. However, it is when we start policing how other people choose to be that we start running into problems.

Biological not always logical

Then we have the other side of that – sex. That’s the binary of ‘man and woman’ but we’ve understood for ages that’s not biologically correct, says Guy. There are many different expressions of sex: chromosomal, hormonal and chemical. We even see unwanted changes brought about by toxic chemicals.

Guy Ritani & Toad Dell presenting at recent Australasian Permaculture Convergence

There’s actually a gigantic spectrum of sexual diversity from a biological perspective. So, the social norm of what is a man and what is a woman is scientifically inaccurate. “What are we actually dealing with here?” asks Guy. If we’ve got this whole spectrum of of what sex is – why do we have such a problem with it? why is it so difficult?

This binary is behind a lot of really damaging behaviour. It’s behind a lot of trauma. There’s a weird conditioning that creates a gendered attitude towards nature.

Ethics in Practice

Social permaculture is about culture. It’s about how we relate to each other. And, it’s about how our behaviors and actions are manifest in the world. We can create practical and ethical structures of social relating.

Guy supports permaculture’s aim to combine ethics and practical solutions. We need this to address the compounding cascades of catastrophe and crisis.

Why I value the queer community is because there’s there’s no linear genealogy of queer people. They just appear randomly. And there’s no specific culture of queer people. There’s no specific race of queer people. Queer people have to relate to each other. You just have to have this predisposed sense of sort of love and communication. And safety. Because you don’t know what’s coming. You don’t know which random queer magical being is going to appear in your space. And, you have to know how to respect that and deal with that. Being able to observe and interact with queer people’s ways of being with models of justice is revolutionary.

Queer Issues

One of the biggest issues in the queer community, is access to good quality food. We all need nutrient dense food. But also access to housing. Permaculture co-housing models shown in David Holmgren’s Retrosuburbia are a great pragmatic solution. “I do really value the trade-off between these two spaces. Initially I believe there will be a weird sort of cultural ‘side-eye’. We’ll be asking “ah, how do we both feel comfortable in this space?”. And being able to have that perspective is is a way that you can get further feedback from a system. That’s why I’m really wanting to have queers come into permaculture. To be like “oh okay, how are the different ways that we can do this?” smiles Guy.

The Queer Perspective

The perspectives of queer people erupting into viable solutions, not only benefit Queer people. It benefits society as a whole. Because there are different, maybe better ways to do things. Historically, queer people had to challenge systems. They’ve learnt to become creative yet still true to themselves. They have maintained their gender integrity. A queer person is regularly challenged. As a result, their bravery and honesty makes them stronger. Strength, creativity and adaption are powerful assets to every community.

Better For All

Through understanding our biases we get better social relating and will design better systems. The benefits include getting more people to work with you. Because we desperately need to work together to solve the big issues of climate abuse.

“From permaculture and grassroots movement we know the change has grown from the bottom up. We need to be the change that we want to see in the world. And I’ve I haven’t seen that done any better than in permaculture spaces.

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