For many, the ancient sport of birdwatching is part of the outdated patriarchy, a past-time for superannuated cisgendered white men with oversized binoculars. But a new generation of LGBTQ birding enthusiasts (or “birders” as they are known) is working hard to make this eco-friendly hobby a more inclusive and welcoming space.
It’s often thought that many LGBTQ travelers are drawn to nature precisely because birds and animals offer no judgments or condescension. After all, a bird or a crocodile isn’t going to care who you love or how you’re dressed. And nature is full of animals that would be labeled as “queer” if they were humans, including the parrotfish of Belize’s Barrier Reef which is known to switch genders. Therefore, it’s no surprise that LGBTQ birders are increasingly taking an active role in the hobby of bird watching. Wildlife refuges and national parks where birds thrive are sanctuaries for birds and humans alike, and environmentally conscious people are often strong allies of the LGBTQ community.
John Rowden, a long-time birder and director of an Audubon Society conservation project, stated, “The field of bird watching is definitely dominated by white men. And I’m saying that as a white man myself. That’s why it’s important to have more diversity so that we birders are just as varied as the birds we love to study.”
Unlike more traditional styles of birdwatching where groups of cisgendered men make spotting birds in the wild a competitive, aggressive contest to see who can rack up the most species, LGBTQ birders are working hard to make the experience more inclusive and fun. “Many queer birders simply feel left out,” said Chase Mendenhall, the curator of birds at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
In 1994, the Gay Birders’ Club was founded in Britain, believed to be the first openly LGBTQ birding organization in the world. In 2002, a group of birding enthusiasts founded the Queer Birders of North America (QBNA), the first nationwide LGBTQ birding association in the United States.
Birdwatching is one of the most popular activities for travelers in Belize. Some 600 bird species have been recorded in Belize, and the Audubon Society manages six Important Birding Areas (IBAs) around the country.
If you’re interested in doing some birdwatching in Belize or enjoying some of the amazing nature in the country, be sure to book your vacation with Belize Gay Travel. Belize Gay Travel is the country’s only travel agency that specializes in arranging and booking vacations for LGBTQ travelers.