Wyn Wiley, additionally identified by their drag title Pattie Gonia, instructed their story to producer Maren Larsen for an episode of The Day by day Rally Podcast. It has been edited for size and readability.
I feel that birds sing to one another within the morning as a method of asking one another in the event that they made it by way of the night time. It’s like doing slightly roll name of, Hey, did you make it? Did you make it? And I feel that queer individuals do the identical factor. I feel that why we’re loud and proud and rejoice satisfaction and are who we’re is to do our model of shouting throughout the meadow, our model of slightly roll name of like, Are you right here? Did you make it? I made it.
My title is Wyn Wiley, however you may know me as Pattie Gonia, Patricia Gonia, if ya nasty. I’m a drag queen, I’m an environmentalist, and I’m an expert homosexual individual. As Wyn my pronouns are he/they and in drag, my pronouns as Pattie are she/they.
Most all of my drag is impressed by the outside and by nature. There are such a lot of species that exhibit queerness, and so lots of my drag appears to be like are primarily based on that, but additionally so lots of my drag appears to be like are taking very masculine out of doors gear and making it into the gayest little outfits you’ve ever seen.
That’s the very seen, very outward-facing facet of drag. However actually drag is an artwork kind that queer individuals use to precise their femininity, to go on a private journey to neighborhood manage, to be an activist.
So that’s what I do.
As slightly queer child rising up in Nebraska, the primary areas I ever felt myself had been in my yard. I’d actually simply leap off a swing set and carry out Cats, the musical. I’d make mud pies. I’d simply observe all of the bugs and nature and squirrels, and I simply felt so alive. Quite a lot of that modified in center college and highschool, once I began to come across homophobia, and I used to be instructed that for me being homosexual, I used to be not pure. I used to be incorrect. I began separating myself from nature quite a bit.
I had two actually vivid highschool experiences hooked up to nature. They had been each summer time camp experiences. One was with Boy Scouts, and this different summer time camp expertise was this YMCA summer time camp referred to as Camp Kitaki.
I went to each of those summer time camps each summer time from freshman 12 months of highschool to senior 12 months of highschool, and going to each of those camps for the primary time was simply night time and day completely different.
I bear in mind being at a Boy Scout summer time camp, and simply the quantity of homophobia that was there, and insecurity that was there, and poisonous masculinity that was there, and militarization that was there, was simply astounding to me. I at all times simply bear in mind being on edge. However I didn’t know any higher or completely different. I believed this was what males or boys had been presupposed to do.
However then going to this YMCA summer time camp, Camp Kitaki, on the finish of the summer time was essentially the most relieving expertise ever. I might be myself, different individuals might be themselves. It was so liberating and welcoming and plenty of the advisors themselves had been queer.
Camp Kitaki’s slogan is, “The place the magic by no means ends.” And I actually really feel like that magic is de facto assembly individuals the place they’re at and serving to them succeed. Actually being an open place for youth irrespective of the place they’re at. Quite a lot of the campers that go there are from completely different financial backgrounds, and camp is only a actually nice equal taking part in floor for teenagers to develop in a relationship with one another.
I feel that YMCA summer time camp of Camp Kitaki saved my life in highschool in plenty of methods. It was the one area that saved my relationship to the outside alive rising up.
If I take into consideration why I’m going exterior, it’s to attach with that little queer child that was sitting there in that yard in Nebraska. It’s to attach with that top college child that was at summer time camp. It’s to take again plenty of life that I really feel like I couldn’t reside as a result of I used to be too anxious to be who I actually was.
So when Pattie was born, I knew that it was gonna be essential to me to attempt to discover some type of a summer time camp factor that I may give again to, and I discovered Courageous Trails, which is such an unbelievable area for queer youth to have a summer time camp expertise that’s created by LGBTQ individuals for LGBTQ individuals. Even the med employees is LGBTQ, so that you’re having reworked healthcare at our summer time camp. It’s a dream, and it’s such an essential area the place we are able to use the outside to seek out out extra about who we’re. I would like that have for each queer individual.
I bear in mind the primary time I went to Courageous Trails as a counselor. The primary night time I used to be there at camp, there was a drag present. It was so superb to see these youngsters carry out, and throw on completely different outfits, and throw on completely different wigs, and make these fantasies a actuality, and carry out for one another. The gang would go wild after each single performer. It was an surroundings the place individuals felt so supported. When individuals really feel so supported, the brilliance that may occur is out of this world.
Actually, I get requested on a regular basis who my favourite drag queens are, and I’m like, “My summer time campers at Courageous Trails.” 100%. Seeing these youngsters take the stage and carry out drag with extra confidence than I may ever muster myself as Pattie was so inspiring, and I used to be like, the youth, they obtained us, they’re gonna be simply nice. I’m a grandparent drag queen now, simply Grandma Pattie.
However there’s a large come down after getting back from Courageous Trails, reintegrating into the world after being in an area the place you’re round one hundred pc queer individuals. Issues have been laborious these days. It’s a extra polarized and divisive world than ever. However I feel that there’s an invite to maintain the magic alive. In my life, I simply need to hold that magic of summer time camp alive it doesn’t matter what I do. I feel we’re all sort of simply ready on the sidelines for an invite to play and be our true selves.
I feel if I may give a youthful model of myself one piece of recommendation, it could be to seek out your different little birdies to sit down within the tree with and sing with. It doesn’t must be plenty of birds, it simply must be just a few. However discover your individuals to verify in with and just remember to’ve made it.
We want queer individuals within the outside, not just for ourselves, but additionally for one another. There’s lots of people on the market that must see different queer individuals exist and be pleased and be proud and be within the outside.
Wyn Wiley is an environmentalist, range and inclusion advocate, and climbing, browsing, snowboarding, and climbing drag queen. They co-founded the Outdoorist Oath, a nonprofit that creates a extra numerous outside by way of training and neighborhood constructing. You’ll be able to observe them on Instagram @pattiegonia, and see their work with Courageous Trails at bravetrails.org.
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