An interview with Kes and Anja about their amazing work around queer plants and animals!
Links & resources from this episode
- Kes Otter Lieffe’s website
- Kes’s podcast – Margins and Murmurations
- Anja Van Geert’s website
- Anja’s instagram @pinprimrose
- Trans Herbalism podcast interview
- Order your copy of the Queer Plants Colouring zine
- Order your copy of the Queer Animals Colouring zine
Find them all at solidarityapothecary.org/podcast/
Music from Sole & DJ Pain – Battle of Humans | Plant illustrations by @amani_writes | In solidarity, please subscribe, rate & review this podcast wherever you listen.
So it's a bit of a time skip, but I'm gonna put links to their projects and their websites in my show notes. So please check that out. And I will be back with a prisoner herbal episode soon. But for now, yeah. Enjoy this interview. It was tons of fun. I'm really sorry about the sound quality in parts.
Like I take responsibility for that with experimenting with the software and did a sound check for myself, but not for everyone that was being interviewed. So, yeah, I'm really sorry, but, I'm sure they will be back on the show in the future with much nicer, fancy sound quality. And I'll probably let Kess do all of the tech stuff cuz she's an angel! I haven't like, got my head around doing interviews yet because I've just been doing these like solo episodes about the prisoner's herbal. Anyway, thank you so much again to everyone who joined the Herbalism, PTSD & Traumatic Stress course. It's gonna be open for enrollment again, hopefully in October but on the course page, there's now a link to like a waiting list. So if you wanna be like, you know, emailed, notified when it's available, then please sign up to that. And everyone who joins that waiting list also gets a discount on the course. All right. Okay, let's dive into the interview.Nicole: [:
Kes: Hi, I'm Kes.
Anja: And I'm Anja.
Nicole: I mean like…
Kes: You want like a proper introduction? Okay
Nicole: Okay. I know you do like. All the things, like literally all the things like caps lock. Um, so I'd love to hear a little bit about yeah. What you're doing and um, yeah, how, you know, stuff you're involved in, involved with in the world and things.ok, which is our first time. [:
Kes: Um, who? Me and Anja!
Nicole: No, I said woohoo .
Kes: Oh, woohoo!
Nicole: I know you’ve got a degree in world, right? Like you're actually like hardcore geek under there.
Kes: Yeah. And has a PhD in Botany. I have a master's in, uh, a master's? No, I don't. I have a bachelor's in ecology. Um, wow. Just giving myself a little masters. Um, I wish it was that easy.
Nicole: You could get one on the internet, couldn’t you? You just pop it on there.twenty something years. Um, [:e a PhD in Primrose Ecology, [:
Nicole: Amazing. Yeah. And all that fundraising has been like, so appreciated over the years. Um, if people don’t know, Books Beyond Bars is like a prisoner book project. Um, which yeah, we can talk about another time, but I know, um, you were also part of starting that, weren't you before I think, Kes?a few times on book tour and [:Nicole: Yeah, definitely. [:
And yeah, I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about, um, your inspiration for those and maybe for folks who haven't heard about them, like what they are. Um, cuz yet they're definitely like my favourite things to colour in. So yeah. Tell me more. That'd be amazing.the people who've supported.[:
And so I was like, okay, that would be cute. That would even make sense and kind of, um, be relevant to the project. So, um, I did some very bad drawings and made it, I think it was like, just like a PDF or something, maybe there was some printed copies. And, um, from there, somehow now we're at, uh, zine two.ext month or so. And yeah. , [:
I get to sit there with my books and the internet and like geek out about things that I care about a lot and we make something beautiful that people can enjoy, that we can raise funds for solidarity apothecary, we can send copies to books beyond bars. I just feel like it's this like very political creative, um, I don't know, we're just kind of getting to do things that we like and doing something good in the world. It just feels like the dream to be honest.gay? Like, hey, uh, like, do [:
Uh, yeah. I can take, uh, animals and, uh, I'll give plants to Anja.
Anja: Alright.o it can be something really [:
Things like this, like it's almost become kind of common knowledge and it's something that is, quite accessible to people and I think having it be a colouring book, which is very accessible, um, and, yeah it just kind of brings it to a lot of people that they can be like, oh look, this is a thing. And people will, you know, feel identified with their queer animal or something.kinds of queer things during [:
And it's interesting to be looking at like, the history of that, of like the history of people kind of seeing things and observing them and kind of hiding the information or, um, publishing bias of like, certain papers are gonna get published. Certain things are not, some things are gonna be, certain kinds of sexual behaviour is gonna be seen as an anomaly and so we don't need to talk about it and it doesn't make it into the research and nobody ever knows about it.all these kind of layers of, [:Can you tell me a little bit [:
Anja: We all know! Um, I think plants are very special, right? Like, um, in the sense that like we as humans have kind of tried to, to kind of put like a human filter on their experiences and their like way of living their lives, right? And I think if you actually look at how plants do live their life, It has nothing, you know, like it has nothing to do with any type of heterosexual, kind of like boy-meets-girl kind of story.and, and you know, how, how [:different and I think that's [:
Anja: So yeah, just, just that. If you're just thinking about mating systems, they're like very, very queer. If you look at how they relate to other species for pollination for, um, seed dispersal. They're also very queer. Um, if you look at their genetics, it's, it's amazingly complex and intriguing. They can hybridise, they can, um, you know, like a tree can basically grow through a fence without an issue, which is pretty amazing. So they're very adaptable. They're very plastic. Um, yeah.gh we've been learning about [:
Nicole: um, and your zine, like, I think it's like, again, like a really beautiful little tender introduction to some of these like concepts. Um, around kind of like reproduction or, um, yeah, like have you got, have you got like a particular favourite plant in your zine? Um, like either of you, have you got one that you'd like to share about today?
Kes: Anja definitely has.
Anja: I actually don't know if I have, I like them all. Really, like, obviously pimrose always has like a special place in my heart because, I've done my PhD on them, and, um, they are amazing. Uh, but yeah, I have to say I like all plants.
Kes: Tell us about the primrose, Anja!one of the main reasons why [:
Anja: Um, and so they are like a model species and at the same time they break all rules of that model all the time. Right. So, um, the little story goes that you've got two types of plants. Um, within the primroses you've got pin plants and thrum plants and in theory reproduction, like viable seeds only, uh, come out of mating between a pin with a thrum or a thrum with a pin.Anja: [:
Nicole: I think I'm probably similar! No, I’m joking. But no, they're like really beautiful flowers. And it's nearly theor season, right? Well, I guess for you, maybe you'll get them in like May or something, but um, they're coming out near me.w lots of ecology types are, [:
Anja: So with these Split Gill mushrooms, it's quite special. Like we can't really talk about sexes in them as we can talk about male and female that doesn't really, um, apply to these, um, mushrooms. But they have, uh, different mating, um, mating types.ese mushrooms, there are two [:w, yeah, you, you could look [:our book. Um, the first one. [:s and the blackbirds and um, [:
Kes: Um, and even more in the new novel, which is coming soon. Um, I think that was always, a really strong element for my writing. Um, and it's been interesting as well because, you know, with this like Queer Ecology project, it's, I think, as I was saying before, it like speaks to people on lots of different levels.erbalism, um, and land-based [:
Kes: Um, uh, rather than it be like a manifesto or something, but I think the, Um, what I'm really enjoying with the, the queer ecology work as well is that, you know, sometimes it's ecology for queers. How is this like relevant to our community organising or our community living, or our lives? And sometimes it's queerness for ecologists.hese very, very geeky things [:
Kes: And I don't know, there's a lot of mutual aid to learn about in queer ecology, and I'm just really enjoying like how all these like weird connections are happening in my brain that I'm not sure. Um, yeah, I dunno. Just really enjoying it.
Nicole: Amazing. And that is sort of like queerness, right? Like looking at those margins and those binaries and like Yeah, and I thought that that actually, like some people might have like this like ecology entry point, if that makes sense cause.
Nicole: I connect with a lot of queers who like live in cities and like maybe they're not so interested in like the land or non-humans. And then, Yeah, we're like this niche of like queers that are just like, give me plants!a babe. Like you like plants.[:
Nicole: Um, but yeah, so I dunno if there was anything else you wanted to share about the, about the zines, like where people can get them from. Um, and yeah.
Kes: Yeah. I did want to read one of the profiles, um, which is, um, so a lot of them are just, uh, specific species, but this is just like a whole section on lichens, um, and yeah, I'm just gonna read it out because it's really cute. Uh, so lichens, smash binaries, wherever they go. Symbiosis was once seen as a radical concept. The idea that a lichen was a compound organism of a fungus and a green alga, or a photosynthesizing, bacteria called a cyanobacteria that benefited mutually from the relationship seemed absurd to scientists.nthetic superpowers. Working [:
Kes: Fungi and cyanobacteria, who also from lichens, are not even in the same domain, meaning that you and a mushroom are closer relations than any two that come together to create lichen. In general, living things diverge over time as each branch of the evolutionary trees splits into smaller and smaller twigs.d surface more than tropical [:
Kes: The closer people examined lichens, the more species they found mixed into the relationship. Not just one fungus, but several and loads of bacteria turned up who couldn't eat rocks or photosynthesise but could do all kinds of other useful things. It's grown ever more complex to the point that two species lichens might not even be a thing.
Kes: And what we've been calling an organism this whole time might be a system of interactions, a whole community. Lichens, bringing all the complexity, and we love them for it!
Nicole: Yay! And if anyone loves listening to your voice, they can also check out your podcast, eh?, Do you wanna just share a little bit about your podcast?the name of my first novel. [:trans herbalism, um, sorry, [:
Nicole: Yeah. Was really beautiful. Kept meaning to text you about it. Yeah. So I definitely recommend, um, people checking that out. And I know Anja, you've got like a whole other hat, which is this like Breathwork hat and um, yeah, I'm just about to launch this course about herbalism and PTSD and traumatic stress, and I know that, I personally haven't done any kind of Breathwork practices, but I know it's like a big tool in lots of people's toolboxes. So I think people would be interested in hearing a little bit more about that if you fancy sharing a bit about what you do in terms of facilitating sessions and things.ce practice. It can be very, [:
Anja: Uh, so, uh, at the moment I have not planned anything, uh, yet, but in general, I, I, um, I use Instagram to kind of keep people up to date about what I'm organising. I’m Pin Primrose on Instagram.
Nicole: Okay. Amazing. I'll put it, I'll put it in the show notes too. And your, your lovely website, which I've seen.nk we might have lost Kes. I [:
Kes: No, I'm here. I was just on mute.
Nicole: You've gone like grey and I was like, oh, no.
Kes: Still here!
Nicole: This is the first interview I've done because I mostly been doing these like solo episodes
We're very honoured.
Nicole: A repeated disaster of scheduling and losing the questions and all the like things. But I'm glad I've messed it up with you two.
Kes: Because we're so patient!
Nicole: You know me too well, you’re just like, oh yeah, that's Nicole. She'sll need to reschedule like three times. So yeah, it's . It's been fun.ueer ecology or any of these [:
Nicole: Ooh! Um, on the spot
Kes: Yeah, sorry.
Nicole: No, it's fine. I think, I think for me, there's always this thing of like, like, you know, like these days, like queerness is kind of like this weird commodity on Instagram. It's like social capital of like, um, you know, your, you are a certain thing or whatever, but like, I think, I mean, I'm, you know, I'm 34, just about to turn 35. And even in my generation, it was like very dangerous to be queer, you know, when I was young. Mm-hmm, it's still dangerous in lots of countries around the world and you know, I don't wanna assume it's safe anywhere, but I just mean like, you know, I remember being like threatened in public not being like publicly affectionate with my partners.divergent or like perverted [:
Nicole: Like I don't actually want to be super unique and weird and like stand out all the time. Like I want to just be like part of the world and accept myself being part of the world and yeah. You know, like I'm cis but I'm bisexual. Like to know that there's like, yeah, like bisexual deers for example.
Nicole: Like I remember your Patron has the, you can pick an animal- it was like, yay, deers are bisexual! And I was just like, yeah, like I'm up for that. But yeah, so I think for me it's more that like it's validating and normalising and it's just like this is the norm, this is the default. And like all the other things are just kind of human created, human imposed, like oppressive categories, if that makes sense. Mm-hmm. , um,
Kes: Makes a lot of sense.
Nicole: Does that make sense?Kes: Yeah, [:
Nicole: So yeah, so I think that's my answer. Um, But is there anything else you'd like to share before we finish?
Anja: I would like to just say just recently, um, Kes and I made a little PDF of six profiles on an A4. Um, and. The intent with that is like if there's any organisations that use colouring, you know, for soothing, for comfort with, with people, organisations or people who work with people that like colouring, um, who are, um, that like, working with our queer animals and plants might be a positive thing. We'd be happy just to share that PDF that they could just print out to colour in. And I think anyone can contact me or Kes to get access to that pdf.Nicole: Oh, amazing. [:
Kes: Really beautiful.
Nicole: I mean, I literally wrote some text under each one, but like seeing all the drawings. You know, when some, someone sends me a picture on Instagram of like, you know, through lockdown, their grandmother has been like painting this red clover. Like keeping her going. Cause she's shielding because you know, the pandemic is still happening Anyway. Um, like it's so nice to like get that feedback or get that feedback from someone in prison of like, Hey, this has been mm-hmm. . Yeah. I think if anyone has like, and we know lots of you have been ordering them because I posted a million out before Christmas. Send photos of them being coloured in. Um, yeah. All right.h, both of you. It's been so [:
Kes: Yes! We should soon.
Nicole: Thank you so much for your time today. And your patience while I organise all the rescheduling.
Kes: It's been lovely. Thank you.
Nicole: All the links in the show notes and yeah, thanks so much. Take care.