Queering Biology

Queering is a technique that challenges and questions categorical concepts, especially those related to sexual identity, gender expression, and heteronormative assumptions. Applied to biology, queering interrogates narratives of what is “normal” and “abnormal” across the diversity of life on earth, including humans. How have the biological sciences constructed and policed modern categories of sex and gender identity?

This page is a collection of works that have influenced my personal thinking on queering biology, and may be useful to others on a similar journey. There is no text book or complete go-to resource on this topic. Therefore, I have included works that are partially but not entirely relevant, and inclusion on this list should not be considered a wholesale endorsement.

Queering biology is interdisciplinary, so this list includes not only scientific content, but also history, autobiography, and philosophy. Fiction can also create space for “playful re-imaginings” of alternate social and biological possibilities. Of course, I am an evolutionary biologist and I am drawn to writing that pertains to this field. If you need a place to start, I recommend Dr. Karen Warkentin’s lecture (a broad cross-species perspective), Sexing the Body by Anne Austo-Sterling (a human perspective), and How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler (a beautifully queer blend of science and memoir). If you have recommendations for additions, please let me know!


Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality
Anne Fausto-Sterling

Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People
Joan Roughgarden

How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures
Sabrina Imbler

Nature’s Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves
Menno Schilthuizen

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures
Merlin Sheldrake

Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals
Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis
Emily Willingham

Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom
Daphne J. Fairbairne

Queer Feminist Science Studies
Edited by Cyd Cipolla, Kristina Gupta, David A. Rubin, and Angela Willey

The Biology of Reproduction
Giuseppe Fusco and Alessandro Minelli
*Textbook style overview of all forms of reproduction across lifeforms

Essays and Shorter Works

Dyke (geology)
Sabrina Imbler

My Metamorphosis
Sabrina Imbler

Queer Theory for Lichens
David Griffiths

Scientific Racism and the Emergence of the Homosexual Body
Siobhan Somerville

Queer Birds: Avian Sex Reversal & the Origins of Modern Sexology
Ross Brooks

Scientific Reviews and Perspectives

An alternative hypothesis for the evolution of same-sex sexual behaviour in animals
Julia D. Monk, Erin Giglio, Ambika Kamath, Max R. Lambert & Caitlin E. McDonough

Weird sex: the underappreciated diversity of sexual reproduction
This is a journal theme issue with several papers compiled and edited by Duur Aanen, Madeleine Beekman and Hanna Kokko

“Weird Sex really refers to our weird tendency to ignore most of what lives around us.”

Recorded Media

Queerly Natural Podcast
Follow their twitter and instagram
Ilana Zeitzer, Hannah Roden, and Elizabeth Fuhrman

Crossing boundaries, disrupting binaries: A queer perspective on studying behavioral diversity
Karen Warkentin
2020 Animal Behavior Society Conference Plenary

On Teaching

Project Biodiversify
Tools for promoting diversity & inclusivity in biology classrooms

Gender-Inclusive Biology Sam Long, Lewis Steller, and River X. Suh

Trans inclusion in the biology classroom
Jess McLaughlin