A Database of All
Another Mother is a database that honors and provides space for the many species of plant, animal, and fungi who exhibit the following as evolutionary survival strategies:
-non-heterosexual mating rituals
This resource can be searched freely and encourages the user to seek out and learn about these individuals by uploading their findings on a map.
The database began as a response to an open call by the University of Pennsylvania program in Environmental Humanities called The Ecotopian Toolkit to address water justice in the Delaware River Watershed. The public workshop, exhibition, and catalog were sponsored by the Independence Seaport Museum.
Most of us are taught that heterosexuality is the optimal survival strategy for all beings, that it is nature’s way. This is a myth that excludes the multitudes of plants, animals, and fungi who operate in non-heterosexual, reproductively complex, multi-sex ways every moment all over the world.
What are the structural mechanisms keeping this myth alive? Who are the scientific gatekeepers and what is at stake? We are not taught that there are ‘trans’ species. If we were, what might happen to our collective consciousness?
Another Mother began in 2014 as an educational zine, called Transplants, which developed out of a desire to prove that queerness and transness, for lack of better words, existed in the plant world―and that many plants were “trans.” I use the term ‘trans’ to refer to plant bodies, but in truth, there is no word to describe what is actually happening in plant reproductive behavior. Although botanists still utilize the terms, ‘male’ and ‘female’ to describe a plant’s reproductive parts, this language is a projection of human anatomy onto non-human beings, and has no real meaning. Since we don’t share a language, we can’t know how plants, animals, or fungi understand gender, if at all.
Like many queer and trans people, I often yearn for language which does not exist, in order to describe elusive phenomena about my experience of the world that feel important. With some hesitation, I’ll use the term ‘trans’, in quotes, to describe plants whose reproductive expressions are complex and switchy. Perhaps a new word is on the horizon.
I learned that some plants were ‘trans’ in 2013 in the UC Santa Cruz Organic Farming and Sustainable Agriculture apprenticeship program. This is a 6-month-long training program where participants live and work closely with 50 people, and learn the science, history, and techniques of organic farming while studying food system and food justice frameworks. During one of our botany workshops, I learned that many plants have flowers with both “male” and “female” reproductive parts (pistil and stamen.) These flowers are known in the world of botany, as “perfect.” This piece of information was especially inspiring and validating for me, as a trans person who farms. I started thinking about "where our food comes from" on a whole new level - like, these organisms are ancient, they predate us as human beings and they contain genetic information which allows them to adapt to dramatic shifts in temperature and environment. Part of their strength, part of why they still exist through climate change here on earth is their ability to change what I’m perceiving as their “gender” (but what is actually something that I will most likely never understand), to maximize their reproductive capacity.
Receiving validation in my transness through the natural world is something I had not expected to receive. I wondered how it was possible that I had been working so closely with plants for so long and not known these things, and I wondered what else I didn’t know."