On an overcast Friday in June, I visited Highlands Natural Pool, a sprawling plot of land, with hiking trails, partially intact cabins, a grassy field with a sandy volleyball court, and an Olympic-sized cement pool filled with siphoned river water tucked next to Norvin Green State Forest, about an hour north of New York City. I was accompanied by six non-binary models. We spent the day unwinding from the demands of the city: playing cards, swimming, eating ice cream, and talking about our experience inhabiting bodies and identities that defy Western gender norms. The freshwater pool (home to many frogs and a few snakes) felt like a fitting backdrop to let the stress of our lives fall away. A place to be outside of the public gaze, a place to cruise, and a place to feel oneself. In this era of ongoing environmental catastrophe (it seems even the ocean is not safe from fires) natural spaces of leisure are their own sort of commodity. From the homoerotic histories of Roman baths to coastal havens such as Providence and Fire Island, ‘queerness’ is inextricable from communal spaces of relaxation and play. Unlike visions of heterofuturity with its individualistic frameworks of scarcity and production, queerness is made possible by abundance and inactivity. Queer communion is surplus – it forms through unruly and undesirable modalities. It will survive in ecological ruins. In the late afternoon, a Boy Scout troop descended on the grassy field to set off bottle rockets. It started to rain. We thought about packing up as hair began to frizz and clothing was soaked, but instead, we laughed and ran barefoot past cabins overtaken by the bramble.
Is utopia possible?
I feel utopia is very possible, especially in the mind and the heart. Like, you just create (even if it sounds cheesy) create your own bubble. Even if you’re going through a lot, you build that bubble for yourself, for your safety, and for your health. That’s your utopia. – Richie, They/Them