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Meet the Birders: Flynn Murray & Willow Noir

June 21, 2023

Artist Profile: Greg Kozatec

JUNE 7, 2021

Meet the Birders: Flynn Murray & Willow Noir

June 21, 2023

Meet the Birders: Flynn Murray & Willow Noir

June 21, 2023

Meet Flynn Murray and Willow Noir, two Brooklynites passionate about birds, burlesque, and building a community of queer nature-lovers in nightlife that connect through birdwatching. Like much of their work, this project combines principles with pleasure. Beyond being birders, Flynn is an activist and publisher of a feminist magazine called Lux, and her writing has appeared in outlets such as Dissent and Jacobin. Willow is a queer tech worker-turned-dominatrix, working independently as well as at clubs and events around the city. She does safety education for nightlife workers and regularly works with organizations, as well as her fellow sex workers, to support and spread awareness about the decriminalization of sex work.

How did you get into birding?

Flynn: I grew up in the high desert and have always been an avid nature enthusiast, but it wasn’t until three years ago that I fell in love with birding. I read about the experience of Christian Cooper and one particular group that was offering their support caught my eye. The Feminist Bird Club is a social justice-oriented bird watching group dedicated to making nature accessible and inclusive for everyone. As a queer person looking to rebuild a sense of community during the heights of the pandemic and while going through a divorce, FBC was a game changer. I started going on socially distanced bird walks and learning about all the local species in NY; I was hooked.

Willow: My grandmother sparked my love of bird watching when I was a child. Her home is decorated in antique prints of birds, and her bookshelves are stocked with every bird identification book you can imagine. Her home was on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, which made me fall in love with the heron and osprey that live there. She gifted me a pair of binoculars during the height of quarantine, which reignited my childhood interest in birding. Having a reason to get outside was so helpful after living in fear of leaving my apartment for so long. It really saved my mental health.

How did the two of you meet?

We met at our local queer burlesque bar in Williamsburg. We both spotted each other’s large bird tattoos and immediately dove into conversation about how much we love birds and nature. It was so lovely to discover that there were more bird-loving nerds outside the dedicated bird watching spaces that we were already familiar with, and it turns out that there were many more of us creatures of the night that also enjoyed seeing how many species they could spot in their local park, or favorite cemetery.

Tell us about the bird walks you’ve been leading.

After we met and started talking about birds with anyone that would listen it turned out that more and more of the people in our queer spaces really wanted to join us for bird walks, so many in fact that we had to send around a survey to see if we could start taking groups at specific times. Since a lot of the interest was coming from burlesque dancers and dominatrixes, we also had to make sure that we found a time a little later in the day, and not on weekends, to accommodate the fact that their work schedules often conflicted with when other bird walks were being held. Hence the birth of our monthly little bird walk, often referred to by our friends as Birds, Butts and Burlesque. 

What’s your birding community like? What do you love most about it? And are there things you’d like to see change or evolve in birding culture?

We absolutely love being surrounded by a bunch of queer birders. It’s like being told you get one flavor of ice cream and discovering you can actually have all the flavors, plus sprinkles. Combining our love of nature, birds, queer culture, and nightlife has been so fulfilling. We just hope that it offers the same kind of joy and release to other performers that drew us to birds, and each other, in the first place. Ideally, we would love for the entire birding community to be as inclusive as groups like FBC, and if people with all different backgrounds, performing many types of work, and with a range of physical abilities had easy access to bird walks. We would love to see the work that we are doing, FBC is doing, BlackAFinSTEM is doing, just to name a few examples, expand and continue to grow in collaboration with one another. Social justice and ecological justice go hand in hand, and groups that are marginalized and stigmatized deserve the space to get out and enjoy nature and its inhabitants, and to feel safe and supported while doing so. We hope we are able to be a small part of working towards that with all of these amazing groups.

What’s next for you and birds?

These walks are only a few months old, so we are looking forward to really getting into the swing of things now that we are into the warmer months. We are also trying to expand the potential birding destinations to some of the birding hotspots in New York that are less accessible on public transportation. There have been talks about hosting birding getaways in Upstate, or nearby in New Jersey. Perhaps we can even get a birding burlesque show together! But for now if any queer people in nightlife or sex work want to join our NYC walks please fill out this form. If you are outside queer nightlife and are just as big of a bird nerd I highly recommend checking out your local Feminist Bird Club chapter and staying connected with all things Bird Collective. We absolutely love wearing their clothes on our walks, and the causes that they support.

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