LGBTQIA+ Icons Protecting the Planet
Jun 14

LGBTQIA+ Icons Protecting the Planet

By Genesis Harshell

During the month of June, we'll be celebrating the amazing LGBTQIA+ researchers and environmentalists who have dedicated their lives to conserve the planet for generations to come. Tune in each week to see who we feature next!

J.C. Raulston

For the second feature, we would like to highlight horticulturist, professor and activist Dr. J.C. Raulston! In 1975, Raulston began his work as a horticulture professor at North Carolina University. It was in this same year that the 35-year-old Raulston came out to the world as gay.  

Raulston is celebrated for the work he did to establish the North Carolina State University Arboretum, now known as the JC Raulston Arboretum, as well as his contributions to the horticultural renaissance for the nursery industry in the United States. In 1978, Raulston created of the Lavandula and Labiatae Society, which served a safe space for queer individuals in botany, horticulture, landscape, public gardens and even amateur gardening to be themselves, make connections and learn about other queer professionals in the industry! What started as small local gatherings, had grown into this network having over 300 members across 34 states by 1990. Raulston would support this network through annual meetings and distribute mailings at his own expense until his passing in 1996. 

Raulston changed landscapes, literally and socially, forever creating a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Today we can celebrate Raulston’s legacy by visiting the JC Raulston Arboretum and continuing to support his mission to “plan and plant for a better world.” 

Rachel Carson

The first individual we would like to highlight is marine biologist, author and environmentalist Rachel Carson! Credited with sparking the modern environmental movement, Carson's studies and activism not only successfully led to a ban of a type of pesticide called DDT, but her work and challenges to the standards of her time also ensured the creation of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Along with Carson's drive to protect nature and those who reside within it, many did not know she held a romantic relationship with a woman named Dorothy Freeman. Their secret relationship lasted for over a decade and the pair shared over 900 letters, with fond affection and care for one another. In 1964, Carson died of cancer and Dorothy Freeman scattered her ashes along the coast of Southport Island. We wish to celebrate Carson today not only for her remarkable career, but also as a true inspiration to the queer community.


Photos © Paul g. Wiegman, JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University