Illustration by Jesse Zhang

Temperature Check is a podcast at the intersection of climate and justice. Season Two features climate leaders and their mentors in a series of intimate, insightful conversations about what it takes to find purpose, passion, and even enjoyment in the fight for a better planet. Listen to all the episodes now, right here (or wherever you get your podcasts).

Jess Stahl: Welcome to Temperature Check, a podcast about climate, justice, and the people making a difference. I’m Jess Stahl, editor for creative storytelling at Fix. And this season of Temperature Check, we’re turning over the reins to climate and justice leaders to talk about mentorship. For each episode, we asked one changemaker to tell us who inspires them, who supports them, and then we brought them together.

Pattie Gonia: For a lot of queer people, like, we don’t have elders or examples of who and how to model our lives after. So I think that we get to be elders for younger generations and really be there for one another.

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Xiuhtezcatl: We’re always kind of, like, keeping each other in check and we’re always looking at what is possible, what can we create? What can we build and do in the world?

Jade Begay: It’s so important to have people to laugh it off, cry it off.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah, I think I see you as a mentor and we kind of created a community where, you know, we can mentor each other.

Jess Stahl: This conversation of the series is with Pattie Gonia and Spencer R. Scott Pattie is an environmentalist, drag queen, and Instagram personality who aims to build community for queer people, allies, and the planet. Pattie chose to speak with Spencer R. Scott, an environmentalist, writer, and biologist focusing on the climate crisis. Spencer is also co-founder of Solarpunk Farms, a queer-run agricultural community space designed to explore and celebrate regenerative models of living. Today, Pattie and Spencer talk about how they’re working towards a more inclusive, safe, and joyful future in the outdoors. And now I’ll hand it over to them.

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Spencer R. Scott: Hello, I am Spencer Scott. I am a scientist, writer, environmentalist and co-founder of Solarpunk Farms. And my pronouns are he/him.

Pattie Gonia: My name is Pattie Gonia, and I’m an intersectional environmentalist and drag queen. And I use she/they pronouns in drag. And out of drag my name is Wyn Wiley, and I use he/they pronouns.

Spencer R. Scott: To me, Pattie is just the most wonderful and bright shining human on Instagram and out in the real world on the trail. Big hero of mine and just glad to call him my friend.

Pattie Gonia: Spencer Scott is a mentor of mine, someone I look up to, a fellow queer human on planet Earth that’s just trying to make the world a better place. I am just obsessed with how much Spencer uses collaboration and community and joy as huge roots of the work he does for our planet. And so, our relationship is fun. It’s fruity. It’s queer. It is lovely. And I really look up to Spencer.

Spencer R. Scott: Thanks, Pattie. Aww.

Pattie Gonia: Here we go.

Spencer R. Scott: I actually followed Wyn when you were a photographer.

Pattie Gonia: Yeah.

Spencer R. Scott: And, I think, during that era, I was also very much into photography—having that route and appreciating the outdoors—and then, suddenly Wyn became Pattie. And Pattie was born. And it was this thing that the world just desperately needed. I was really fortunate to go on one of Pattie’s hiking tours and speak at one of those, and that was the first time I believe we met in person. I really look up to Pattie’s ability to foster community and really to uplift other people and continually use her platform to bring as many people to the conversation as possible, get a diverse set of views and conversations going, especially in bringing those to places that maybe needed those conversations.

Pattie Gonia: I love that you brought that up, that you were there since the birth of Pattie, because I feel like as Pattie was beginning, you were also leaving research work in the science world to pursue writing and to pursue different ways to advocate for our planet.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: What were the feelings that started to turn in your belly before you actually made the move? And then when was the moment where you knew you had to do something else?

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah, so for people that don’t know: I got my Ph.D. in bioengineering. And after grad school, I worked at cancer biology lab as a research scientist. And right around 2018, after the IPCC report came out—and I had been in the climate space, kind of adjacently, and thinking about it constantly. But that started my process of being like, “This is something I’m really passionate about,” and it felt like something I could use all of my creativity toward. People ask me, like, “Should I quit my job?” And I don’t advocate that everyone change everything about their life in response to climate. I mean, change some stuff. [laughs] But, I think that, to me, it was a combination of two things: One was I saw climate change as like this huge pressing issue. And two, I saw it as something that I was drawn toward and wanted to work on. And so, there was a need and something within my own story that felt like, “OK, I love science, but I also have always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to express myself more creatively.” And I think, that’s kind of where I found myself now, which is, seeing climate change as this amazing opportunity to express ourselves in different ways and create a different future. So that’s the path.

Pattie Gonia: I love that so much! You know, it’s interesting. I feel like I’ve only really been strutting in the direction of climate with Pattie for like a year and a half. But I think it’s really interesting, because I think that we often feel like we have to, like, have these breakthrough moments or almost get permission in order to, like, do work for climate because we should have degrees and we should be able to do this and that or the other. But really, it’s just using the things you love and the things you’re good at towards something you really care about.

Spencer R. Scott: 100 percent. I am, in a lot of respects, an outsider to climate. You know, I didn’t go to the schools specific for environmental studies or anything like that.

Pattie Gonia: Same, same.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah. And I think that everyone has a role that they can play. And when I stepped away from research, I kind of took a survey of what I had to offer. You know, I have a science background. I can read scientific papers, and I love writing and communicating. And so I’m like, I’ll step into education around climate as much as I can. I saw the opportunity and went there first.

Pattie Gonia: I love that. Yeah, every movement needs different kinds of people, right? We need the changemakers, we need the mother figures, we need people who are caretakers and caregivers or educators or people that work with different communities and people that can also use their identity in a unique way to advocate for our climate as well.

Spencer R. Scott: Absolutely.

Pattie Gonia: I really look up to the work you do to, like, build community for the queer environmental movement, which is a very small circle inside of the climate community, but yet is full of so many people that also need to be reached and also need community for them.

Spencer R. Scott: Absolutely. 

Pattie, could you describe your drag and what made you want to take your drag into the great outdoors? What was the catalyst that created Pattie?

Pattie Gonia: Such a good question. I would describe my drag as… ridiculous, very camp. Many, many definitions of that word “camp.” But the first time I ever really did drag was in the outdoors. It’s not like I took my drag there. It was literally born there. So, like, the first time I actually did, did did drag was literally at the base of a 14,000 foot mountain. And, yeah, my drag is very unconventional because I perform for and in the outdoors. But that’s where I find myself. That’s where I would be if I wasn’t doing drag. I think a lot of times people think of drag queens and they think of just bars and clubs. But I think that drag is a queer art form that can be taken and is taken so many different places. And I just love applying my art form and doing it in a place I love. You know, like, plein air painters. That’s just my version of painting in the outdoors, but just doing it on my face instead.

Spencer R. Scott: Mm hmm.

Pattie Gonia: You know, the first time I did drag in the outdoors, I literally just strutted to a Fergie song.

Spencer R. Scott: It was Fergie. I was like, yeah—

Pattie Gonia: Very, I would say, deconstructed drag. Just high heels. It was like me wearing these ridiculous gloves. But we’ve since graduated from, like, total fetus drag queen to, like, toddler drag queen. So now we’re kind of doing drag fully, but we’re still figuring it out, you know?

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah, yeah. 

Had you wanted to express yourself with drag and then you were seeing this opportunity of like, “How do I get people’s attention to care about littering in the outdoors?” Or, you know, treating Mother Nature correctly? Did those two things converge in that way?

Pattie Gonia: Yeah. I never planned for it. It just kind of happened. What I knew, and what I feel like I’ve always been good at, is just making things happen or bringing people together. I’ve always been the person that’s kind of, like, organized birthday parties for friends or just tried to, like, do what I can to creatively support something. And for the longest point in my life, that was just with a camera in my hand. But I realized that I could take those same things and apply it to drag and to doing what I’m doing now. Isn’t it kind of interesting how your life is set up for your life. You know? I feel that to my core. We can’t really see that our life is just working out a certain way, but it kind of always does.

Spencer R. Scott: Totally.

Pattie Gonia: Yeah, I think for the longest time, I mean, being a queer person, I squashed my femininity and my expression in so many ways and shapes and forms because I’m from the Midwest and you don’t do drag in the Midwest. You’re a good gay kid who never steps out of the boundaries, who never makes anyone else uncomfortable.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: So I think for me, doing drag is a big way that I am reclaiming my femininity and also a lot of my childhood I left behind. And I’m really curious to hear for you, how your intersection of your identity has worked with your work in life, and with what you’ve built, and where that intersection has been, and where there’s been dissonance or where there’s been a lot of joy.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah, I think having, like, a queer mindset on the world, and going through life feeling like you’re a little bit removed from what you’re supposed to be, allows you—if you have enough space and safety—to, like, explore who you are, and how is that different than what’s currently going on? And so, like, you are already used to not being part of the status quo. And I think that gives you a superpower in creating community outside of the status quo. That’s what we really were trying to accomplish at Solarpunk Farms, which is allowing people to see an example that something else is possible. And a different version of community, especially for a queer community where the rural areas aren’t always very accepting of queer identities. And I think, our goal was to kind of bridge the gap between cities, where queer folks usually congregate because we can kind of form in larger groups and form community and feel safe with each other and feel like we can express ourselves fully. But, I think, in cities, we’re kind of missing some aspect of connection to land and place. What we were hoping to do was to bridge that gap. And, like, offer a safe space in the rural farm setting where people can come out, and, you know, nurture that connection. And be their full, weird selves in an outdoor, nature-oriented space.

Pattie Gonia: Yes, we love to see it. Yes yes yes! Yeah, it’s so powerful to do work with land, right? It’s so powerful to just… I know it sounds so fruity, but just touch some dirt. Like, get dirty, and go to work, you know, and see that labor pay off. And, also do it with other queer people. And get a chance to meet each other and meet new community. And yeah, I really look up to the work you do as well in rural spaces because I think that so much of the time, climate work is done in cities and is done in these metropolitan areas. Or queer inclusion work is done in metropolitan areas. You know, like, the narrative of queer people is to run to big cities for acceptance. But I think I’m finding that running into the woods or running into a field is, like, the most accepting place to be. But there’s a lot of barriers there.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: A question I have for you is, you know, we’re all working towards making the outdoors feel safe and feel accessible for the queer community, but I’m wondering about the barriers that you feel to accessing outdoor spaces or even just rural spaces? And the importance of breaking them down?

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah, I think that’s an amazing question, and I think that that’s something that we are trying to work on, of course, which is, creating a space in a rural area where people feel safe. And I do feel like there’s so many people across the country that are queer farmers doing similar things. And we are super lucky because the town we’re in kind of has a history of queer acceptance. Our farm is an hour-and-a-half north of San Francisco in a town called Guerneville, California, on the Russian River. And it is on Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo land. It’s a queer vacation spot since the 50s or 60s. In terms of ecology, queers are, like, pioneer species, where we’re going and testing out new areas and trying to spread. There are clearly barriers and that’s what keeps us kind of like closer to what feels safe and where we’re accepted. But I’m just very curious where queerness will go in the future, as hopefully queerness becomes more and more accepted everywhere. I do feel like there’s a responsibility for people to continually push where it is accepted. Because I think if you create, like, a vacuum, and rural places are just left devoid of queerness, no one will have any example of what queerness looks like, and they’ll never be allowed to form an acceptance of it. Feeling like you can go into a place and challenge what’s there, for a lot of people, it can be an unsafe environment. We’re both white men, and I think that is super important to use, like, what privilege we have to make queerness as visible as possible.

Pattie Gonia: Totally. That is on my mind all the time. Because, in the way that I go outdoors, it is very traditional and very untraditional. You know, like, I’m out backpacking. I’m out hiking. I’m out using public spaces, a.k.a. recreating on stolen land. And there’s a giant history there. There’s a history where, one, Indigenous people have had a genocide against them. Two, a history where queer people have really never been accepted because it’s definitely been straight, and cis-dominated, as is the rest of the world. And, you know, we hear all the time that the outdoors are for everyone, and the outdoors don’t discriminate. And I’m like, “Yeah, but guess what? People do! And people are in the outdoors.” And so, I think it’s really important to queer those spaces and to just be visible in more rural and outdoor spaces. And to really work to leverage the privilege you also have, along with your marginalized status, to ally other communities. So a lot of the work that I do is honestly just amplifying, or being a very active follower, to other people’s work.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: That is really important. And I think that’s possible for all of us. When we think of leadership, quote unquote, leadership, or climate activism or work, we can think that it’s being on the front lines of a movement, when really, honestly, most of the time, it is silent work. It is not seen work. It is active follower work, where you are really being a part of a group and a follower of a leader that’s really leading in some really beautiful ways. And I wish more people knew that. I wish I knew that earlier.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: I think, that’s the work I’m really curious about, that I do right now. Because the work that’s seen is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes, and there are so many barriers for people to get outside, whether that’s having a car and enough financial privilege to go to visit these national parks that are hundreds of miles away from the cities. All the way to, you know, what is it like if you’re the only Black person or only queer person on the trail? What is your safety like if you identify as a woman? How about being a trans person? You know, we don’t think about this either, but in order to go to a lot of these beautiful and natural spaces that are the outdoors, you have to stop at, like, eight gas station restrooms to get there. And a trans person is probably going to be discriminated against at every single one of those.

Spencer R. Scott: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: We kind of think that, like, the outdoors are this equitable space where everyone can just walk outside and walk into a park. But guess what? First of all, not even everyone can walk. I was just in Central Park earlier today, and that park is one of the most accessible urban spaces I’ve ever seen in my life. But so many of the trails I’m on, if you use a wheelchair, there’s no way you can enjoy them. And so I think accessibility means so many things. And there’s a lot of barriers to the outdoors being a space where everyone is equal.

Spencer R. Scott: Absolutely. 

Pattie, how do you maintain your own feelings of safety and joy in the outdoors?

Pattie Gonia: I go outside with other people. All the time. I’m very rarely truly going outside alone. I love experiencing with other people. I feel safer with other people. I would encourage anyone, if they want to get into the outdoors more, that it’s just better with a friend. It’s the same with, like, any climate work. It’s not as fun when you’re doing it alone, to me, but I think it’s really beautiful when your outdoor experience can be collaborative, too. I’ve seen things and been places that I would have never gone to if it wasn’t for an amazing group of friends or people taking me there. I’m curious how you do it, too. How do you do it on the farm?

Spencer R. Scott: I think the statistic is true. I live in the most liberal rural county in America. And, I think, in this particular area, it’s actually becoming almost a haven for queer people. There’s this amazing organization, Shelterwood, that’s nearby, that’s creating like a 900-acre queer BIPOC sanctuary. And like, there’s another one called EARTHseed, my friend Pandora Thomas started. And there’s just like so many great places in this county that I’m super excited about. I think we feel really lucky to be here. And maintaining our own feelings of safety probably happens more when we’re hiking or backpacking. I don’t know. I’m a little bit defiant. I want to challenge people if they try to make me feel unsafe.

Pattie Gonia: Yes.

Spencer R. Scott: But, I don’t know. I think I’ve been fortunate enough that that’s never been like a huge issue in the outdoors. But then again, I also go on very like remote hiking places. You know, the goal is to not see other people. But community is super important in that. And that’s why I love what you’ve done with your hiking tours.

Pattie Gonia: Yes, yes, yes. 

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah. 

Pattie Gonia: Yeah, you’ve got to get people together, right? And sometimes you just have to have, like, an entry point. I wouldn’t have gotten into the outdoors if I wouldn’t have started going outside with organizations as a kid. You know, I think that it’s really hard to start something alone, but it’s really easy when you can do it all together. So yeah, we try to organize those hiking tours to just be like an easy access point for people to get out and try something new if they haven’t gone outside. And I’ve been really grateful for that and the climate space as well. Because I think it’s really easy to feel like it’s this elite group of people, when really, it’s an excited group of people that are just creating community. And it’s a common understanding of, “We’re going to use whatever we can to ally the planet.” And it feels warm. It feels joyful. I wish more people knew that about the climate community that is forming lately. And I think that people are doing it in really unique ways. You know, when I think about the work you’re doing on the farm, it’s, on a world scale, incredibly micro small, but incredibly important for everyone that touches it and for the earth in that area. And I think we’re going to need more of that. And I think we’re going to need more hyper-local, hyper-little, tiny, beautiful solutions. 

I’m curious to hear, why do you see connecting people to the outdoors as a part of the climate fight? What makes that such a powerful tool?

Spencer R. Scott: I wrote an essay sort of about this where I thought that the first thing that people should do who are new to the climate is to start identifying plants and animals and creatures around them. Because our brain literally doesn’t see things that we don’t care about. And so if you don’t know the names of trees, or know the names of the native species in your area, your brain has no pathway to care about it.

Pattie Gonia: Spencer, that’s so true.

Spencer R. Scott: [Laughs] And so, I think if you’re going to care—which we need as many people as possible to care about this—something needs to feel like it’s on the line. And in order for that to be true, you got to introduce yourself to the living things around you that are also being harmed. And, you know, like some environmentalism can forget about people sometimes. It’s super important to know the natural landscape, but it’s also important to know, like, the human landscape you’re in as well. And see those things, stop ignoring them, so that you can empathize with them. And so, it’s kind of like the full ecosystem. And I think, getting into the outdoors at least solves the natural aspect of that, and allows you to see the things that we want to protect. Things that are worth saving.

Pattie Gonia: Totally. I can’t believe I’m going to say this right now, but like, I’m going to reference a meme. It’s a meme I saw that was a photo of a concrete jungle of a suburbia city in Texas. And literally like above it, it just says, like, “We give kids this and expect for them to care about the planet?” 

Spencer R. Scott: Oh yeah—

Pattie Gonia: They have nothing to be connected to. And I really found that to resonate to even my life, too, coming from Nebraska. Because nature to me was literally cornfields and soy fields. And it was just that. It was a place where people went to work. It wasn’t really, like, nature. I never really felt connected to it. And I think we are living right now with a giant disconnection between our world, where, also because of religion and western culture, we think that humans are, like, holier than thou and are greater than nature rather than us being a part of nature. And I really think that we have to do that, too. And so that’s why I love what you mentioned, because it’s so true. If we don’t know what nature is, what these things are, it’s not going to register in our brain.  And I also think, when we hear every single day that we have to fight for our planet and advocate for our planet… yes, that is true. And also, we have to connect to our planet because we fight for what we love, right?

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah, absolutely.

Pattie Gonia: Right? So we have to fall in love with these things. We have to also fall in love with each other, especially people that are different than us. I have found this to be so true in my life that once I have a relationship with someone that’s different than me—especially if that person comes from, like, a different identity—I will feel so much more passionate about advocating for them. It’s hard to be a part of the Black Lives Matter movement if you don’t have a Black friend, if you don’t know Black people. It’s hard to realize how many barriers still exist today for queer people unless you have queer friends. So truly, I think it’s about, like, diversifying the ecosystem of, like, the people that are in our lives too. Because I don’t think that in an environment where we are around just other people just like us, or just as privileged as us, allows for enough diversity for anything to thrive. But with diversity, anything is possible in nature. That’s what nature shows us every single day.

Spencer R. Scott: 100 percent.

Pattie Gonia: Spencer, I want to share a quote that I think you and I both love also when it comes to climate work. And that’s by Mary Heglar.

Spencer R. Scott: Hero.

Pattie Gonia: Hero. Shero. I love this. They say that “the thing about climate work is that you can be so focused on the problems and the issues or you can refocus on the beauty and the creativity of solutions.” I think that we need more of that as well. We need more solutions, and those solutions are probably going to be queer and weird and odd—

Spencer R. Scott: Exactly.

Pattie Gonia: Quote unquote “out there.” But they’re really possible. And I think they’re only possible when people can take a look at, like, what makes up their life and can get to work in really unique ways.

Spencer R. Scott: That resonates with me so strongly because that is the bulk of what I focus on, which is solutions and future ideation, and ideating a future that is better than the one we currently have. I think that there’s a lot of justifiable doom and gloom-ism. And I think that’s kind of, like, the wake up call and the rallying call we need to shake ourselves out of the rut of continued status quo. But then, from there, if all we’re offering is fear and negativity, a lot of people are just going be like, “Oh, I’m going back to the thing that I know because this new thing you’re trying to get me to care about seems scary, and I don’t like it.” And so, that’s what solarpunk is. Solarpunk is this movement in literature and activism that asks the question, “What does a sustainable future look like? And how do we get there?” And so, it’s not just thinking about what the future could look like; it’s organizing. It’s trying new things. It’s getting queer. It’s getting weird. And ultimately, it’s arguing that there is this better future that we could create that’s more equitable, more enjoyable, more fulfilling, more beautiful. And I think that that is what I’d like to focus on, and I think it’s the message that people are going to be most receptive to.

Pattie Gonia: Maybe I should move back to Nebraska and just start a farm. Yeah. Yeah. We’ll take some monocrop corn and soy farm and turn it into some healthy land.

Spencer R. Scott: I love that.

Pattie Gonia: Some queer and healthy land.

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: And I think the advice that I would give to anyone who’s looking to get outside more or even to do climate work, it’s the same, no matter what it is. But really, I think it starts with taking a look at your identity and seeing what makes up you. You know, and then ask yourself, like what brings you joy? What are you good at? Yeah, look at what work needs to be done. That work is often local. That work is often really small. And that work is often work that only you can do. So when I think about people taking climate action, you know, I think that everyone forgets that if you’re an accountant, well, every movement needs an accountant, right? If you are an artist, every movement needs artists. If you are an organizer, every movement needs organizers. And also, like, similarly, along with those roles in the climate movement, when it comes to going outdoors, you get to decide what going outside and being outdoorsy looks like for you. It is not just hiking 10 miles or hiking 100 miles and backpacking and the grueling grit of bagging that next peak. It might be looking outside and appreciating birds or going on a walk with a friend or growing a garden. Hashtag Spencer Scott and Solarpunk Farms. And maybe starting a farm! It really is up to you. And I think that we get a chance to define and to redefine what climate work looks like and also what the outdoors looks like, too.

Spencer R. Scott: So for climate work, there’s a Bill McKibben quote that’s like, “The most important thing you can do is stop being an individual.” Which, I think, is the coolest advice because our culture has so much pressure on the individual. And I think our true power lies in, like, how we organize and how we level up our influence to larger circles. If I was new to climate, I would start Googling local area climate organizations. There are so many. As far as the outdoors, I love what Pattie said, which is like, “It doesn’t need to be this big, huge thing.” Go on a walk in a local park. And I love to see nature through photography because that really makes you pay attention to how things look. And like the whole time you’re experiencing it and seeing it, that was an amazing, amazing place to start for me. 

Pattie, what has my friendship and work meant to you?

Pattie Gonia: It’s meant that we’re not alone in the work we do. I think it is so powerful to know that you have other people that are there with you in the fight for things you care about. I think also we forget about the power of friendship and just like having someone that’s rooting and cheering you on. I think there’s a lot of people out there that need some good friendships in their life, and I’m so thankful to know so many amazing little golden eggs in so many different corners of the world doing such beautiful work. And our friendship here is one of those golden eggs where I feel like I literally know someone in an area, like I can go and visit them. I can see the work they’re up to. I can see what they do different and how they do things similarly, and we can collaborate. But it’s also one that I feel like I passively learn a lot through. So much of the work that you do is through just sharing and communication. And it’s such a powerful tool. I’ve learned things from you, and I feel like so many people have learned things from you, that you don’t even know these people’s names, but they’re reading your climate work. They’re seeing what you’re doing on your farm. And I think it’s really beautiful to, like, put who you are out there unapologetically and to put your beliefs out there, especially in a culture that wants to shut everyone’s belief down because they’re not X, Y, or Z enough. And I really think when I think of our friendship, I’m just really thankful for you just fighting for what you believe in. Because I think we need more of that.

Spencer R. Scott: Thanks, Pattie. I appreciate that.

Pattie Gonia: I mean it. OK. I’m going to ask you the same question. What has my friendship and work meant to you?

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah, I think I see you as a mentor and we kind of created a community where, you know, we can mentor each other. You know, I was thinking about what mentorship means, and I really think that we’re all just kind of trying to figure out what is the life that I should live. I think we see that in each other. We’re kind of testing boundaries and trying to see what works, and it really helps to have a community that’s all experimenting with different things, and showing how to be unapologetically yourself, and trying something that is different, because we need different visions in order to move forward. To me, you are an amazing example of that, and how hard you work, and all of the different perspectives you bring to the table has just been so illuminating. And I think has set an example, not just for me, but for a lot of people of how to do good work, how to be honest, how to own up to your mistakes, and show your growth, and putting your full experience out there so that other people can live. Because I think a lot of people, particularly queer people, are looking for examples and you are an amazing example to follow. At the very least, your unapologetic desire to be you opens the door for so many people to be like, “You know what? I can be who I want to be. I also can map myself onto this person’s love of nature and protecting everyone and everything on Earth.” And I think that that is super inspiring because it helps people also feel that passion. So, it’s been an honor.

Pattie Gonia: I really appreciate you saying that. I really appreciate you. Yeah, when I think about our relationship, I think it’s definitely, like, we are both teachers and we are both learners. And it’s circular. There’s not like a hierarchical structure. It’s.. It feels really beautiful to learn different things from each other. And what you said really resonated with me because I think for a lot of queer people, like, we don’t have elders or examples of who and how to model our lives after what to do because we just—

Spencer R. Scott: Yeah.

Pattie Gonia: The examples we would have had died in the AIDS crisis. And the examples that we had were also closeted. And so I think that we get to be elders for younger generations and really be there for one another. I think it’s really powerful.

Spencer R. Scott: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Pattie.

Pattie Gonia: Spencer, I appreciate you so much.

Spencer R. Scott: It’s mutual.

Pattie Gonia: The love that I am trying to throw your way through a screen right now and through a microphone is massive. I… Thank you for taking the time. Spencer, I’m very excited to see how our li’l queer paths can cross in this world.

Spencer R. Scott: Me too. Yay. Onward and forward. Kisses.

Pattie Gonia: Onward and forward—and in heels. And in hiking boots.

Spencer R. Scott: 100 percent.

Jess Stahl: Thank you so much for listening. And thanks to Pattie Gonia and Spencer R. Scott for sharing your time with us.

This episode is one of six conversations we published this month as a part of our mentorship issue. You can read more about mentorship at, where we’re exploring the power of mentorship in climate work, and how mentorship must change to make the space more inclusive and accessible. That’s at

Temperature Check is a podcast from Fix, Grist’s solutions Lab, produced in association with Reasonable Volume. I’m Jess Stahl Fix’s editor for creative storytelling. Fix’s Claire Thompson, Camille Williams and Josh Kimelman all contributed to this podcast with additional contributions from Fix managing editor Jaime Buerger and designer Mia Torres. This podcast is produced by Audrey Ngo, with associate producer Dominique French, and editing by Elise Hu and Rachel Swaby. Sound engineering is by Mark Bush. 

If you’d like to support what we do, you can rate, review and tell all your friends to follow Temperature Check. And go listen to all of our other conversations on mentorship right now in this podcast feed. See you there!