Black Queer Joy Is a Revolution, and Plantkween Is Sowing the Seeds

"Y'all should be loving up on Black queer femmes because we are beautiful."

It’s intimidating, caring for almost 160 house plants, but Christopher Griffin of the popular Instagram account @plantkween does it with a smile.

The Black, queer, and nonbinary femme activist traces their plant-loving roots back to their youth: As a child in Philadelphia, Griffin would visit nurseries with their grandmother, who loved to garden. “Whenever we would got to a nursery, I was 4, 5 years old, so I didn’t really know what was going on,” they tell me over the phone from their Brooklyn apartment. “I just thought, Oh, we’re going to this jungle, and we get to take pieces of this jungle home with us. I think at a very young age, she was nurturing the nurturer in me.”

Griffin launched @plantkween in December 2016 after bringing their first “green gurl” home to their New York City apartment (it’s a marble queen pothos, if you were wondering, and yes, she’s still kicking.) The name is a playful nod to “queen,” a word that’s always been a part of Griffin’s vernacular as a Black queer femme.

Today, Griffin has added some 158 more plants to their personal collection. More than 221,000 people follow @plantkween, tuning in for a daily look at Griffin’s thriving house plants, sage plant-care advice, and infectious smile. They regularly collab with popular brands like Horti (@heyhorti) and take their followers on virtual visits to Brooklyn nurseries and horticulture hotspots.

Courtesy of Christopher Griffin
Christopher Griffin, a.k.a. @plantkween.

Plants are like people, Griffin says: simple yet so intricate. They don’t entertain the idea of a “green thumb,” a myth they believe creates unnecessary anxiety and stress for people who want to own plants. “I always tell folks that it’s not really the idea of having a green thumb but just matching the plant to your personality, to your behavior, and what you’re able to take care of,” they say.

For Griffin, caring for their plants isn’t a routine chore on their to-do list; it’s a genuine source of joy. They’re quick to admit that watering 159 plants can be “a little intimidating,” but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a cocktail, a cute lewk, and some good pump-up tunes. (Griffin recommends ’90s R&B or “Beyoncé, Celine, Mariah, Lady Gaga—obviously any of the divas.”)

On a personal level, tending to their green gurls has reinforced the importance of Griffin’s own self-care routines, something that has only become more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There was a moment early on in my plant journey where I was like, Oh, I need to make sure the plant has enough light, make sure it has water, be sure its roots are strong and its foundation is strong,” Griffin recalls. “And then I looked at myself and I was like, Wait a minute, gurl—what about you?! What about your body?”

Courtesy of Christopher Griffin

Perhaps most importantly, @plantkween is an outlet for Griffin to express and reflect on their own happiness. It’s especially important to them as a Black creator. Since the death of George Floyd in May, America has seen a resurgence of activism—both IRL and on social media—against police brutality and systemic racism. The exchange of information is “so, so important,” and something Griffin appreciates deeply as a lifelong LGBTQ advocate. They work a 9–5 job as the assistant director of NYU’s LGBTQ+ Center, a job they love. (And before you ask: Yes, their office is filled with plants. Fifty plants, to be exact.)

But for Black queer people navigating social media, the constant deluge of content centering Black suffering and death can do more harm than good. “It’s traumatizing to see a Black person being arrested and assaulted by police or being murdered by police,” Griffin says. “It’s traumatizing to see that another Black trans woman was killed. So, we need spaces where we can see joy.”

A quick scan of the comments on any @plantkween post reveals just how much joy Griffin’s followers see in their content. And that’s purposeful. The account isn’t really about Griffin, they explain; it’s “really about other people seeing that, ’Hey! People are uplifting and loving up on this Black queer, nonbinary femme? Wow! That should be the norm!'”

“I’m like, ’Yeah! Y’all should be loving up on us because we are beautiful,'” Griffin adds. “’We are magical. We are reimagining and creating new possibilities around how to exist in this world that wasn’t created for us.’ Black queer joy is revolutionary.”

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As a Black queer femme, I spent my younger years trying to “fit in” yearning to be “normal” because I could not yet appreciate the beautiful things that made me glow, that made me unique, that made me different. But dahling, as she grew older she realized that there was no “normal” and that she needed to embrace all parts of herself … my blackness, my queerness and my femmeness, hunty! ⠀ As we step into Pride month, I am thinking of my grandmother, the original green goddess in my life, who knew of my gifts when I did not yet have access to the words to fully describe how I was feeling, who I was attracted to, and how I yearned to transgress those tragic gender norms we are taught as children. There is a particular memory of her that I’ll cherish forever. I was about 5 years old, and I was exploring one of my fav places at my grandmother’s house … her closet. There was a white pair of church heels that she always wore, and I was obsessed with them. I slid my tiny feet into the heels and made my way downstairs where my family was gathered, laughing and chatting amongst each other. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, my family grew quiet once they saw me. My grandmother looked at me and said, “well, isn’t that just precious!” She let me keep the heels on until it was time for us to head home. In that moment, she validated my youthful desire to explore and blur gender norms, to be unapologetic, expressive, and creative with how I wanted to show up in this world. She saw a young Black aspiring femme kween and nurtured her ❤️ ⠀ In my junior year of high school I came out to a group of best friends, who accepted me for who I always was and gave me the courage to come out to my parents. I came out to my father first, who hugged me as I cried and told me that he loved me no matter what. I came out to my mother later that evening. She hugged me and said that if anyone tried to bully me that they’d better watch out, because they’d have to deal with her. I would later come out to my brothers who told me that they had my back no matter what. I’ve been embracing my BLACK QUEER FEMME body ever since and never looked back, dahling! ⠀ Happy Pride month, kweens ✊❤️

A post shared by CHRISTOPHER (He/She/They) (@plantkween) on

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.
@_sammanzella