I'm the host of the Kate Hildenbrand Youtube channel and podcast, and a student of marine ecology. I'm also chronically ill, autistic, queer, and fucking weird.
I grew up in Germany, an alien in a world that wasn't mine until I sold almost everything and moved to California. Now, the world is my home.
I spent four years in California, my heart's home, where I started a long journey of finding myself, exploring my sexuality, finding my voice and my style, and letting myself be who I am. After having to leave California, I spent a year in New Zealand, then a year in the Netherlands. Now, I live in a village a little outside the harbor city Hamburg in Northern Germany. I'll soon be moving on to the next destination on this journey, to write my bachelor's thesis on Marine Protected Areas near an ocean. Through all this, I struggles with mental and physical health until I finally found answers.
Through this journey, I have changed from a person I no longer recognize to the growing person I am today.
Through growth, I have learned that we appreciate the things we learn about. We can't fight for what we don't understand. I used to call fish ugly and disgusting because I knew nothing about them. I had only seen them dead. Swimming alongside marine life during our many scuba trips changed my life forever. I saw, first-hand, the effects of humans interacting with nature. I saw the plastic at the bottom of the ocean, the fishing line and weight hanging from the lip of a giant sea bass that was taller than my husband. I saw the sargassum seaweed displace the Giant Kelp forests around Catalina island.
But, I also saw a species of sea stars return after they were believed to have vanished from the area, and divers working together to relieve the sea bass from his plight. I've played with sea lions at one of their rookeries, searched for octopuses in their clever dens, and floated speechless in front of anemone-covered reefs. I will never forget the day a fin whale swam past our boat on the way to a dive site.
How could I see that majestic beauty of such a large animal and not want to save it? How could I see fish spawn, hatch, grow, without loving them? Seeing nature, really seeing it, has changed my life. The more I learn about nature, the more I love nature, the more I want to defend it, fight for it.
And that's what I believe to be the solution to our current climate crisis: If we can tell people about all the astonishing creatures on our planet, if we can make people see them the way I learned to see them, we can make people care.
Learning to love people was similarly hard. Looking at the world, it's easy to hate humanity—especially if you love nature. As an environmental activist, I know what it is like to lose hope, to find hope, and to inspire hope. As an autistic woman with dreadlocks, unconventional clothes, bare feet, and body hair, I know what it is like to be judged. As a queer woman married to a man, I know what it feels like to be mislabeled and misunderstood. As a Caucasian who grew up in a household that could afford a comfortable life, I know privilege. As a woman, I know what it is like to live in a patriarchy. As a member of the unfortunate #metoo movement, I know what it is like to stay silent for far too long. As a chronically ill person who has struggled with medical systems and society in four countries, I know what it is like to be called dramatic, crazy, an attention-seeking pretender. After more than 16 years of searching for answers, being dismissed by doctors, I was diagnosed with classical Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder, as well as a few comorbidities.
Despite all this, I love people. I love people of all shapes, sizes, colors, orientations, ages, and any other label we use to judge each other. I love learning about cultures, hearing the stories of individuals and peoples. And most, I love having my prejudices and assumptions challenged. Every time I get surprised by someone who doesn't fit into the box my brain wanted to squeeze them into, I grow a little more.
For most of my life, I tried to fit in. I tried to be who people wanted me to be, to talk less, and to fit the labels others assigned. Challenged by a young man on the verge of his transition to becoming himself, I started to question my assumptions, labels, and prejudices. I began a journey of exploring myself, my opinions, and my sexuality, finding my voice and my style. I fell in love with humans, with this planet, even with myself, and decided to dedicate my life to fighting for humanity.