Fact: spending time outside feels good. It helps us unwind and become more grounded, find a deeper connection to the land and to ourselves, and exist in our most authentic selves. It should be a place where we feel safe and welcomed.
That’s why initiatives and organizations that are working to make the outdoors truly inclusive for the LGBTQIA+ community are so important. Day in and day out, and not just during Pride Month, they are doing the work that breaks down barriers to entry, fosters increased participation, increases awareness and inclusion, and builds a stronger outdoor community.
Here’s some of our favorite organizations and initiatives that are making a difference for the LGBTQIA+ community in the outdoors.
Queer Nature is a “social sculpture/education/ecophilosophy project” that focuses on creating nature connections and place based skills for those of the LQBTQIA+, two-spirit and non-binary people, and allies. Queer Nature defines place-based skills as “naturalist studies/interpretation, handcrafts, “survival skills,” and recognition of colonial and indigenous histories of land, and are framed in a container that emphasizes deep listening and relationship building with living and non-living earth systems.” In order to stay connected to their supporters, Queer Nature has been using Patreon to host virtual discussions that educate on topics varying from print identification to trauma kits in active violence settings. To kick off the summer and post-pandemic events, the organizations co-founders, Pinar and So Sinopoulos-Lloyd, were educators on a group hike in Bend, Oregon with queer environmentalist, Pattie Gonia.
Wild Diversity hosts outdoor education and adventure events for those of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. Their vision is to “welcome and create a sense of belonging in the outdoors for the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.” Concentrated in the greater Portland area, Wild Diversity offers a wide variety of events for all skill levels. There are hikes ranging from half day to multi day, bird walks, and two day paddle trips. They focus on four main pillars to ensure everyone can find a sense of place in the outdoors. These pillars are: We Build Community, We Provide Resources, We Equip the Next Generation, and We Decolonize Outdoor Spaces. Wild Diversity is creating a safe space for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, and working towards equal representation in outdoor leadership and participation. Check out their YouTube channel for how-to videos and more outdoor education opportunities.
Get Out and Trek’s (GOAT) Outdoor Equality Index (OEI) is an online accountability tool to “aid organizations in building credibility, trust, and a better, more inclusive outdoors for LGBTQ+ people.” GOAT is a community of LGBTQ+ adventurists working towards a more diverse outdoors. They do this through outdoor trips, festivals, advocacy, and tearing down access barriers. The OEI is working to provide data surrounding LGBTQ+ equality in the outdoors. Currently, not much data exists on the LGBTQ+ nature experience, so GOAT is working to equip organizations with “transparency on the outdoor industry’s engagement with the LGBTQ+ community and from that, the industry can grow, learn, share, and celebrate progress.” (GOAT). This survey is open to all outdoor organizations, weather nominated or volunteering. Here are just a few outdoor names who have taken the OEI: 686, Arc’Teryx, Backcountry, Helly Hansen, and yes, Coalition Snow.
The Wilderness Society, in collaboration with Pride Outside, has developed a map database to help locate LGBTQ Outdoor Groups. This is a simple tool that can help people in all areas search for inclusive outdoor groups in their area. You can set a specific mile radius around your location, and discover groups within that. There is also the ability to add a new LGBTQ Outdoor Group that may not be listed. The LGBTQ Outdoor Groups Map aligns with both Pride Outside and The Wilderness Society’s missions of creating inclusive and safe spaces, and opportunities for the LGBTQ community to get outdoors.The Venture Out Project is an organization that leads various outdoor adventure trips for the queer and transgender community. These trips are offered for adults, youth, and families, ensuring Venture Out has a trip that will suit everyone’s needs. The Venture Out Project uses outdoor adventures and movement to help queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ people gain leadership skills, create a sense of belonging, and boost self-confidence. The Venture Out Project’s mission is to “provide a safe and fun space for queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ people to experience the outdoors.” This is why “at the beginning of Venture Out Project trips, the group gets together before they embark to decide how to answer those types of questions. “We always have a conversation before we go out and ask, ‘How do we want to deal with this? Do we want to out ourselves?’”(Afar). The Venture Out Project also provides a number of resources for LGBTQ+ people, families, and allies. These resources include LGBTQ and queer organizations, social justice organizations, guides to proper pronoun use, gender identity videos, and resources for parents.