New Ways to Get Outdoors: Queer Nature
When you think of the phrase “nature program,” what group of people do you imagine participating? Because of how our culture has defined the connotations of the word, I think about the young boys in the Boy Scouts. As you probably know, the Boy Scouts is not the most LGBTQ+ friendly organization. Though they lifted their ban on openly gay scouts and leaders, “it has allowed religious chartered organizations, which operate more than 70 percent of the Boy Scouts Scouting units, ‘to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality.’” This also extends to queer and trans youth. That rule means that though troop leaders can serve openly and queer and trans boys can join openly, they probably don’t. Though there are plenty of nature programs for youth that do not discriminate based on gender and/or sexuality, the Women’s Wilderness organization of Colorado decided to do something different: they wanted to create a nature program just for LGBTQ+ people, Queer Nature, in order to create a safe community in the great outdoors.
“As a child, I really loved nature but growing up identified as a gay teenager, I just felt like the ways that nature was accessible in terms of Boy Scouts and things like that just didn’t feel like safe spaces to me, so I ended up losing a lot of my connection to nature and community,” Queer Nature member Brett Adamek said. “Being in this group was really powerful for me in that way of just shifting my perspective around who gets to be involved in these kinds of things.”
The program is structured as an occasional nature awareness “skillshare,” meaning that about once a month anyone who is interested– though because it is an LGBTQ+ safe space, allies can’t join– can get together with each other and learn new skills like weaving pine baskets, wildlife tracking, and self-defense in the majesty of nature.
“When we asked for feedback (at a past workshop), one of the people was like, ‘Well I really appreciate this space because I feel like for a really long time gay and queer culture has been associated with bars and clubs and drinking and partying,” program co-leader So Sinopoulos-Lloyd said. “I really like the idea of having queer community centered around the earth. It became literally this rallying cry for us.”
While related courses at Women’s Wilderness like scout awareness and canoe and wildlife tracking go for $50 or more, the Queer Nature programs are priced at a more affordable $10 per course. It is designed to be as inclusive as possible in order to reach all interested LGBTQ+ people.
“We’re moving in this direction toward … just being more inviting and more inclusive as an organization,” said executive director of Women’s Wilderness Emily Isaacs. “And there’s also this piece where it’s like us re-envisioning our mission of, yes, we focus on programming for women and girls but really we’re about welcoming anyone who has not felt they have a place outdoors.”
Amelia Henry is a Contributor at InQueery.