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Get outdoors, but make it gay

Find a queer outdoor community to call your own.
22 Jun 2022

By: Erica Zazo + Save to a List

Community: a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.

Com·​mu·​ni·​ty

noun, often attributive

______

Erica with their dog in the woods
Photos by Elizabeth Hill

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I really understood and found community. I was a “baby gay” in its truest form, unequivocally fumbling through my formative years as a queer person as I navigated who I was, who accepted me, and ultimately, accepting myself.

It was the year I came to terms (on my own terms) with my own identity, the year I openly and publicly dated a woman for the first time, and the year I finally felt embraced by a group of friends, allies, and peers who not only accepted me for who I was – but understood my identity. 

I found my community.
Erica sitting on wooden stairs wearing an Eddie Bauer Momentum UPF 50+ Anorak
Erica is wearing the Eddie Bauer Men’s Momentum UPF 50+ Anorak and Tidewater Terry Shorts

At this same time in my life, I also fell in love with the outdoors. A friend encouraged me to apply for the Student Conservation Association Alternative Spring Break program, and to my unassuming delight, I was accepted. A week in the Everglades National Forest learning about conservation work, outdoor restoration, and spending several nights under the stars was all it took for me to build a foundation of undying affection for nature.

A decade later, with a roster of several new communities and outdoor-focused hobbies, I now find myself at the “baby nature gay” stage of my life – navigating the intersectionality of my love of the outdoors and my queerness.

Nature has always been an escape for me and my wife. Since Mother Nature does not discriminate, we’ve been able to fully explore ourselves and our partnership in the outdoors without the societal pressures, influences, and impact that often harm LGBTQ people. But truth be told, we haven’t quite yet found our own community of outdoor-loving LGBTQ+ folks – a group of like-minded people with similar experiences, identities, challenges, and passions as ourselves.

Erica at the beach with their dog

To help other queer outdoor enthusiasts find and build a connection with outdoor communities, as well as ourselves, I’ve scoured the internet to find queer-focused outdoor groups across the U.S. Whether you’re already deeply engrained in a queer outdoor community or still searching, like us, we hope this list of organizations, groups, and nonprofits help you find a new LGBTQ+ outdoor community to call your own.


LGBT Outdoors

LGBT Outdoors provides opportunities for queer-identifying folks to come together to learn from and inspire each other to get outdoors. The nonprofit group has a national ambassador program that boasts a network of LGBTQ+ outdoor leaders working to build connections across their local queer communities. Its YouTube channel features guests highlighting their experiences being ‘out’ in the outdoors and the nonprofit also hosts a series of LGBTQ+ Outdoorfest events with workshops, food, music, as well as camping and outdoor experiences.

Queer Climbing Collective

Queer Climbing Collective (QCC) connects the LGBTQIA2S+ community through the group’s love for climbing and the outdoors. QCC hosts a number of monthly meetups at climbing gyms across the country, welcoming new and experienced climbers – no matter their skill level.

Queer on the Rocks (Chicago), CRUX Climbing (NYC), GLAM Rock Climbing (Austin), Fame and Flash (San Francisco), and Seattle Queer Climbers (just to name a few) are other examples of city-based climbing groups across the states.

OutCycling

OutCycling, an NYC-based biking group, hosts community rides for queer folks in New York City and around New Jersey. The organization’s flagship event, OutCycling Pride Ride benefits their youth cycling program, the Fearless Flyers. The program, which supports LGBTQ+ youth (16-25), focuses on wellness, health, and physical activity through biking to combat isolation and promote leadership skills through bike-centered education and experiences.

There’s a long list of other queer-focused bike groups around the country, like OutRiders, a metro-D.C.-based cycling group for LGBTQ riders and their allies, Rolling Peach Bandits, a black queer cyclist group in Atlanta, and the Windy City Cycling Club in Chicago.

Queer Nature

Queer Nature is a trans-run, nature-based, naturalist education project serving mostly LGBTQ2+ people. Through the group’s programming, education, and community work, its founders and facilitators Pinar and So aim to provide cultural access to outdoor pursuits – including bushcraft, survival skills, and tactical skills like hunting – to develop self-efficacy and resilience-building for queer individuals and communities.

Other groups working on community-oriented programming and nature-based learning include Wild Diversity (Portland), OUT There Adventures (PNW and California), Out in the Wild (OR), and the Venture Out Project (New England), to name a few.

Erica sitting on a bench in the woods

Unlikely Hikers

Celebrating and building a diverse, anti-racist, and body-liberating outdoor community is Unlikely Hikers’ mission. The group brings together underrepresented outdoorspeople through its Instagram, nationwide hiking group, and podcast communities. Adventurers of all types, from plus-size, black, indigenous, trans, and non-binary folks to neurodivergent, differently-abled, queer and POC, individuals of all backgrounds and experiences can find and meet like-minded, like-bodied peopled within the Unlikely Hikers community.

QPOC Hikers (Seattle), Hiking With Pride (Colorado), Pride Outside and Get Out And Trek (GOAT) are several other outdoor groups and organizations across the country focused on experience-based programming for queer people and communities.

Erica is kneeling by their dog who is wearing sunglasses
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