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Pride Month: Celebrating Inclusivity & Representation in the Outdoors

Celebrating Inclusivity and Representation in the Outdoors

Happy Pride month—let your rainbow flag fly! Every year in June, various events are held in celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, and Pride 2022 is no different.

What Is Pride Month All About?

Throughout the 1960’s and prior decades, persecution for aberrant sexuality and gender identity was a common occurrence. New York City’s Stonewall Inn had become a haven for queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming folks who were often rejected from other establishments. In 1969, police raided Stonewall, sparking a riot among patrons. The uprising continued throughout six days of protests and clashes with authorities.

The first Pride Parade took place on June 28, 1970, in New York City, one year after the Stonewall Uprising. What started as "Gay Pride Day" (celebrated in the United States the last Sunday in June) has since become a month-long festival of events, celebrations, and awareness initiatives. The events of Stonewall prompted a new wave of progress and activism in the LGBTQIA+ community. However, the first documented gay rights organization in the U.S. dates all the way back to 1924.

While the U.S typically celebrates in June, Pride events occur year-round in different parts of the world, attracting millions of participants. Most major U.S. cities have an official Pride parade, and other celebrations include picnics, parties, workshops, and concerts. For athletes and outdoor lovers, there are also bike rides, hikes, 10Ks and other runs which bring the LGBTQIA+ community and allies together to celebrate Pride.

Pride is a party, for sure. But it’s so much more than that. Pride Month is a chance to build awareness, advocate, and raise money for important causes. When asked what Pride means to them, here’s what Jen Toland, Category Planner at CamelBak, had to say.

“Pride month is a time to celebrate and reflect for me.

I reflect on those that have risked their life for LGBTQIA rights. Those that have taken a stand and expressed themselves authentically when it wasn't ‘acceptable’ or safe to do so. Those that have lived their truth no matter what others thought. Those that have paved the path for a safer and more accepting world.

I celebrate all the people that have found the courage to live their truth! Those that have overcome internalized homophobia and transphobia to find a way to love themselves and others. Those that have the strength to live everyday authentically and face a world full of bigotry and homophobia. Those that love themselves and others wholeheartedly and without discrimination.

Love is love.”

Queering the Outdoors: The Movement for Inclusivity and Representation in Nature

Up until recently, outdoor culture has been geared towards a predominantly white, male, heterosexual, and cisgendered audience. Think of the types of people you’d see in ads, catalogs, etc.

Unless you’ve seen or felt it first-hand, you might not realize that being queer in the outdoors is not always a safe and peaceful experience. For many people, being outwardly queer, gay, lesbian or non-binary has resulted in acts of discrimination and violence. It’s happened in the woods, on nature trails, at ski resorts and camping spots.

Everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, deserves the joy of a good camping trip with friends, the adrenaline rush of an exciting climb/hike/run, or the serenity of forest bathing. Which is why the movement for more inclusivity in the outdoors is so important.

Connection with nature is also key to optimal mental and physical health. So, it’s no wonder the LGBTQIA+ community (and people of color, people with disabilities and body positivity advocates) are fighting for more inclusivity and representation in natural spaces.

Thankfully we’re making progress, as more outlets emerge for driving change. Social media accounts, non-profit organizations, and queer outdoor groups have popped up to provide role models, rallying cries, and a sense of community for LGBTQIA+ people in the outdoors.

For Jenny Bruso, changing people’s ideas of what outdoor culture looked like was central to her inspiration for founding Unlikely Hikers, a nationwide hiking group, podcast, and social media community of over 140K members.

Jenny, who self-identifies as a white, queer, fat writer and hiker, says “I wanted to see people like myself and my friends. Representation is so powerful. It’s an invitation. Lack of representation reinforces a lack of belonging and this can be subconsciously internalized. How many people aren’t accessing outdoor recreation because they’ve never felt invited into it?”

The National Park Service itself has also made progress towards more inclusivity by declaring the Stonewall Inn as a national monument, and the creation of the LGBT Heritage Initiative.

Throughout Pride Month, there are tons of outdoor events that connect the community with nature.

But there’s so much more to be done.

What Does Pride Look Like in the Outdoors?

Gay culture is not just about “the club” or “the drag show”. It never was. The fact is, queer and transgender people have always been involved in outdoor sports and leisure, but often didn’t feel safe to express their truest selves. Now that it’s changing, what does Pride look like in the outdoors?

Diversity and inclusion in the outdoors can mean many things to different people. Pride outside might look like same-sex couples holding hands on the nature trail without fear of aggression. For others, an inclusive outdoors means proudly displaying a rainbow flag or a pink triangle. Or, it might mean not having to change the way you dress, talk, or style your hair.

Whatever outward form it takes—at its core, Pride in the outdoors is about not having to hide who you are—no matter where you are.

Be Part of the Change

Pride Month is about supporting and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community in all its glamour and grandeur. But the movement for inclusivity and representation outside happens year-round, and includes more voices—like those of disabled people, the BIPOC community, body positivity advocates, and others who are also historically underrepresented in the outdoors. 

To continue supporting conversation, education, and action around DEI in the outdoors (in June 2022 and beyond) CamelBak partners with inspiring organizations like Diversify Outdoors, Melanin Base Camp, and Unlikely Hikers.

And for this year’s Pride Month, we’re working with CamelBak Ambassador Mikah Meyer and his non-profit organization, Outside Safe Space. The Outside Safe Space symbol is an outward symbol that homophobia has no place in the outdoors. Wearing the sticker, pin, or t-shirt communicates that you are an ally and provides peace of mind to others around you that they’re in a safe outdoor space. 

Every limited edition CamelBak x Pride bottle sold includes a free Outside Safe Space sticker. Proceeds from all CamelBak x Pride bottle purchases will go to will go to The Venture Out Project, a non-profit organization that provides safe backpacking and wilderness trips for the queer and transgender community.

So, grab your bottle, sport your sticker, and share your Pride with the world! 

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