Very Trans, Very Queer Outdoor Lover, Lou

Please tell us about yourself – who you are, what you do, what your favorite outdoor passions are.
I am an organizer, photographer, educator, and climber. I’m very trans, very queer and very out about it. I grew up here and there across North America and after spending six years in Brooklyn, I moved into my car to focus on playing outside. I’m currently nomadic and spend my time bouncing between Bishop, CA, the northeast and pretty places in between.

For the past couple years I have been the Operations and Events Associate at Flash Foxy, a grassroots organization that creates spaces and education opportunities for women and genderqueer climbers. I also instruct climbing as an AMGA-certified Single Pitch Instructor. Before my climbing centered life, I ran a recreational gymnastics program where I worked to create a gender inclusive environment in a highly binary sport. My work creating affinity spaces in gymnastics led me to seek out affinity spaces in other sports I love - like climbing.

Now that I’ve run away to the mountains I have no intention of going back! I love to spend my days chasing joy outdoors by climbing rocks, snowboarding, booping flowers and admiring every sunset I can.

Have you always had a passion / connection to nature and the outdoors? How did that evolve over time?
I’ve always loved the outdoors, and I spent a lot of my childhood a little spoiled by it in Vermont. As a kid, I had easy access to nature and loved mountain biking, hiking and snowboarding, but what I really longed for was city life. I moved to Philadelphia for college and spent the next decade living in major metropolitan cities. I didn’t really miss nature for a while. It wasn’t until my little climbing hobby escalated into a ~lifestyle~ that I reconnected with my love of nature and realized how important spending time outdoors is to my identity and happiness.

How has nature inspired and supported you over the years?
Nature has always been a source of fun for me. I was a competitive gymnast growing up and my outdoors sports always remained a place of pure joy and play. It was really grounding to have a place to escape the perfection I sought in gymnastics. I love snow and flowers and rocks and find comfort in both the patterns and weirdness of nature.

Can you talk about the importance of connecting to nature and give examples of your favorite ways to connect?
My favorite ways to be in nature are climbing rocks, snowboarding and laying in grass. I love the simplicity of laying on a patch of grass and looking up at the sky because it’s a grounding way to be with nature that you can do just about anywhere. For me spending time in nature is about physical touch and being present with my sensory experiences. That can be the tickle of grass and ants, the heat of midday sun, sharp edges of rock under my fingertips or sliding over packed snow between tight trees.

What ways if any has nature helped you as an LGBTQ+ individual?
Spending time in nature with my queer community has been extremely healing. It’s given me space to think, explore and discuss sensitive topics with those who are close to me. It’s a place that I feel like myself. Unfortunately, nature is also a place where I have become extremely aware of my vulnerability as a queer person. Some of my most cherished memories have taken place outdoors, like climbing shirtless and soaking in hot springs for the first time after top surgery, but I’ve also had some of my most sobering moments where I remember the danger that comes with being visibly queer and trans, like encountering a proud Nazi while soaking naked at a hot spring. To be out and visible and LGBTQ+ means both feeling affirmed and held by nature, and also at risk.

Why do you think it’s important to encourage more LGBTQ+ individuals to get out into nature?
I think everyone deserves to spend more time in nature, and that includes LGBTQ+ folks, BIPOC folks, disabled folks and plus size folks. The outdoors can seem extremely homogeneous, and while it may be, it is changing and everyone deserves to take up space in and enjoy nature. The more of us who get out, the more welcoming it will feel!

What's your favorite thing about Pride month?
My favorite thing about Pride month is watching baby queers come into the community, express themselves for the first time and see/feel that they can be accepted as they are and be whoever they want.

How can we all celebrate Pride Month in a way that’s inclusive and respectful of all LGBTQ+ people?
If you’re an ally, Pride isn’t your party. As an ally you should be elevating the voices of LGBTQ+ folks during Pride Month, and all year. It’s a time to educate yourself and reflect on the ways that you have been showing up for the LGBTQ+ folks in your daily life. Do you correct people when someone is misgendered? Do you call out your friends when they make homophobic jokes? Who are you voting for? What organizations are you giving money to? What types of posts are you re-sharing? It’s important this Pride is a celebration of and for LGBTQ+ folks, allies are welcome to come and celebrate us, but their voices shouldn’t be centered.

What advice would you give to other LGBTQ+ individuals that may be seeking to connect more with nature, but might not know how?
We’re out here and we’re waiting for you!! I would recommend looking for meetups and local organizations creating affinity spaces near you to find other outdoorsy queers. Some great organizations to follow include: @heyflashfoxy , @theventureoutproject , @unlikelyhikers , @easternsierracc , @out_inthewild , @queerclimbersnetwork , @alloutdoorscollective

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