Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
For Pride Month, two organizations are making it easier to find LGBTQ outdoor recreation groups across the U.S.
Across the U.S., LGBTQ people are connecting with one another through a love of the outdoors. Local groups like the Stonewall Golfers in Palm Springs, California, and G.L.A.M Climb in Austin, Texas—which caters to rock climbers who identify as “gay, lesbian, and more”—help by bringing people together. But not everyone may be aware of what groups exist in their cities.
That’s why two organizations in Washington, D.C.—Pride Outside and The Wilderness Society—are mapping as many LGBTQ-friendly outdoor groups as they can. The woman behind the initiative is Hannah Malvin, who founded Pride Outside in 2016 and who leads The Wilderness Society’s partnership initiatives.
“Working with the LGBTQ community, people would ask me, ‘Are there any groups in Pennsylvania, or in Long Island?’ and sometimes I’d just say, ‘I don’t know.’” Malvin tells CityLab.
To find a better answer, Malvin enlisted her employer’s mapping team to build an interactive map, which went live last week. So far, it lists 46 outdoor groups across the U.S., plus two in Vancouver and one in Winnipeg, Canada. Users can search by address or city, and adjust the result by distance.
Malvin says she hopes the map will be useful for connecting people to each other and to activities in their own neighborhood, and also to groups that provide resources for outdoor enthusiasts in the LGBTQ community. Local groups can, for example, provide transportation to climbing gyms and national parks, or help individuals with the costs of travel and gear. They can also teach amateurs the “know-how” of particular sports.
Malvin’s own group hosts hiking classes, LGBTQ-history walking tours, and a space for the conservation community and outdoor industries to post job opportunities. The group has also partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for a social media campaign this month to both boost the visibility of LGBTQ people outdoors and to “take pride” in the world’s oceans. (June is both Pride Month and Ocean Month.) Later this fall, the group is co-hosting the third annual LGBTQ outdoor summit, bringing hundreds of industry professionals and community leaders together to talk about inclusivity.
The groups also give people a safe space to enjoy the outdoors and find a sense of belonging. “Uniquely to the community, if you don’t have role models that you identify with, sometimes you can wonder if you belong somewhere,” Malvin says. Some of the organizations listed cater to a wide range of identities: Frontrunners Atlanta, for example, is open to runners who are either part of the LGBTQ community or an ally. Others are more specific, like Lez Go in D.C., an adventure club geared specifically toward queer women.
There is value in both kinds of groups, she says. Single-identity groups can be “meaningful and powerful” for those who want to connect with those like them, while clubs that are broader can provide support to those who, say, are still on their journey of self-exploration.