June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month as well as Great Outdoors Month and so this blog will be about both!
LGBTQIA+ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and the plus is for gender fluid people – people whose gender identity changes over time or per situation. Queer is a sort of all inclusive term for non-straight people, while intersex refers to people whose gender is neither male nor female due to biological, hormonal or genetic reasons, and asexual refers to those who experience no sexual attraction at all. (1)
June was designated as Pride month to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York City in June of 1969, which marks a major turning point in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights in the United States. The Stonewall Riots happened one night in Manhattan when the police raided a gay bar at around 3 o’clock in the morning.
It was and still is illegal to sell alcohol past 3 A.M. in most cities but the police raid came without warning. The mafia ran most of the gay bars in New York City during this time. Serving alcohol to homosexuals was illegal (2), and the mafia realized that the LGBT community wanted a safe place to gather, and that there was a lot of money to be made in that business. Normally, the mafia would get a tip-off about a police raid, and would warn their bar ahead of time in order to avoid losing money or alcohol.
At that time in New York City it was also illegal for a man to wear more than three items of clothing of the opposite gender. (3) The NYPD was also known to solicit gay men into showing signs of homosexuality then, under penal Law 722, section 8 (passed in 1923), the NYPD would promptly arrest them for “degenerate disorderly conduct”. (4)
The shock of the raid, combined with decades of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, combined with an atmosphere electrified by drugs and alcohol, caused the patrons of the Stonewall Inn to fight back when the raid began. The riot lasted until four o’clock in the morning and was anything but peaceful. The Inn was almost completely destroyed, thirteen people were arrested, and four policemen and multiple civilians were injured. For a more in-depth look at the riots, I highly recommend checking out Ann Bausum’s book (or audiobook) called Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights or Stonewall: the Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution by David Carter. Or check out the movie: Stonewall.
Since then, the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights has made significant ground towards social justice with events such as Elaine Gay being the first openly gay elected official in Massachusetts in 1974, the first legal same-sex marriage in the United States taking place on May 17, 2004, and in 2017, Danica Roem becomming the first transgender elected official when she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates (5). There have been a lot of steps taken forward in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights and in one niche community in particular, people are literally taking steps to advance not just the acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community but of every minority community in the world.
The hashtags #unlikelyhiker and #diversifyoutdoors are popping up more and more these days on instagram and on other forms of social media. People are breaking the stereotypes of what pop-culture and society have deemed a “normal” member of the outdoor adventure world. Jenny Bruso is credited with helping to start the movement when she started her blog called An Unlikely Hiker in 2015. In her first blog post, Bruso explained how hiking changed her life. She had grown up as an “indoors kid” and not coming from a family of hikers, the outdoors intimidated her until her first hike in the beautiful Pacific Northwest (6). Realizing that the trail was a place that everyone deserves to enjoy without fear of judgement or failure, Bruso started blogging about her hikes. This eventually grew to what it is today a blog that brings people from every community together for safe and supportive group hikes and even a monthly meeting, at her local community center, called Queer Adventure Storytelling.
Here in western North Carolina, we have so many different options for outdoor adventure and if you feel like you don’t fit into the description of “outdoor adventure athlete” just remember that Mother Nature provides the same challenge to everyone regardless of where you come from or what community you identify with. The bottom line is that everyone deserves to experience the beauty that our natural world provides and no one should be kept off of the trail or river or lake because of a fear of judgement. Jenny Bruso has put together a great collection of resources for people seeking to diversify the outdoors, check it out here. For inspiration on your next hike, check out some books from our collection: Hiking Waterfalls in North Carolina and Best Easy Day Hikes, Blue Ridge Parkway. And if you need help finding a group of like minded people to hike or swim or play with, I recommend meetup.com, where you can search for groups of people in your area that share your interests. Also, always remember that your public library is an inclusive and welcoming place for people of all backgrounds.
I would like to end this blog with a quote from Civil Rights leader, Coretta Scott King: “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people. … But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.” (7)