Why LGBTQIA+ Visibility Is So Important In The Outdoors
By Andy Leake, We are Explorers
Posted on 08.10.2021
Out in the wilderness you can be your truest self, right?
Actually, it’s not that simple, but as Andy explains, it couldn’t be more important.
Feeling Like an Outsider
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, heading into rural areas has always carried a personal level of anxiety. Whether it’s heads turning when holding hands with your boyfriend, or the presumption that you and a female friend are a couple, heading away from urban areas has often left me face-to-face with heteronormativity.
I’m someone who was raised to believe everyone is entitled to the countryside. As a kid growing up in the rural part of the UK, weekends were spent exploring local hills and mountains. The gift of a love for nature passed down by my parents has been carried into my adult life.
I’ve enjoyed several hiking holidays, from the mountains of the Lake District back home, to following the stunning Copland Trail beneath the skyline of the Southern Alps in Aotearoa, where I currently live.
Learning To Embrace My Visibility as a Gay Man
Displaying your queerness in these environments can be intimidating. A lifetime of marginalisation had led me to think that you can’t move through rural landscapes as a visible member of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, I’ve grown emboldened by forging close friendships and relationships with my queer peers. In an environment where to be gay is to be invisible, it’s important to become visible. Be the change you want to see in the world.
It was walking through the rural town of Martinborough in New Zealand that those familiar feelings of anxiety began to take hold once again. Holding hands with my boyfriend, I couldn’t help but glance around to see if anyone was watching us. Most of the time these feelings are internal, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. But it only takes someone looking at you twice, the odd passer-by giving a quizzical look, to remind you that you’re different, out of the ordinary.
In these moments it’s important to remember that it’s this uniqueness that makes you special, perhaps there’s someone watching on who’s too afraid to welcome their queerness. The sight of a gay couple walking down their street might give them the courage they need to embrace that part of themselves.
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