We had the honor of connecting with an amazing organization — The Venture Out Project — a nonprofit leading the way in inclusivity in the outdoors, especially for queer and transgender communities. Read on to hear more about their important work.
Astral: For those in our community who haven’t heard of Venture Out, describe the mission and how it’s accomplished.
The Venture Out Project (TVOP): We envision a world where queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ youth and adults create community, develop leadership skills and gain confidence through the shared experience of outdoor adventure and physical activity.
Whether you’re a first timer, an experienced adventurer, or somewhere in between, we have something for everyone. Our trips are run by queer people for queer people, all across the United States. TVOP offers these experiences through both backcountry and frontcountry events.
Backcountry events are those that take place in wilderness settings. Of these, we offer both overnight and day adventures. Our overnight adventures include backpacking, canoe camping, rafting, and much more! Similarly, our day adventures also offer a diversity of experiences, such as queer day hikes, indoor rock climbing, skiing, and snowshoeing.
Frontcountry events are new to TVOP this year, and take place solely at our Basecamp at Beaver Falls (BCBF) location, which resides on the ancestral lands of the Elnu Abenaki People, past and present. These are a great option for folks who prefer warm beds, stocked kitchens, and relative closeness to flushable toilets. Our frontcountry events focus on community and skill-building outside of backcountry settings.
“Community is medicine.”
Astral: Why is community so important to Venture Out?
TVOP: Community is medicine. Being together in community is one of the most underrated methods of healing ourselves within our identities, which are so often challenged, invalidated, ignored, or shamed. Our mission of creating queer and trans community in the outdoors combines the power of being around those with shared life experiences with the innate magic of nature (which is inherently free of the gender binary we, as humans, have created for basically everything else).
Astral: Venture Out’s Executive Director, Perry Cohen, has said that the “hope is to change the outdoor industry enough to make it more safe, fun and affirming for all kinds of people, especially trans and queer people.” What are the keys to achieving that hope? And how can others within the outdoor community help?
TVOP: Here are five points for supporting your LGBTQ+ friends and family:
1. Invite queer folks to join you on your outdoor adventures – it can make an intimidating experience a lot more welcoming if a friend who you trust invites you along.
2. Recognize and acknowledge that there are historical and societal reasons why many queer people don’t feel safe outdoors.
3. If you run a group event, think about ways to use inclusive language and practices.
4. If you run a group event and want to be more inclusive, consider partnering with an LGBTQ+ organization to lead an event.
5. Don’t make comments like “cotton kills” which can feel really judgemental to those new to the outdoors. They may not know why cotton is often not a great choice in the backcountry and/or may not have the funds to buy the latest and greatest gear.
“Recognize that there are societal reasons why many queer people don’t feel safe outdoors.”
Astral: What can others do to promote/learn/educate/support TVOP in the most helpful manner?
TVOP: There are many ways to engage with us, directly and indirectly. Sharing our content is helpful because it spreads awareness of what we do, both to potential participants who’d not yet heard of us, and to potential partners, who help fund our mission of diversifying the outdoors. More direct ways to support us are through donations, encouraging your employers to hire us for a Beyond Bathrooms trans 101 inclusion workshop, or finding other ways to give. And, as always, educating yourself through reliable resources, like podcasts, books, and blogs, is a great way to bring acceptance and openness to natural spaces.
To see more of The Venture Out Project’s work, check out this video: