“It’s hard to be what you can’t see.”
-Marian Wright Edelman
I am 12 hours away from departing on the adventure of my life. My bag is packed and I have arrived. There is no stopping me now. I want to thank my friends and family for the incredible outpouring of support I have received in the year leading up to tomorrow. I truly could not ask for a better tribe to surround myself with and I am humbled by the generosity, curiosity and kindness I have been shown throughout my pre-planning.
Five years ago this is not a journey I would have imagined embarking on. My first introduction to camping and the outdoors came at a time when I was discovering my otherness, what made me different from the other boys. I joined boy scouts hoping to find a sense of community and make more friends but upon becoming a part of a troop spent all my time stifling and hiding myself so they would not see me for who I was. Before I could articulate that I was gay, before my sexuality was fully developed I only knew that my interests did not align with my peers, that I was somehow separate than them. I loved the serenity nature offered but did not want to participate in the chauvinistic pissing contests put on by the other boys. Pre-pubescent boys are assholes…
Looking back I wish I had persevered. I wish I had made an effort to stand my ground, be myself, and perhaps even change some minds. I am certain I would have found my place but they struck a nerve and I quit. My pride prevented me expressing the true reason behind my short scouting career, that I simply was not well liked because I was a bit queer. As a result I told my parents I hated camping and I did not have fun. They did not question it.
These experiences kept me from camping for almost fifteen years. I even convinced myself that it was not something I wanted to be a part of my life. Just the thought of it took me back to that place of exclusion, of anxiety, of feeling like less. When my husband Chase finally got me into nature to camp and hike in 2014 all those anxieties melted away. I felt whole and complete, at peace. Ever since then I am in the wild as often as I possibly can be. I regret that I missed so many opportunities. In a way I feel I will be making up for lost time on the trail.
It is not only the queer population that is underrepresented in the outdoor community. When I look at gear ads and read outdoor publications I do not see myself and I know I am not alone in that sentiment. If I can help, even in a very small way, to sculpt out a place for those who are not cisgender white males, if I can give other queer kids living in Texas and other conservative pockets of our country no doubt in their minds that they are welcome in the outdoors and will be fully embraced, then I will be very satisfied with what I have accomplished over the course of this adventure.
I look forward to sharing my story with you over the months to come. Feel free to comment, reach out, ask questions and be sure to follow @hikinghomo on Instagram and “like” AGayGoneWild on Facebook!