The Great Outdoors

Walking While Outdoors: A New Frontier For Fearless Homosexuals

You may wish to brace yourselves for some intersectional ruggedness, care of Patrick Kelleher, writing in Pink News:

Meet the queer hikers proving the great outdoors isn’t just for cis, straight, middle class folk.

I fear a question may have been begged there, one on which the entire article rests, but hey, let’s push on. There’s oppression to invoke and needless drama to manufacture.

On the last Queer Out Here walk, there was a welcome circle where everyone was asked to introduce themselves, state their pronouns, and tell the group what the outdoors means to them. 

Because even simple fun – say, an outdoors walk - has to be organised, you see, and made “quite political,” with lots of declarations and public speaking to keep you in the moment and at one with nature. And a walk just isn’t a walk unless you can make it, like everything else, all about your identity, i.e., all about you. The organiser in question is one Ailish Breen, a being with pronouns, and who offers “queer-only spaces” to those in search of sky and scenery. If you’re “queer, trans, non-binary, genderqueer, gay, lesbian, bi, asexual, intersex, pansexual,” or any sexual-identity niche not yet recognised or invented, this is The Fun Time For You:

Our community is wonderful because of its breadth and diversity. By coming on a hike with us you’re committing to embracing everyone’s uniqueness and welcoming everybody. We don’t tolerate any form of discrimination at our events.

“Straight/cis allies” are, of course, not welcome.

Inevitably, “a lack of equality around access” is invoked, but as so often, particulars remain unmentioned or unobvious. Setting aside the advantages of suitable footwear and something waterproof, the nearest we get to crushing issues of unfairness are,

 Ailish says, “People think it’s for middle class, white, heteronormative families.”

A claim that hangs in the air with no obvious support.

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Reheated (62)

For newcomers and the nostalgic, more items from the archives:

Imagine The Picnics

Emily Zak wants us to know that fresh air and countryside are, like everything else, terribly oppressive.

Naturally, Ms Zak has an extensive, at times bewildering list of excuses for why any outdoors recreation should be tinged with guilt and wretchedness. From the claim that, “our society leverages natural spaces as a tool for capitalism and colonialism,” to the “toxic binary expectations we have about gender.” To spare you the tedium, I’ll summarise: If you can’t borrow a tent or don’t have a pair of suitable shoes, and if you don’t see enough adverts featuring gay people kayaking, and kayaking in a discernibly gay-affirming manner, it turns out you’re being oppressed by society.


A balding, middle-aged transvestite, a sociology lecturer, wishes to confuse your children.

Dr Cremin doesn’t seem to grasp, or isn’t willing to admit, that his craving for public transgression – to, as he puts it, “sow gender confusion in kids” – by which he means young people over whom he has leverage - reveals quite a lot about his character. And his fitness to teach. I hate to sound prim, but if I were – God help me – a sociology student, I doubt I’d be reassured by the fact that my lecturer felt entitled to use the classroom as a venue for his transvestite fetish. It does rather suggest a pathological level of self-involvement and raises a suspicion that students may find themselves playing captive audience to - or being reluctant participants in - some personal psychodrama. A kind of power game. Some variation of, “I can do this and you can’t stop me without being accused of bigotry.” 

They Come To Teach Us

Polite man encounters Mao-lings. Mao-lings lose their minds, scream abuse, then assault him.

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The White Outdoors

The British countryside remains a distinctly white and often intimidating place for BAME communities.

So says the Guardian’s north of England correspondent, Nazia Parveen.

The British countryside being the preserve of the white middle classes is a perception that is backed by stark figures, with ethnic minorities often deterred from heading into the outdoors due to deep-rooted, complex barriers… Only 1% of visitors to UK national parks come from BAME backgrounds, and statistics from the outdoor sector paint a similar picture, with only around 1% of summer mountain leaders and rock-climbing instructors in the UK from ethnic minorities.

I’m sure the relative scarcity of brown-skinned rock-climbing instructors plays a pivotal role.

The reasons behind this reluctance to venture out are complicated.

Ah, but of course. Though some may be more obvious than others. The concentration of minorities in urban centres and the consequent logistics of travel to the countryside being fairly self-explanatory. We’re also told of “a lack of culturally appropriate provisions,” though details as to what these culturally appropriate provisions might be, or indeed why they should be provided, seemingly at public expense, are left to the readers’ imagination. We are, however, steered to the distinct impression that these “last bastions of whiteness” are a very bad thing and that something must be done.

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Land Of The Before Times

As we confront the reality of COVID-19, the idea of living self-sufficiently in the woods, far from crowds and grocery stores, doesn’t sound so bad. 

From the pages of Outside magazine, the romance of the primitive:

I’m on my way to meet Lynx Vilden, a 54-year-old British expat who, for most of her adult life, has lived wholly off the grid. The slick roads don’t help my apprehension about what lies ahead: a three-day, one-on-one experience of “living wild.” The details are hazy. I’ve been advised to prepare for bracing climes and arduous excursions. “Wear sturdy shoes,” Lynx told me. “Bring meat.”

You may want to keep those last two words in mind.

I send a text message to Lynx telling her I’ll be late. Only later do I realise how presumptive this is: she doesn’t have cell service or WiFi.

Feel free to scream quietly into your sleeves.

Until about ten years ago, Lynx also possessed no credit card, nor fixed address; her previous abodes—a tepee in Arizona, yurts in Montana and New Mexico, a snow shelter on the Lappish tundra—had neither electricity nor running water.

As an attempt to glamorise primitive living, away from all those grocery stores, we aren’t, it has to be said, off to the most promising start.

This all changed when she received a modest inheritance from her mother’s estate in Britain that allowed her to purchase a remote five-acre plot some 12 miles outside Twisp.

Primitive living, it turns out, is so much easier with an inheritance. 

When I finally arrive at the property in the early afternoon, she welcomes me to her wooded outpost wearing hand-stitched leathers. She heats her 900-square-foot log cabin—also the handiwork of the prior owners—by tending a wood-burning stove.

Again, if you’re into Stone Age role-play, then spare cash and pre-built property, complete with solar panels, power outlets and rudimentary plumbing, does seem rather handy, perhaps a prerequisite. Such that our fearless disdainer of modernity can “divide her time” flying between continents as mood suits, from Sweden to France’s Dordogne Valley and back to the mountains of Washington, USA. It’s the prehistoric way.

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They Hover Above Us, Glowing With Wisdom

And the glare is dazzling

Monica Gagliano says that she has received Yoda-like advice from trees and shrubbery. She recalls being rocked like a baby by the spirit of a fern. She has ridden on the back of an invisible bear conjured by an osha root. She once accidentally bent space and time while playing the ocarina.

I’m sure the following detail is entirely unrelated:

Dr Gagliano… [had] been volunteering at an herbalist’s clinic, and had begun using ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic brew.

Dr Galgiano tells us that her embrace of indigenous Amazonian traditions, including medicine songs and bathing in tree pulp, and presumably the occasional snifter of ayahuasca, has resulted in the uncanny acquisition of “healing knowledge,” told to her by plants.

And because a cake needs icing

The New York Times (unsurprisingly) points out that Gagliano also “speaks thoughtfully” on subjects such as the “legacies of colonialism [and] capitalism.”

The University of Sydney is ever so lucky

Also, open thread.

A Tempting Invitation

What is masculinity? How can we challenge it?

So ask the great minds behind Earth First! UK, a “non-hierarchical organisation” that will soon be hosting a six-day series of eco-activist workshops at an undisclosed rural location in the North East of England and which employs unspecified “direct action” in order to “stop the destruction of the Earth.” It all sounds very Flash Gordon - except, I suppose, for the challenging masculinity thing. Curiously, a definition of masculinity seems to have proved elusive and no indication is given of exactly why masculinity should be challenged. It just should, apparently. They’re quite emphatic on this point. Which sounds a little like jumping the gun, but there we are.

As if to heighten the intrigue, the official tweet, linked above, links in turn to the official Earth First! UK website, which also has no information whatsoever about why challenging masculinity is a thing one ought to be doing, and doing urgently, or how one might go about this pressing task in a suitably planet-saving manner. In fact, the workshop in which these high-minded rumblings will apparently occur, thereby averting catastrophe, isn’t mentioned at all. Conceivably, the aforementioned “non-hierarchical organisation” may be a factor here.

Those untroubled by such mysteries and who wish to save the world from rampant masculinity, possibly by chaining themselves to something, are advised to bring “a tent, a sleeping bag and a torch.” Rest assured that meals will be “made vegan and collectively,” which sounds promising. And do bear in mind that “everyone is crew,” another gloriously collective sentiment, and consequently, “toilets and running water will be run by all of us.” The words foolproof and hygienic leap immediately to mind.

Via Julia, who is no doubt already airing her sleeping bag.

Imagine The Picnics

Nature doesn’t have to be a rich, white playground. However, structures humans put in place – capitalism, colonialism, racism, sexism, and ableism – allow some people to access the outdoors and force others home.

Everyday Feminism’s Emily Zak wants us to know that the allure of fresh air and countryside is in fact, like everything else, terribly oppressive:  

Those of us who manage to get outside, we need to go beyond calling ourselves lucky. We need to understand ourselves as privileged.

Well, I suppose we all knew that was the predestined conclusion, the only permissible one, and that fretting about it theatrically is something we need to do. And naturally, Ms Zak has an extensive, at times bewildering list of excuses for why any outdoors recreation should be tinged with guilt and wretchedness. From the claim that, “our society leverages natural spaces as a tool for capitalism and colonialism,” to the “toxic binary expectations we have about gender.” You see,

Society actively discourages millions from playing outside, possibly stopping budding conservation activists. 

And then the inevitable list-cum-incantation:

Media paint a homogenous picture of who enjoys the outdoors, as well. They’re typically white, male, cisgender, slender, able-bodied, and assumed straight.

To spare you the tedium, I’ll summarise: If you can’t borrow a tent or don’t have a pair of suitable shoes, and if you don’t see enough adverts featuring gay people kayaking, and kayaking in a discernibly gay-affirming manner, it turns out you’re being oppressed by society.

Of course there’s also the issue of girth:

Only last year did anyone think to build a bike for someone who’s heavier than 300 pounds.

The inhumanity of niche markets. And if the limited availability of reinforced bicycles weren’t quite enough of a stretch:

Many outdoor jobs, like wildland firefighting and logging, remain hyper-masculine and painfully heteronormative.

You heard the lady. The logging industry is painfully heteronormative. And so – er, obviously - “marginalised people” can’t enjoy the great outdoors. “The barriers to outdoor recreation are very real,” says she.