Every June, it happens – rainbow logos, colorful marketing campaigns and a very welcome focus on the LGBTQIA+ community from brands and organizations nationwide. At Parks California, we know that this sense of pride and investment doesn’t end on June 30. It takes consistent and intentional effort all year long to ensure the millions of LGBTQIA-identifying people in our beautiful state are seen, heard and represented in places where they historically haven’t been – like in the outdoors, for example.
For many LGBTQIA+ people, feeling comfortable or safe in outdoor spaces often presents new and uncharted territory. As an organization that believes everyone has the inherent right to build a long-lasting and meaningful relationship with nature, we recognize that our collective community has a long way to go to ensure LGBTQIA+ people see themselves represented in outdoor media, narratives, spaces, and opportunities.
What is the best way to build a future where parks are truly welcoming and inclusive for everyone? One step at a time – not just during Pride Month, but every month. Below are some of our best tips to move collectively toward this vision.
Research and educate yourself
Agree that we need more representation in the outdoors but don’t know where to start? Step one is to research and educate yourself on the experiences of LGBTQIA+ people and the common issues they face. To do our individual part in making sure LGBTQIA+ people feel supported, check out the following pages to discover more about LGBTQIA+ history and community:
Apply for grants designed to increase representation in state parks
Right now, there’s an opportunity to increase LGBTQIA+ representation in state parks. Our friends at California State Parks have launched the Outdoor Equity Grants Program to increase state park and public land access for underrepresented communities throughout California by funding public programs and nonprofits that remove transportation barriers and connect people to parks. Learn more about the Outdoor Equity Grants Program and apply here.
Similarly, our Route to Parks grants aim to fund programs that remove the barriers that prevent underrepresented communities from experiencing the outdoors. Whether through us or California State Parks, there are plenty of opportunities to get support for programs that ensure diverse communities get to experience parks and outdoor spaces more often. Get out there and apply!
Join and support outdoor organizations started by and supporting LGBTQIA+ communities
There are now outdoor organizations and groups specifically dedicated to creating opportunities for LGBTQIA+ people to enjoy nature. We recommend looking into and learning about:
- The Diversify Outdoors Coalition is composed of social media influencers, bloggers, activists, entrepreneurs and athletes to encourage and promote diverse identities that have been traditionally underrepresented in the outdoor community.
- The Great Doors California organization is a volunteer nonprofit organization that predominantly serves the LGBTQIA+ community. Their chapters are located in Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs and Long Beach/Orange County. From backpacking, to RV camping and hiking, the Great Outdoors organization welcomes all LGBTQIA+ outdoor adventurers in their year-round activities.
Do what you can to create a safe space for everyone
Sometimes, even the smallest things make the biggest difference. We recommend the following simple things you can do to ensure you’re creating a safe space for all people:
- Share your pronouns when you introduce yourself and ask others for their pronouns to ensure you’re referring to people the way they prefer to be addressed. Don’t be afraid to ask everyone to introduce themselves with their pronouns as well! Read here to know more how to properly address pronouns.
- Offer yourself as a resource to support LGBTQIA+ people before starting your outdoor adventure. Be a well of advice, encouragement and support whenever possible and share your knowledge to break down knowledge barriers that often keep people from branching out.
Stand up and speak up when you see something not okay
Finally, if you witness discriminatory behavior out there, speak up. It is all of our responsibility, not just the responsibility of LGBTQIA+ outdoor people, to build parks for everyone.
We all deserve to have happy and safe experiences in the outdoors. With intentional effort, education and support, we can all contribute to beautifully diverse outdoor spaces that are welcoming and inclusive to all people.