One of the most supportive ways to show up and be a better ally to LGBTQIA+ people in the outdoors is to have our backs if someone is harassing us or being inappropriately critical or vocally harmful. This goes with any form of harm, inappropriate jokes, disrespect projected on the trail, mountain, river, or any form of outdoor activity. It extends to social media, to our families, communities, schools and our representatives.
How we show up as allies matters. We can’t always effectively overcome hate and ignorance by “calling out” inappropriate behavior with a heated or disrespectful response, although often that is our default or first reaction. From my experience, this perpetuates harm, puts others on the immediate defense and continues a downward spiral of hostility that fuels conflict. Certainly any type of behavior that could potentially lead to violence must be “called out” immediately. Being safe is our number one priority.
The best allies I’ve had in the outdoors are those who “call in” offenders. They’ve done it with compassion and love, quietly on the side without putting the offender on the spot. They’ve done it tactfully and respectfully with feedback that’s educational rather than entirely critical. This has more than once resulted in apologies for the offense and an expression of gratitude for helping them understand their inappropriate behavior. This won’t always work, but as allies we should strive to make it our go-to first reaction when possible. Rather than fueling the conversation the offender brings forward, we can respond by speaking up with support and love for the LGBTQTIA+ individual or community being targeted by lifting them up with our words.
Ultimately, love wins. The LGBTQIA+ community is bursting at the seams with the love we want the world to be. We all know that hate in every form comes from deep-seated fear and ignorance. Calling others in with love, instead of perpetuating conflict and hate by calling them out, has the potential to change the conversation from negative to positive. The offenders’ scripts are all too familiar and empty. Let’s do our best to be positive allies, adopt a glass half full rather than half empty, and change the narrative with our responses. Simply pausing before reacting can make a real difference to everyone’s experience, ours included.
Eddie Bauer Alpine Climbing Guide (AMGA/IFMGA)
Angela has been climbing, skiing and working full-time as a mountain guide for well over three decades. She’s one of the most experienced women guides in the industry, and one of only 11 female guides in the country to have achieved certification in all three AMGA disciplines of alpine, rock, and ski guiding.