Diversity outdoors: 5 inspiring BIPOC & LGBTQ+ outdoor enthusiasts share their challenging experiences | Great Lakes Guide

People and the Lakes

Diversity outdoors: 5 inspiring BIPOC & LGBTQ+ outdoor enthusiasts share their challenging experiences

Published July 16, 2020

When we step out into nature, we’re opening ourselves up to a multitude of experiences: the feeling of cool water on our skin, the sun warming our face, the sound of wind through the trees...

But for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people, going to beaches, waterbodies, trails, and parks exposes them to more than just the elements.

The barriers BIPOC and LGBQT+ people face to going outside aren’t always physical.

Outdoor spaces aren’t always welcoming places. BIPOC and LGBQT+ people may have to deal with overt racism or homophobia from other people or from law enforcement. They may feel unwanted in these spaces due to a lack of representation in the media.

The joy of going outside is something that everyone should be able to take part in. Everyone should feel safe benefiting from the restorative power of our natural world.

Here are 5 quotes about BIPOC and LGBQT+ outdoor experiences


Mario Rigby

Mario Rigby is an explorer and speaker who has hiked across Africa, cycled across Canada, and walked from Toronto to Montreal. He pushes the limits of athletics and exploration, all while empowering others to understand the importance of the environment and our shared humanity.

This summer, Mario Rigby will be kayaking the length of Lake Ontario, from Burlington to the Thousand Islands. His expedition will promote domestic, sustainable travel and inclusivity and diversity in outdoor spaces.

"Ever since I was a young boy, I just wanted to play outside. There's a deep connection between myself, nature, and the ever-expanding universe. It is not just a part of us, nature is what makes us. The trees that build the forest are the lungs of the earth that give us breath. As a young boy, I never thought I would fight to keep the space we come from safe from ourselves, nor did I think I needed to prove to the world that people who look like me also deserve to enjoy the outdoors."

— Mario Rigby

Follow Mario Rigby on Instagram and Facebook.


Filsan Abdiaman

Filsan Abdiaman created Project Love Run to merge her two life objectives: running and inspiring women. Through the project, she offers women a safe space to talk about matters of the heart, meet other women they can connect with and relate to, and find self-love.

“Although the trail community is extremely welcoming—a tribe of crazies just like myself—I am always aware of being the only minority. In all my races and on all the trails I run on, I am constantly on the lookout for other black folks. As a black woman, I’ve had my share of uncomfortable experiences out on a run. As a result, I’m always vigilant every time I lace up. But I still lace up—that I do because I strongly believe that I have every right to take up space too. I have every right to show my face and presence.”

— Filsan Abdiaman

Follow Filsan Abdiaman on Instagram and read her feature on Great Lakes Guide.


Kristy Drutman

Kristy Drutman is a Jew-Pina American environmental media host, speaker, activist, digital media strategist, youth climate activist, and the creator of Brown Girl Green. Through content creation, she works to engage audiences about proactive solution-building to the climate crisis.

“Natural spaces carry a lot of political and social weight as to who does and does not have access. Land defenders worldwide put their lives on the line every day to have access to nature for their families and future generations. If nature is treated as a human right, perhaps our economic institutions and public policies will follow suit to reshape our communities as nature-oriented, allowing for more accessible, safe avenues for marginalized communities to enjoy.”

“When you hear of a white woman in Berkeley, CA calling two underage black girls the "n-word" for just trying to learn how to rock climb in a public park, it does become our business to remember that access to the outdoors is not equitable. How people show up, how they are treated, and how they feel comfortable and safe to be themselves is just as important as seeing birds and bees. If we care to preserve outdoor spaces, where is the preservation of our humanity in the face of injustice during this time? We can look to nature for our first step.”

— Kristy Drutman

Follow Kristy Druitman on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and support her work on Patreon.


Isaias Hernandez

Isaias Hernandez is the creator of Queer Brown Vegan. He is an eco educator living a vegan and zero waste lifestyle. Isaias works to provide a safe space for environmentalists to engage in the discourse of the current climate crisis.

"As a Queer Environmental Educator, I have always been presented ecological concepts from heteronormative perspectives that have often failed to talk about Queer Ecological practices. Whenever I'm on a trail, I ask myself, was this space an important space for Queer folks? So much of our geographical relationship spaces in history are covered through a cis-hetero male perspective, and we will never know what these spaces meant for Queer ancestors and their relationships with that land or location. It's important to ask that each location in nature has unique relationships with a community or acknowledge that each location had one with a community at one point in time."

— Isaias Hernandez

Follow Isaias Hernandez on Instagram.


Demiesha Dennis

Demiesha Dennis is the founder of Brown Girl Outdoor World, a community organization changing the narrative of what an ‘outdoorsy’ person looks like through adventure. She is also the founder of She Said What She Said!, which hosts weekly discussions with women all over the world chatting about racism, diversity in the outdoors, and more.

“I have received love, unsure smiles, offers of assistance, and words of hate on banks of rivers and on the trails that are meant to be for everyone. These experiences have shaped my desire to bring about more diversity and inclusion in who occupies outdoor spaces and who turns to nature and the outdoors as a place of refuge and healing.”

— Demiesha Dennis

Follow on Demiesha Dennis on Facebook and Twitter.

Looking for more BIPOC outdoor enthusiasts? Check out our list of BIPOC influencers to follow on social media