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.

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Yesterday I met Harrison Schmitt (last man to land on the moon, he also gave me good luck charm) and @astrodavids - astronauts who's lived onboard the International Space Station @iss . David said that in order for humans to go to Mars there need to be major sustainable changes. Creating better recycling systems for food wastage, food cultivation, water and air conservation. . . However the most important one is cooperation between multiple nations aiming for a single cause (this goes beyond politics, religion and dogma). Another important point with Harrison Schmitt was that to make an astronaut they must conduct exploritory expeditions here on earth first to get a sense of exploring terrain. Something I'm deeply passionate about. Because of space exploration we are able to see our earth, we were able to see our ozone layer deteriorating which we eventually fixed. There are endless possibilities of discoveries and tools we use in space that can help us thrive on Earth. . Do you think we'll make it to Mars, what's your thought? . . Photo by @evansdwayne

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"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.

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☀️•Monday: Ragnar Race Adventures re-cap, I've always welcomed the distraction that music offered me on my runs. But during this race, I learned that nothing compares to listening to my body and it's movements/aches/pains. During my second run at night, when I thought I could do with some music, my calf started hurting and tightening up. At one point I thought I wouldn't finish, but I took my music out and tried to source out the pain, listen to my body aches .. talk to myself. ✨Don't underestimate the power of the mind+body connection, Listening to my body's "music" got me to the end. ––– 📸@nightterrorsrun #repost This photo says it all.. my feelings about running Ragnar, my great team.. without whose support I wouldn't have made it as far as I did. The other runners racing.. 🙏🏽 Many thanks to everyone involved with Ragnar! ––– ✨✨Happy Monday! (So proud I can now say I completed my very first ultra distance . . 60km!) ––– . . . . . . . #Ragnarrelay #ultramarathon #relayraces #Run4AllWomen #RagnarNiagara #ProjectLoveRun #BeMoreHuman #reebok #reebokwomen #reebokambassador #reebokcanada #Mondaymotivation #womenrunnerscommunity #womenrunning #runners #Monday #inspiration #runnerscommunity #fitness #motivation #selflove #womenempowerment #inspiringwomenrunners #marathontraining #reebokwomen #reebokambassador #reebokcanada

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“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.

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Thinking about colorism & being asian (swipe for some good readz) #browngirlgreen 👂🏾👂🏾👂🏾👂🏾👂🏾👂🏾👂🏾👂🏾 Your skin color can determine: •socioeconomic status •educational opportunities •prospective romantic partners •friend circles ——————————————————————————— For a long time, I felt really ashamed of how dark I was and my thick, curly hair. My story is not unique- but is a story that is fed to dark-skinned Asian children from a young age. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that did not shame me for this, but others are definitely not as lucky. Asian Americans are especially not taught to appreciate color differences across the spectrum, as seen through whitening soaps & the praise for western media. Along with the desire for gaining whiteness, colorism fuels the fear of losing opportunities due to blackness. The most important observation I’ve made in the past few weeks is how threatened the Asian American community feels in this moment. That all of a sudden, talking about anti-blackness is an erasure of our community’s struggle. That they are missing out on opportunities to get into college or get better jobs because employers/ institutions have to fill a “quota.” Yes, I feel your pain in some ways, as you feel that something is being taken away from you & that your family just wanted to give you a better life. But if you can’t recognize the systemic racism that pits brown and black people against each other for resources from these institutions in the first place, what are we dismantling? Who really is the enemy here??? I just hope that Asian Americans can both hold space to listen & support the hurt of a community that’s felt silenced & assimilated while also recognizing/ untethering our persistent anti-blackness. And that blackness can be viewed as a major benefit, not a loss to our community- how we look, how we get access, or how we treat each other. Resources: 🌿Brown Skin, White Minds by @ejrdavidphd 🌿Whiter by Nikki Khana 🌿Episode 88 of @tfalpodcast 🌿Same Family, Different Colors by Lori Tharps 🌿 Colonial Faces: Beauty and Skin Color Hierarchy in the Philippines and the U.S. - a dissertation by Joanne Laxamana Rondilla (UC BERKELEY go bears 😋🐻)

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“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.

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Happy #EarthWeek , woke up this morning feeling amazing after getting eight hours of sleep. When we talk about environmental racism, we need to realize that communities are seeking justice for what went wrong in their communities. Grassroots organizing has a rich deep history that comes from generations of people. If we don't acknowledge historical events and systematic racism, we are going to miss what happened. • • The heart of environmental justice movements has collectivism, which is the common understanding that people have the power to make a change. When you have a variety of generations in movements, it paves the way for justice of the community and ancestors. Cities are still experiencing environmental racism throughout the world, and it's not easy for one to get up and leave their community. Gentrification is also happening everywhere, and that creates a cultural loss for people in those communities. Being born in Los Angeles, I've seen how my neighborhood has changed, and private developers are kicking out Black / Brown people in my neighborhood. These private developers have the finances to sway city politicians around policies, and it truly disgusts me. • • So until we can find solutions for environmental injustices happening throughout the world, I won't stop talking about environmental racism. What are you hoping to seek justice for in Environmental Movements? 💚🌟 #environmentaljustice #environmentalracism #enviornmentalism #ecoeducator #climatejustice #climateaction #enviornmentaleducation #earthday2020 #earthday #earthmonth #environmentalprotection #environmentalawareness #climatejusticenow #climatecrisis #climatecrisisisreal #culturestrike #brownenvironmentalist #globalwarming #climatestrikeonline #sunrisemovement #extinctionrebellion #ecoeducator #digitalstrike #greenpeace #climateactivist #ecoactivist #climatebreakdown

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"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.

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I always see people writing letters to their younger selves and wondered what I would include in my message to a young Demiesha. * The inquisitive girl growing up in Jamaica, running around through the bushes barefoot, falling out of trees because she couldn't wait for the fruits to ripen, finding rocks in a bauxite mine and thinking she'd be rich because said rocks looked like crystals, finding fossils in others rocks and believing she was a scientist. What would I tell Demiesha who wanted to be nothing more than a marine biologist when she grew up? What would I tell her? * I don't think I'd try to change her view of the world and her place in it. I would however encourage her to dig a little deeper into why the rocks were the way they were. I'd help her understand that reclaimed land would never again nourish plant life like it's original self. I'd help her realize how connected she was to the earth through her barefoot explorations feet and help her embrace her barefoot ways. * I'd guide her through fighting for herself in high school when her guidance counselor told her that "being a marine biologist wasn't a real job" and streamed her away from the sciences. * Most of all, I'd let her know that it's ok that she didn't become a marine biologist - and yes it is a real job! Also that she is happy having found her place right where she belongs sharing her love for nature with just about anyone who will listen . I'm sure she'd be happy. * #letkidsdream #supportdreams #nature #jamaica #sciences #stemeducation #jamaican #supportkidsinstem #getoutside #happyoutdoors #adventuremama #moreoutside #outdooreducation #learning #lettertomyslef #outdoorsmama #outdooreducation #naturelover #backtonature #blackoutdoors

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“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