All photography by Laura Morrison

Trekking for QUEERFLEX & Checking Our Privilege…

 On April 24th, 2018 I set out to hike from Mexico to Canada on the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail. My motivations were simple: I liked to hike and I loved nature. I always have. Nature has provided me solace like no other in my darkest moments, and is a constant source of inspiration. As I successfully traversed the length of the USA in just 114 days through California, Oregon and Washington several things became very clear to me.

I became increasingly aware of my social location as it relates to the privileges I have been afforded as an able bodied, cis-gendered woman of Euro-Canadian descent. You may be asking, what is social location? Social location can be viewed as a measurement of an individual’s dynamic amount of privilege and/or oppression in relation to identity constructs that are often externally imposed and socially constructed. Association or an ability to “fit in” to specific constructs such as race, ethnicity, gender, ability, class, religion, citizenship status, or sexual/gender identity and accompanying levels of power (or lack of power) determine our social location.

I identify as a queer woman and have been in recovery from drug addiction and an eating disorder for nearly nine years. However, I have been exempt of many forms of oppression, stigmatization, and discrimination that are to often associated with the queer community and/or addiction. It is simply because of how I look and how others interpret me based on my appearance. This is a prime example of privilege. Well friends, ALL privilege is illegitimate. It has afforded me and undoubtedly some of you advantages or types of opportunity while disadvantaging others. This doesn’t make you or I bad people, and possessing privilege doesn’t have to equate to to the willful intention of harming others. However, we do need to hold each other accountable to level the playing fields. I challenge you to check your own privilege and consider the ways in which it has affected you and others on both negative and positive levels.

In many aspects, a “trail community” or distance hiking trail is similar to other social settings. There is greater visible representation of majority groups and a often a lack of minorities. Statistically, there will be less woman than men on any given trail, less people of colour, few non-able or disabled bodies, and a lack of queer representation. Once we become aware of our privilege and social location, we can no longer be naive to these realities that are blatantly staring us in the face. We can no longer afford to continue perpetrating the notion that outdoors spaces are apolitical in nature when inequities clearly exist.

Collectively, I believe we share a social responsibility (often overlooked) to help create safer and more inclusive spaces for minority and disadvantaged groups; not only in natural and outdoor spaces, but within our local communities.

The fundraising campaign “Trekking for Queerflex” came to fruition out of a desire to give back while tackling my next adventure and second hike across the USA on the Continental Divide. Not only am I excited to represent the queer community as I tackle the 3,100 mile trek, but I am honoured to be in a position to raise funds and awareness for Canada’s first queer centred - up and running fitness space: Queerflex! Based out of Edmonton, Alberta, they are on a mission to address LGBTQIA2S+ fitness accessibility (physical, mental, emotional, and financial) on levels extending far beyond their local community. Furthermore they honour the intersections of identity and trauma that exist in our LGBTQIA2S+ communities.

Queerflex’s guiding principles are to: 1) To prioritize the needs of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, with an emphasis on the needs of trans and non-binary folks, queer people of colour, and disabled queer folks in service delivery and hiring practices. 2) To uphold healthy at every size, and utilize trauma informed principles in all their work. 3) To promote community over competition. 4) To honour impact over intent.

The work that Queerflex does is vital to building stronger communities. As a grass roots non-profit, they are are blazing an amazing trail and leading by example for future service providers. Currently their ability to become sustainable and to meet the increasing demand for services is very dependant on community support and financial resources. Cutbacks in government spending has made it more challenging for non-profits to receive the ongoing grants and funding they need to thrive.

No amount of support is to small or unworthy. I am asking you to step up to the plate by contributing if you can or see fit. By supporting this campaign you are helping to reduce barriers that prevent LGBTQIA2S+ from accessing traditional health, wellness, and fitness spaces. You are also supporting the notion that all forms of identity and expression are valid. And… you are encouraging me to keep on trekking one mile at a time across the Continental Divide!

Privilege means not having to think about privilege.
— Cara Liebowitz, 'Dis'abled Activist