PDA

View Full Version : Queer folk on the AT



npirsig
03-15-2003, 13:28
Iím planning on thru-hiking in Ď04 and am trying to balance my thoughts of gear, pack weight and finance with other, more personal issues. Iím queer. I have a partner but sheís not going with me. My general feeling with the way I live my life is: Iíve come out, and Iím not going back in. While being a dyke certainly isnít all of who I am, and certainly isnít all I talk about, itís something that I never want to intentionally cover up. SooooÖ whatís the general attitude towards queer folk on the trail and in towns? Any social or safety issues that anyoneís come across? I am aware of the lesbian couple that was murdered near the trail back in the 90ísÖ but itís not the odd throat-slasher that Iím worried about (although itís not exactly a pleasant though.) Itís the gossip, the sermons and the fear of being an absolute minority that scare me most.

Thanks,
Nell

RagingHampster
03-15-2003, 14:06
I couldn't care less. Whatever floats your boat.

max patch
03-15-2003, 14:08
I haven't read the book so I can't offer any details, but the book below was written by a bisexual woman who attempted a thru-hike and managed 1800-2000 miles before she had to abort her trip:

Walking Home: A Woman's Pilgrimage on the Appalachian Trail
by Kelly Winters

Brief review:

From Library Journal:
Blackened toenails, swollen fingers, salamanders in the water supply, mice in the shelters, trails that go up or down and are rarely level, rain, rain, and more rain these are but a few of the physical discomforts endemic to hiking the Appalachian Trail. Add to this a bizarre subculture created by dedicated "thruhikers" that includes choosing unusual, evocative trail names (Winters herself becomes "Amazin' Grace") and the scene is set for what many would consider "a walk on the wild side." Bill Bryson had more fun with the subject in his A Walk in the Woods, though he was criticized by many for his irreverent attitude. Winters (Side Roads of Long Island), who took six months to hike the 2000 miles from Georgia to Maine, chose a different path: her mission was to search for the self and to (re)define her sexuality. The result is an uneven, facile travel memoir at once laden with superfluous and often sordid details of a love affair gone wrong and the author's impressive knowledge of the region's flora and fauna. Recommended for extensive adventure collections in large public libraries; also appropriate for lesbian literature collections. Janet Ross, formerly with Sparks Branch Lib., NV

npirsig
03-15-2003, 14:38
Thanks for the tip. I just read more on Amazon (destroyer of independent booksellers I know... but so very convenient) and will definitely get a copy when I get back to the states... shipping to Australia is absurd - I just paid to get a pack shipped over. Ugh.

Any more general advice, suggestions, personal experiences?

Thanks again,
Nell

Lone Wolf
03-15-2003, 14:57
Every year I meet gay and lesbian folk on the trail. It's not an issue really. You is what you is. Just be you. Hell I'm a lesbian stuck in a man's body!

jensine
03-15-2003, 17:39
Having been a trail service provider for 18 years, we have seen
just about every "type" of hiker and we were never offended,
nor did we treat anyone differently than the next person.
But I have to be honest, since gays and lesbians have "come out"
decades ago, I haven't heard the word "queer" used in about
30 years. Is this a new retro movement??

Redbeard
03-15-2003, 20:39
I'm a Hammer wearing Neo-Pagan and never had a problem. Even if some punk gave you trouble they'd better catch you alone cause their's a mob of hikers strung up and down appalachia to back you up.

npirsig
03-15-2003, 22:48
I basically use the term cause it's more inclusive than just gay/lesbian... also I like the idea of groups coopting terms that were once primarially used as slurs.

Joel Rash
03-16-2003, 12:25
Hey Nell, that was a thoughtful post. I hiked some miles in both 2001 and last year, and met several awesome lesbian couples on the Trail. The two things that surprised me were how readily accepted they were by the folks that knew, and how oblivious most hikers were about their sexualty. Thruhikers might have some wilderness skills, but their gaydar appears severely lacking.
I doubt it will really be an issue for you. On the other hand, it seems there could be more prejudice against openly gay men. I've seen on-line comments with the typically juvenile 'I'm not sharing a hotel room with a fag' vein. Have a great hike.

fiasco
03-17-2003, 19:06
HI! I'm fiasco. I'm queer as they come and spent all of April 2002 on the trail in the southland. I met many many many ridiculously many people on the trail and in towns. I must say that none of the very few troubles I had with folks came from my dykiness. And my particular embodiment of queerness is not very subtle or hidden.
The people I met in towns were overwhelmingly kind and polite and helpful. Life would have been way more difficult without their rides and directions and kindnesses.
I say no worries. Sometimes it does get a little lonely if you are used to a large community of queers, but there are plenty of freaks out in the woods to befriend.

npirsig
03-19-2003, 22:40
All of this has been very good to hear. Thank you everyone.

Nell

Former Member
03-20-2003, 02:06
/

AmazinGrace
04-02-2003, 08:51
Hi Nell,

I'm the author of the book that was mentioned (Walking Home). I hiked in 1996 and heard a lot of homophobic comments--not directed at me, though--as someone noted, most thruhikers don't have very good gaydar. Could be because most women hikers look pretty *****--no makeup, no shaved legs, muscular, and tough! so the lesbians blend right in. All of the comments I heard were about gay men--the usual, "I'm not sleeping in the shelter next to a fag." I did not see any men out there who tripped my own gaydar, but what the heck. I guess sleeping right next to other guys, gay or straight, makes some guys nervous.

I was not out on the trail except to people I chose to be out to, who would not broadcast the news. Gossip is big on the trail--it weighs nothing, so it's the easiest thing to carry many miles from the source. I was uncomfortable with the idea that people whom I did not know, whose attitudes and actions were unpredictable, would know I was gay. I hiked in the same year that the two lesbians were killed near the trail, so there was a reason for my discomfort. I hiked the first 1000 miles alone, and I was very cautious about my personal safety. For instance, I never told people I didn't know (like dayhikers) exactly where I was headed, and I often lied and told strangers I was not hiking alone, that I had buddies who were coming along behind me.

Two hiker friends of mine, one of whom was a lesbian, were at a shelter in the 100-mile wilderness when another male hiker, known for his anti-gay comments, started up a rant about how all the gay people should be dead. The lesbian told him, "Shut up, I'm gay, I don't want to hear that crap." He was shocked. He had no idea she was gay, although I have to say that probably everyone else on the trail did. He broke down and told her his brother was gay and it really bugged him, and that was why he was such a jerk about it. He apologized. They hiked on the next day peacefully. So people can learn, and grow.

I now have a partner and hike with her. We are inseparable and very obvious, but we haven't gotten any hassles. We know people can tell we're gay, but they mind their own business--most hikers are pretty tolerant. On the Long Trail, we met a bunch of guys who spent the rest of the hike teasing us by leaving messages in shelter logs about our togetherness. In towns, no one has ever looked twice at us.

So, being out is up to you on the trail. If I hiked it again, and did it alone, I would just be myself. If people figured it out, fine, and if they didn't--that's fine too.

Good luck and happy hiking!

Amazin' Grace

Hammock Hanger
04-02-2003, 14:28
I hike off and on with a 2 gay women. I then met Amazin Grace at the 2002 Ruck.

It never made any difference to me, nor did I see anyone else treat them bad.

HH

attroll
04-03-2003, 00:55
I can relate to what you were saying AmazinGrace. I have a girl that works with me and she hates lesbians. I mean when ever the subject comes up she jumps and her soap box and you had better stand back. Well come to find out her mother left her father for another women. That is why she is really hateful towards lesbians. I suppose I can understand why she feels the way she does. It does not help matters for her since we have two lesbians that work with us. I bet that really burns her up inside.

As for me I could care less as long as you are happy you can love whom ever you want. I love everyone.

stranger
04-03-2003, 01:51
I wouldn't worry so much about fellow hikers giving you **** for your lifestyle, anyone that does is obviously completely ignorant and pathetic. However realize that the South is the South, and a handful of people I've met in the South are pretty conservative and racist, but in general I wouldn't worry about it.

In 1995 I hiked with a lesbian couple for about 200 miles and everyone got on pretty good, and they didn't care they shared a sleeping bag...good way to save weight haha.

coaster
04-03-2003, 02:41
you iz what you iz and you aint what you aint. drop the worry about hiking the trail with a stereotype, and hike like you aint hiked b4! Cause we all cant b straight!-Coaster

scout
04-03-2003, 10:21
nell, my partner and i plan to hike the AT in sections, and il'd be liying if i said we haven't talked about our fears...we're obviously a couple, even if we WERE to try and hide it...i guess i'd say just be cautious, but hell you've gotta be true to yourself too, you know? its a tough one. just be careful & be yourself!!

pedxing
04-03-2003, 11:07
I've got pretty decent gaydar (probably because of having queer friends) - and I concur with others who say they've seen a lot more lesbians than gay men on the trail. I figure its probably a question of who is attracted to backpacking (it has a more macho appeal) and who is going to be more careful to be invisible (the "masculine" culture is more tolerant of women it sees as manly than men it sees as feminine). Nonetheless, I've noticed some hostels on the AT that make it clear that they are gay friendly - and have stayed in one was gay run. (Because there is still some homophobia on the trail, I will not name this hostel here or in email).

I think there is a strong ethos of tolerance on the trail (I can only speak of personal experience in the North where I have done my sections) - an idea that bigotry has no place. Add to that, being labeled a thru-hiker or backpacker is label enough for the people who need to stereotype you and they feel no need to look for another label.

chris
04-03-2003, 12:09
Where o' where is Easy? Everyone being so nice and pleasant is getting to be rather dull.

DebW
04-03-2003, 13:48
I've done alot of AT hiking with a lesbian friend. It's not at all obvious that she's gay except when her partner meets us. If people had to guess which one of us is gay they'd probably get it wrong (I'm the one who starts the hike with unshaved legs). In fact, once we were chatting with a couple of male hikers on the trail and they asked her if she was married, didn't ask me (she wears rings and I don't). The only time I get upset is when people ask if she's my daughter.
:eek:

Skyline
10-20-2003, 19:14
The adoption or co-opting of the word "queer" instead of "gay" seems to be a generational thing IMO, Jensine. Those of us old enough to remember McCarthyism, Ike, Nixon, and even Anita Bryant worked very hard to change the language but now we have TV shows with titles like "Queer As Folk" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (horrible show IMO). And the younger generation of gays indeed embraces this word.

Would blacks tolerate TV shows with the "N" word in the title? Jews with the "K" word?

Back on topic, tho: There does seem to be more lesbians on the A.T. than gay men. There may in fact be more, or maybe the gay men out there are just more intimidated and stay deeper in the closet when in the woods? Every year I section hiked I met both gay men and women, albeit in small numbers. Some were open, some just kinda let it be known after they knew you for awhile. A big non-issue usually on the Trail, tho I'd be a little more discreet in trail towns and not just in the South.

jensine
10-20-2003, 20:36
Sorry, but when I made the response, the TV programs you mentioned were not on the air yet. I responed in March of 03.
Jensine

jensine
10-20-2003, 20:38
P.S. I'll be 54 on Halloween. Yipes!!!!!

karensioux
10-20-2003, 21:33
we're here, we're queer..........get used to it! :banana :banana :banana :banana :D

radar
10-20-2003, 21:37
I'm not obvious about my sexuality and only came out directly to the folks I was hiking with regularly but I found the trail community to be a pretty supportive place for gays and lesbians. For whatever reason, lesbians seem to be more numerous and visible than gay men but I don't remember hearing any comments that particularly upset me during my time on the trail in the last two years toward either group.

I know of a few gay men who have hiked in the last couple of years on the AT or PCT. If there is anyone else out there who is thinking about hiking and has questions, please feel free to contact me. I'd be happy to respond.

I'd also be interested in hearing from any other gay long-distance hikers interested in staying in touch with each other.

at2002@earthlink.net

Dharma
10-20-2003, 23:12
The only problem I have is when my friend (a lesbian) and I go BPing together, she will flurt with the girls I'm interested in. No fair! :p

greyowl
10-21-2003, 07:57
The only concern that I have is that there are those who think that they have the right to shoot lesbians. I have Eight bullets by Claudia Brenner on my desk right now and I was on the trail when Julianne Williams and Laura Wimans were murdered. There are those who also think that they have the right to attack women, and the latter murders may not have been motivated by sexual preference. Having said all of that I have not heard of any real problems on the trail about a hikers sexual preference. Be cool, hike with a group (for protection) and enjoy your hike.

Grey Owl

c.coyle
10-21-2003, 13:09
Has it occured to anyone that this subject has generated less controversy than whether or not to treat water? Sounds like progress to me.

Grampie
10-21-2003, 13:14
Go Gal.

sdoownek
10-21-2003, 13:45
ccoyle: aqua-mira! bleach! Or nothing!
;)

moonnsun
10-27-2003, 10:32
I am a lesbian planning my first thru hike as well. Although my sexual orientation has crossed my mind, i tend to not dwell on it. I am just a hiker. There are so many minorities out there and so many different types of hikers that you will be fine. I would worry more about getting sick, getting hurt or running out of water or food then being queer. Just enjoy your hike and be who you are!

greyowl
10-27-2003, 12:47
Too many people spend too much tme looking for differences. We all have a lot in common, probably more than we want to admit to. So Moonnsun said I am just a hiker. A simple statement that speaks volumes. That is one thing that we all have in common, we are just hikers.

Grey Owl

Cabo
10-27-2003, 18:46
Everyone on the trail looks the same to me. However, some smell worse than others, but that's probably fuel for a different thread.:D

The Weasel
10-27-2003, 22:22
As a 'straight' with (regrettably) more than common empathy with the gay community, I am a bit more sanguine than the posts above, and I would caution gays and lesbians to be rather more cautious and quiet along the trail than they may otherwise be.

I've walked from Springer to Troutville, and sectioned a lot of the rest. But I'm speaking mostly here of the GA->VA segments up to Damascus. The towns, and the people, along the way are consistently kind, and generally welcoming, and far more private than in many other parts of the country. That is good.

But - and while I strain against stereotyping any group of people - this stretch, perhaps more than the rest of the Trail, is an intensely conservative, highly religious, and not entirely tolerant part of America, a nation which even as a whole is not as tolerant as it sometimes thinks it is. Despite many of the changes that have come over the last 40 years or so, especially in the South, prejudice is very close to the surface in many places (perhaps, in a sense, more honestly than it is, say, in my home region of Detroit/Southeast Michigan, where racism is both endemic and rarely spoken of). In one town before Fontana - I don't think it matters which - a physician who treated me spoke casually (once he learned that I was an attorney) of how "the Jewish lawyers control New York" while saying, innocently, "I have many Jewish friends, of course." In another town on the other side of Davenport Gap, a driver I hitched with said, "Yes, we have almost no crime here. Of course, we've never let a nigra family live inside the city limits." His tone of voice was essentially the same matter-of-fact manner as we when he told me that "Yeah, there's a barber shop in town." In a few places, I "learned" that AT women were "easy" since they hiked alone with groups of men. (How sad I sometimes felt to know how wrong the speakers were! Dang!)

I don't mean that this is common in the sense that people of color, women, different religions, or different sexual orientation need to feel any sense of fear. They don't, any more than I was afraid for being a Yankee who doesn't feel a close and deep reverence for the "Cause." But just as I wouldn't speak ill in a trail town of that scum, Nathan Bedford Forrest - yes, he did found the Ku Klux Klan - and would, instead, keep my peace, I do not think that it is wise to be particularly "open" about homosexuality in trail towns. I encourage avoiding public displays of affection, public discussions (including with friends, in bars and restaurants, where others may overhear you) and, frankly, were I gay I would be reticent about who I fully shared my life history with, including along the trail until I was confident that they would not embarass me or share my personal life with others who were not appropriately tolerant.

I'm sorry. This will offend many when I say these things; there will be some who feel it wrong to hide a part of themselves that they shouldn't have to hide; others will correctly deny that prejudice is widespread among thruhikers, townies and others; still others will remonstrate with me (also correctly) that there is prejudice elsewhere.

But despite the proximity of the trail to more accepting communities whether small - Ashville, perhaps, comes to mine - or large - such as Atlanta - the fact remains that the AT is in an intensely conservative part of America - "the buckle of the Bible Belt" - that has strong feelings on this topic. That is part of the beauty of the Trail, realizing that this is a nation of many parts, including some that cannot accept all of the other parts. That is a truth every bit as much a part of trail life as is knowing that you hang your food in shelters and that you don't mess with bear cubs.

Don't provoke the wildlife, and the wildlife will leave you alone, and you will find the Trail a wonderful place.

The Weasel

Nightwalker
12-04-2003, 15:17
However realize that the South is the South, and a handful of people I've met in the South are pretty conservative and racist, but in general I wouldn't worry about it.

It's really upsetting to me (here in South Carolina) that in a thread about negative stereotypes, you're busily propogating another one. :(

Frank

MDSHiker
12-04-2003, 16:49
Hey AmazinGrace...your book was terrific!

goshawk
12-05-2003, 05:35
I really do not think people care much on the trail about your sexaul preference. I have met a few men that I know were happy on the trail because of the gaydar I developed in the military. It sure didn't bother me. I did hear other hikers talking smack about them thou religious fanatics. Not to there faces thou. They were young guys that Have not really been around happy people much but I noticed they were reserved and didn't say anything to them directly.
I think you will be fine and so many other hikers out there would take your back against violent goons. People on the at don't really carry signs saying I'm gay or streight. Just be your self and fit in like everyone else. If anything the the religous extremists might give you the cold shoulder and there are a few of the quacks on the trail for sure. Bible thumper city. They seem to know what is best for all mankind. Just like any other religious fundementalists.
Good luck and enjoy the trail.

alpine
12-05-2003, 09:06
with drawn

Rain Man
12-05-2003, 11:36
I really do not think people care much on the trail about your sexaul preference. I have met a few men that I know were happy on the trail ....

Gosh, goshawk, I've been happy on the AT on both of my little section hikes. Except, that is, while cursing the folks who laid out the trail just north of Bly Gap, NC, but that's another story.

So, are you saying I'm homosexual or something? Or, a religious fundamentalist?


:-?

Chappy
12-06-2003, 01:57
Goshawk: Didn't know this thread was about religion. When you reply to posts you seem to deviate somewhat from the topic and bring in very negative responses directed toward other folk who probably enjoy the trail as much as you. I know you, as well as everyone, have opinions and are free to express those opinions, but I'm ,wondering...are you unhappy with life? Don't "religious fanatics" have the right to express their thoughts, beliefs and opinions? Do their words make you fearful?

Nightwalker
12-07-2003, 12:42
I really do not think people care much on the trail about your sexaul preference. I have met a few men that I know were happy on the trail because of the gaydar I developed in the military. It sure didn't bother me. I did hear other hikers talking smack about them thou religious fanatics. Not to there faces thou. They were young guys that Have not really been around happy people much but I noticed they were reserved and didn't say anything to them directly.
I think you will be fine and so many other hikers out there would take your back against violent goons. People on the at don't really carry signs saying I'm gay or streight. Just be your self and fit in like everyone else. If anything the the religous extremists might give you the cold shoulder and there are a few of the quacks on the trail for sure. Bible thumper city. They seem to know what is best for all mankind. Just like any other religious fundementalists.
Good luck and enjoy the trail.

Just for your information, Goshawk, I'm a fanatic, not religious, and get along a lot better with most gay folks I meet than I do (excuse the word here) bigots like you!

Most gay people are very loveable, and have a real zest for life. If we're speaking sin, one is as bad as another, and I commit as many as most folks. You act like you think you know "us", but probably have just seen too many bad TV shows.

Quack elsewhere,
Frank

Moon Monster
12-07-2003, 18:17
No excuse needed for that word, it's apt. Bigotry can runs both ways.