Wild Wanderer Spotlight: Austin

The Wild Wanderer Spotlight Series highlights the stories of queer adventurers in their own words. We hope that by sharing these underrepresented voices, outdoor diversity and inclusivity will flourish. You are not alone.

Wild Wanderer Spotlight: Austin

“I don’t just want queer representation in the industry, I want a thriving queer-dominant sector. No more waiting for the white cishet hegemony to open doors for us, it’s time to pick the locks.” – Austin

Austin Hays

What are your pronouns?

They/them

How do you identify?

Genderqueer, bisexual, dirtbag

What outdoor activities are you involved in?

Hiking and rock climbing

Tell us about a favorite/memorable outdoor adventure you’ve had:

I’m thru hiking the AT right now and loving every minute, even the ones that suck. It’s been an experience unlike any other.

In your opinion, what are the most important challenges/issues facing queer people outside?

Too many cishet people react angrily to queer folks expressing themselves on the trail, perhaps because they believe that somehow gender and sexuality don’t exist in the woods. True, a lot of them are willing to learn and are just confused, but there are also those who see us as threats to the world they imagine. There are countless tales of queer folks being harassed and stalked while out hiking, yet apparently, the trail doesn’t see gender? Whatever.

I personally struggle with how I choose to express my gender identity outside, and I don’t have the confidence to come out as nonbinary to most of the people I meet. I want a world where that doesn’t have to happen to me or anyone else.

As an LGBTQ2IA+ person, if you could change one thing about the outdoor industry, what would it be?

I don’t just want queer representation in the industry, I want a thriving queer-dominant sector. No more waiting for the white cishet hegemony to open doors for us, it’s time to pick the locks. I want queer thru hikers, travelers, and more to be able to connect with each other and guarantee safe and fulfilling passage outside. It’s hard to put what all of this would look like into words, so at least imagine this: a world of queer-owned hostels and outfitters, a network of cheap gear exchange between queer folk, transit that gets queer folk from the cities and suburbs to the outdoors. It’s big thinking, but I think a lot of steps are being taken by queer outdoors people (BIPOC queers in particular) towards it becoming a reality. I hope to help in that work somehow, someday.

Do you have anything else to add?

Free Palestine, land back, no cops at pride, abolish the carceral state.

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Lettie Stratton

Lettie Stratton is the founder of Wild Wanderer, an outdoor adventure site for the LGBTQIA+ community. Lettie is a writer, cyclist, backpacker, hiker, nordic skier, and enjoyer of all things outdoors.

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