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If you didn’t grow up in an outdoorsy family, the idea of wandering into the woods can be pretty daunting. If you’re queer, trans, BIPOC, disabled, or plus-sized, hiking might be an even scarier idea to consider, for a number of reasons. Though you may not have had access to outdoor activities in the past, or don’t think you belong outside, I’m here to tell you that you absolutely do! Anyone with any body type and any ability can hike, no experience necessary. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t be prepared. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to start hiking and to make sure your first experience is safe and fun. First, let’s cover a few basics that you’ll need on your first hike.
What to Bring Hiking
Hiking and having fun outdoorsPhoto by photo nic on Unsplash
No matter where you decide to hike, you still need to have the best hiking gear so your adventure is safe and comfortable. Here is a brief list of some items you will need:
- A comfortable and breathable outfit - The clothes you choose to wear should fit comfortably and ideally should be made of quick-drying or wicking materials. This means synthetic materials (think stretchy leggings or shorts) or natural fibers, like wool. These materials will quickly dry sweat or moisture, whereas cotton will hold onto moisture, leaving you more vulnerable to becoming cold and uncomfortable.
- Supportive footwear - You have a couple of different options when it comes to hiking footwear. Hiking boots are great if you have weak ankles or tend to trip a lot, as they offer more support around your ankles. Boots tend to be durable and waterproof. The downsides of boots are that they can be a bit bulky and heavy, and can also be a big investment. Another great option for hiking is trail runners. Trail runners are sneakers designed to perform well on different types of terrain (dirt, grass, pavement). They are typically lightweight and less expensive than hiking boots but offer less overall support. If you’re not ready to invest in hiking shoes, any pair of athletic sneakers you have will do the trick on most easy to moderate trails.
- Water and snacks - Whether your hike is two miles or ten miles, remember to always bring water. Fill up a couple of water bottles or purchase a hydration pack, and make sure you take frequent sips while hiking to prevent dehydration. Bring a couple of snacks to enjoy on your breaks. Jerky, fruit, cookies, and trail mix are my go-to's while on the trail and always give me a boost of energy.
- Tip: Pack all of your snacks in a gallon-sized ziplock bag for easy access, then use that bag for trash later. Always practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out all trash and waste.
- Sunscreen and bug spray - These two items are fairly self-explanatory. Even if hiking under tree cover, it is good practice to wear sunscreen to avoid getting roasted, especially in the summer. Depending on where you are hiking, you might encounter pesky flies or ticks, which you can deter by spraying your clothes, shoes, and backpack with bug spray.
- A map or GPS - Make sure you bring a map of the area you are hiking in or a GPS that depicts the trail you are on. My recommendation for this is an app called AllTrails. You can download it for free to search for hikes and to make sure you are following the correct trails. A physical map is always good to have as a backup, in case your phone were to die.
- Backpack - Bring a comfortable backpack or hip belt to place your water and other items in. While special hiking packs are the best choice for hiking, any pack that doesn’t move around or slips while you walk will be just fine for your first few adventures.
Choosing a Hike
Choosing where to hikePhoto by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash
Now that you have everything you need to begin hiking, it is time to decide on a destination. This will be highly dependent on where you live, how far you want to travel, and what type of hike you want to do. Even if you are relatively fit, you may want to seek out an easy to moderately difficult hike for your first outing. As mentioned in the last section, AllTrails is a wonderful resource for finding hikes in your area. You can search by your location or your desired destination and can filter hikes based on distance, difficulty, and other factors, such as whether or not the hikes are dog friendly.
Once you apply your filters, select a hike that has something you will enjoy, whether that be a body of water, trees, wildflowers, cool rock formations, or great views. Read reviews on the hike so that you know what to expect.
Though hiking is a relatively safe activity, there are certain things to consider in terms of personal safety, especially for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC folks. If you are hiking in a more rural area and are nervous, try hiking with friends or joining a hiking group. Check social media for local hiking groups that get together, or reach out to someone you know who hikes. Unlikely Hikers is an organization that offers group hikes all around the US and is inclusive of all people.
Do your research and find out what kind of wildlife exists in the areas you’ll be hiking. If you are hiking in an area with bears, always carry bear spray with you. Most of the time, wildlife will keep their distance, but you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from any wildlife you come across.
Check the weather before you depart for your hike. A little rain is fine, but if storms are in the forecast, save the hike for another day.
Most importantly while hiking, trust your instincts. If someone is giving you bad vibes or you feel unsafe, leave the area. Go back to your car, or link up with another group on the trail if you can.
You're Ready to Hike!
Hiking is a wonderful way to enjoy nature, exercise, and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Preparing for a hike ahead of time can create a more safe and more enjoyable experience for you and anyone you choose to bring on your adventures. Hopefully, these tips help you gear up and get outside. Happy Hiking!
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 2022 ASANA Softball World Series will bring together nearly 70 of the most competitive adult softball teams in the country to Washington, D.C. August 16 – 20. The tournament, which welcomes LGBTQ cisgender women, transgender men, transgender women, and non-binary people and their allies, will bring together top teams from nearly 30 cities across the country. The event is being welcomed to the D.C. area by the Chesapeake & Potomac Softball League (CAPS), the DC area’s LGBTQ softball league, members of which are serving as the hosting committee for the tournament.
“We are very excited to be heading to the D.C. area this year for the 2022 ASANA Softball World Series,” said ASANA Commissioner Angela Smith. “The Host Committee has been fantastic to work with to make sure this event is one of our best ever. I know all of our teams are looking forward to experiencing all there is to do and see in the area and playing some incredible softball along the way.”
“Having the bid to host the ASANA World Series before the pandemic, the DC community was eagerly anticipating the event,” said Tony Mace, Co-Chair of the DC Host Committee. “Little did we know that the world would shut down for over a year, but our Host City committee never stopped working to bring the best player experience for ASANA athletes and families. After three years in the making, the Host City committee and I are looking forward to welcoming the first players who arrive.”
For the fourth consecutive year, a selection of the tournament games, including all championship games, will be live-streamed in partnership with the Cloud Sports Network (CSN) through the ASANA Facebook page and YouTube channel. But, for the first time ever, those games will also be available to stream for free on OutVoices.us through an exclusive partnership agreement.
“Typically the ASANA Softball World Series will get anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 unique viewers each year just from the ASANA social media channels,” said Roman Jimenez. “That’s an already large and highly targeted audience who want to watch LGBTQ cis women, trans men, trans women, and non-binary softball players compete at the highest level. To be able to increase that audience by a factor of 3 or 4 as a result of our partnership with OutVoices.us is an incredible opportunity for a much larger portion of our community to be exposed to competitive sports by and for our community and our allies.”
For those who haven’t seen their coverage before, Jimenez cautions against having low expectations. “We’re not just a lone cell camera jury-rigged to a backstop,” he said. “We have multiple cameras, on-field microphones, on-screen graphics, instant replay, and professional broadcasters describing the action as it’s unfolding. We are as close to the Queer version of ESPN as you can get.”
The Cloud Sports broadcast team includes as its analyst ASANA Hall of Famer Rosalyn Bugg, who in addition to having competed as both a coach and player at the ASANA Softball World Series, is also the Commissioner of the Women’s + division of the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA) and runs that division’s tournament at the Sin City Classic, the largest annual LGBTQ sporting event in the world. In 2022, Bugg was also inducted into the GLASA Hall of Fame. Describing the action play-by-play will be Jimenez, a veteran broadcaster and softball player, and coach who has helmed various championship teams for over 25 years. In 2019 Jimenez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his hometown LGBTQ softball league in San Diego, America’s Finest City Softball League (AFCSL). In addition, both Bugg and Jimenez are championship-certified USA Softball umpires.
“Both Roman and I know the game,” said Bugg, “and we work great together as a team.”
As part of the 2021 ASANA Softball World Series broadcast, Bugg introduced player shout-outs to family members and friends who were watching the broadcast. This created an incredibly engaging atmosphere on the ASANA social platforms.
“I love highlighting not only the action on the field but also the players responsible for it,” Bugg said. “This tournament is all about the players and telling their stories is a privilege we take very seriously.”
The ASANA Softball World Series will consist of four divisions. The B Division is the highest level of skill and often includes players with a history of playing the fast-pitch version of the sport in high school or college level. The C Division includes players who, while highly skilled, aren’t quite at the same level as the B Division-caliber of players, or whose skills may have slowed with age. The D and E Divisions are for both newer players and for those who may have aged out of the higher divisions. Since many players have been playing in ASANA-affiliated associations for 20+ years, many will have experienced every division of play before settling into where their skills are currently best suited.
In total, nearly 3,000 athletes will be headed to D.C. for this year’s event and as you might guess, in addition to hundreds of volunteers, it takes a lot of money to make an event like the 2022 ASANA Softball World Series even possible. For that, both ASANA and the CAPS Host Committee have been engaging with sponsors to help offset costs.
“We want to thank our sponsors on both the national and local levels. Without them we couldn’t provide the experience we do for our players, their families, and for our fans,” said Smith. “We look forward to being able to share these experiences with them and with our live-streaming audience on our social channels and right here on OutVoices.us.”
Coverage begins Thursday, August 25th with early tournament play, continuing during “Elimination Friday” on August 26th all the way through to “Championship Saturday” on August 27th, when all four divisional championships will be broadcast. Stay tuned to this page for updates on game time and team announcements and to watch the games live.
ASANA — Amateur Sports Alliance of North America — was created in 2007 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of amateur athletics for all persons regardless of gender, age, race, creed, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation with a special emphasis on the participation of women, trans men, trans women, non-binary and agendered people.
The organization currently has 25 member cities across the United States and hosts the annual ASANA Softball World Series which brings together over 70 teams for a 4-day championship tournament. The World Series has four divisions to provide varying competitive levels of play, with "B" being the most skilled and the "E" supporting the most recreational.
To connect with stories involving gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer characters, you don't have to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community yourself. These new lesbian romance novels are a must-read for everyone, whether you're hoping to improve your ally skills or are just seeking a really awesome book. Check out our book recommendations now since they are DEFINITELY worth your time.
The One Woman By Laura MayThe One WomanPhoto courtesy of Amazon
The One Woman, a New sapphic romance novel by Laura May. Julie's life and her relationship with her partner Mark are routine in every way. That is until she meets Ann. Web developer Ann is a kind and beautiful person. It is impossible to deny Julie's feelings for Ann. The spark is genuine as their present and past converge in Barcelona. Julie has to choose between her love for Ann and her devotion to Mark when tragedy strikes. Will true love last the distance? You’ll find out in The One Woman.
Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
Count Your Lucky Stars
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Margot receives the spotlight in Bellefleur's third book Written in the Stars even though she has no intention of entering a committed relationship herself. Margot has been experiencing severe fifth wheel vibes lately. But everything gets mixed up when she runs with her first love, Olivia, who is starting over in Seattle after her divorce. This is especially true when Margot gives Olivia a much-needed place to crash. Can Margot trust the girl who once broke her heart again?
No Rings Attached by Rachel Lacey
No Rings Attached
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Bookseller Lia only made up having a girlfriend to get her mother to stop berating her, but now that her brother's wedding is quickly approaching, she is forced to stick to her narrative. Her best friend introduces her to Grace, who recently relocated to London, the location of the wedding, and accepts Lia's invitation to go on a date with her. But a series of mishaps (just one bed! ), especially when it comes time to say goodbye and they discover they're not at all prepared to do that, make it a weekend full of unpleasantness.
In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae
In the Event of Love
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Morgan will have to take on an event in the small hometown she never wanted to see again in order to save her budding publicity career when an awful catastrophe threatens to destroy everything. The girl who crushed her heart after their first and only kiss, Rachel, is still in Fern Falls and has transformed into a seductive lumberjack, which only serves to worsen the situation. Morgan is the ideal candidate to help Rachel's family's tree farm since she can demonstrate that she is still at the top of her public relations game by organizing the world's greatest fundraiser.
Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner
Mistakes Were Made
Photo courtesy of Amazon
With a sophomore that mocks the slow-burning face of their debut by opening with a hookup that'll have you fanning your face for days, Wilsner displays their serious romance range. The said connection involves Cassie, a senior in college, and Erin, an attractive older woman she meets at a pub and who Cassie soon discovers is the mother of one of her best friends. The delicate balancing act of keeping that night a secret while giving in to the sexiest chemistry either of them has ever felt begins, which is made much more difficult by the fact that they are going on a full break together. Can they say goodbye when their vacation comes to an end, or is there something here that they simply cannot ignore, no matter the price?
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston
I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Being named valedictorian of her high school has been Chloe Green's main motivation since she relocated from Southern California to a rural Alabama town. But when Shara Wheeler, her competitor for valedictorian, kisses her a month before graduation, Chloe is left looking for explanations—and Shara herself. Chloe will have to work with Shara's quarterback boyfriend and her bad-boy neighbor to decipher the cryptic notes they have each received in order to find out where she has gone. Can Shara be located and brought back in time for graduation?
Diane Hayes is an online writer and editor.
Finding suitable healthcare can be difficult for everyone, but those in the LGBTQ+ community have an extra hurdle to contend with: finding a healthcare practitioner who is not only supportive of LGBTQ+ folk but also experienced in treatments that are more likely to be required by members of the community.
Everyone deserves to be able to access healthcare that suits them, so why is this often so hard for LGBTQ+ people to find?
Seven out of ten LGBTQ patients report having negative experiences while accessing healthcare, and this is completely unsurprising when you consider the shortage of healthcare practitioners who are well-versed in issues that are overrepresented in, or even exclusive to, the LGBTQ+ community.
Hormone replacement therapy, experience treating intersex patients, gender affirmation surgery, and HIV treatment and prevention are only a handful of things that a professional working closely with members of the LGBTQ+community should be experienced in and comfortable with, but how many are?
Unless your healthcare practitioner takes a particular interest in these areas or has significant experience in dealing with them, it’s likely that they have only spent a measly five hours studying LGBTQ+ issues as part of their medical training. This can create an unfortunate catch-22 situation where doctors do not feel comfortable treating these conditions, leading to avoidance and lack of opportunity to build up their knowledge and real-world experience.
Under-representation Of LGBTQ People In The Medical Community
While more comprehensive training would go some way to increasing access to high-quality healthcare for LGBTQ people, studying can only go so far; those with lived experience of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community can offer insights and empathy that those outside the community cannot, despite their best efforts.
Stanford University conducted a study that found that 30 percent of medical students who were part of the LGBTQ+ community hid their sexual or gender identity. In addition, around 40 percent of medical students who self-identified as “not heterosexual” said that they were wary of facing discrimination. If we extrapolate this to healthcare professionals in the workplace, it’s not surprising that it can be hard for LGBTQ patients to find a practitioner who is also openly part of the community.
Encouraging more LGBTQ people to enter healthcare professions, and ensuring that those who are already working in healthcare feel able to embrace their sexuality or gender identity, are key to helping LGBTQ patients find healthcare that meets their needs.
Bias And Stereotypes
Whether intentional or subconscious, bias and harmful stereotypes are endemic throughout the medical community. “For example, from the moment you enter the waiting room and are handed paperwork asking your gender, with only male and female boxes available to tick, you can be made to feel unwelcome, misunderstood, and alienated,” explains Benita Martines, a journalist at OXEssays and Paperfellows.
Due to previous negative experiences, LGBTQ people can feel reluctant to offer information about their sexual orientation or gender to a healthcare provider. Equally, professionals can be wary of asking for this information in case it offends the patient. As this information can have a very real impact on medical decisions, it’s crucial that the medical community get comfortable with discussing these issues in a way that includes and empowers LGBTQ folk.
Lack of Transgender Care
“The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force recently conducted a survey which revealed that a shocking 19 percent of trans and gender non-conforming people have been refused medical care,” explains Mark Dobbins, writer at Boomessays and UKWritings.
In addition, transphobic terminology is rife in the medical community and is often used without consideration of how unwelcome it can make trans patients feel. Worryingly, the same survey found that half of the respondents have had to explain some transgender-specific medical terms to healthcare professionals.
Although the healthcare industry has a long way to go in becoming inclusive, accessible, and supportive to members of the LGBTQ+ community, progress is being made. For example, John Hopkins University School of Medicine has updated its curriculum to help its graduates care for a more diverse range of patients.
In the meantime, finding a healthcare provider who is understanding and supportive of your needs can feel like an impossible task, but don’t give up; everyone deserves good healthcare, and there are some excellent LGBTQ+-friendly practitioners out there.
- How to Find a Queer-Friendly Therapist that Works - OutVoices ›
- Top 5 Mental Health Apps for the LGBTQ+ Community - OutVoices ›