Mikah Meyer -- Facebook

Gay outdoorsman and explorer Mikah Meyer is a world record holder. His three-year trip to all 419 of America's national parks brought him to the forefront of not only the travel industry but specifically, inspired LGBTQ adventurers across the world.

That was no small feat considering a large amount of the LGBTQ+ community is still uncomfortable in outdoor spaces especially when travelling with their partners or showing public displays of affection.

In fact, one question Meyer is asked the most is how to encourage like-minded gay explorers and make sure they're safe too? He answered them by creating something very special.

Inspired by the "Safe Spaces" logos which are placed on homes and businesses that symbolize LGBTQ+ safehouses, Meyer began to sketch a logo of his own. One that would let people know that everyone could enjoy the true meaning of the phrase "parks and recreation."

After all, hiking, biking, and kayaking aren't just for straight people. That's a gross misconception to say the least.

"I set out to create an 'Outside Safe Space (OSS) logo," he writes. "Something non-verbal that an LGBTQ+ person could wear to represent their presence, and also something allies can pin to their backpacks, stick on their water bottle, wear on themselves or post in their office, to signal that LGBTQ+ people are supported in being 100% themselves around them."

In 2005 Meyer suffered a great loss. His dad passed away. In his grief, he decided to get away from it all, and with his first year of college at a close, there was no better time than the present. As much as his trip was a planned exploration of nature, it also spirited him away to personal, unexpected places. As much as at was a journey outside, the real discoveries happened within.

Anyone who has suffered the death of a loved one will tell you that grief is also like a hike, perhaps the longest you will ever take. The trail is filled with ups and downs, obstacles, and finally, if you're lucky, a great open-ended vista on which to reflect not only how far you have come, but what still lies ahead.

For years since that inspirational breakthrough, Meyer has found some peace by devoting his life to outdoor exploration and making others' dreams come true. For LGBTQ+ people, inspiration is often the catalyst for self-acceptance because fear is the greatest saboteur.

Having discovered the healing power of earth's raw beauty and being gay himself, Meyer felt more than ever that Mother Nature is the community's most therapeutic ally. And what better way to let people know that than to brand her as such?

Thus a new beacon for the community was born. The symbol, co-created by Kevin Keller, is the shape of a colorful pine tree with each of its boughs representing something significant in the community.

The tree pin details include:

The Rainbow Flag

The Trans Flag

The Bi Flag

Triangles for all queer identities

Skin tone tree trunk as the foundation since all of the above exist in diverse people

Plus some hidden symbolism

Writes Meyer: "The trans and bi colors have specifically been placed nearest the trunk, as symbolism of the role these communities played in the genesis of the queer civil rights movement, and as the largest/strongest branches, in acknowledgement of the times they have been overlooked compared to other members of the community."

Since its introduction The OSS has become a hallmark to allies, enthusiasts and people who have yet to embrace their dreams. Much like its creator, the symbol is a bold reminder that although the world is filled with many obstacles, it's nothing that a great pair of hiking boots and an eagerness to explore can't help you overcome.

"Let’s build a world where everyone sees themselves and feels safe and free to be who they are, wherever they are!" adds Meyer.

For more information on the #adventurepride project including where you can get your own gear, click HERE.

Photos of Mikah Meyer including the header courtesy of Facebook. OSS images from #adventurepride

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Mjolnir

Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.


Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.