KEEN + Wild Diversity: Be You, Be Wild, Be an Ally
Outside is for all, and everything we do at KEEN is to help inspire everyone to live with no ceiling. But if folks can’t see themselves in those spaces and don’t have the gear and/or know-how to feel comfortable getting out there, how does outside feel like it’s for them?
That’s exactly how our friends at Wild Diversity are making a positive impact. For the past five years, this Portland-based nonprofit has been creating personal connections to the outdoors for BIPOC & LGBTQ2S+ communities, through outdoor adventures and education, and community workshops. We've been a fan and supporter of theirs since 2018, and this year we've donated $10,000 plus footwear through our KEEN Effect program to help them continue to champion inclusivity and access so all people can live with no ceiling.
“When spaces are created for BIPOC and LGBTQ folks, it really gives people a sense of hope, a sense of comfort, a sense of confidence, and just a place that they feel they can always go back to, time and time again. And just find community, find friendship, find comfort and support when they need it," says Dez, Wild Diversity BIPOC conservation director (she/her/ella). "Because life is hard and challenging.”
Sharing the joy of outside since 2017
We met up with Wild Diversity staff and founder Mercy M’fon (they/them) on a recent kayak outing to Government Cove in Cascade Locks, Oregon, because what better way to reflect on the work they do than being immersed in it.
“I think a lot of people have intimidation around getting outdoors and what it is and what it's supposed to be,” Mercy says. “I think the biggest gift that we bring to our community is letting them know that there's not any specific way. And whatever feels right for them is the way that we want them to enjoy the outdoors and is the way we're willing to support them, guide them, teach them, show them new things, explore with them, and just have that all-around joy in nature.”
That’s why Wild Diversity offers trips for all skill levels, from total beginner to more advanced. It’s a way to meet everyone where they are and continue to support how folks connect to nature and push themselves into new territories in every way.
“When I founded Wild Diversity, I had a vision about shifting change, shifting how outdoor adventure and outdoor education supported my community," they say. "And I felt like what surprised me is how it's having an impact now, how it's supporting people now, that maybe we can't move this big, rooted system, but we can support people’s lives today. And it feels so good to be a part of that.”
I think going on trips that are led by queer and trans people just lets participants bring their whole selves and show up as they are without wondering, ‘Am I going to be safe in this space? Do I need to hide parts of myself?’ And feeling that comfort lets them be more present in the moment, lets them enjoy the activity more and just really dive into it.
- Kaïa, Wild Diversity office manager (they/she)
Join us & support Wild Diversity
We couldn’t agree more with them – we’re so proud to play a small role in the work they do every day. Join us in supporting Wild Diversity by donating directly at wilddiversity.com. Your donation helps keep program costs low or free for participants. And it helps overcome barriers to participating, because getting geared up to get out there is the first step.
“One of our biggest resources for our community is our gear library. It creates way more access for people to get outside,” Mercy says. “So if a participant's interested in trying a new adventure, sometimes they're looking at hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of gear that they would need to get outside. So without donations, we absolutely would not be here. Whether it's physical donations or cash donations, it all is put together in our organization to keep these adventures supporting our community.”
How to be an ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community
Mercy says there are many ways to be an ally, but it starts with the individual you want to support. Allyship feels different for everyone. “First and foremost, ask them, see what their needs are, see how they want to be supported,” they say.
Beyond that, here are some general steps each of us can take:
Create welcoming spaces
It can be as simple as smiling and saying hello to everyone you pass on the trail/bike path/river.
Seek out and support LGBTQ2S+ businesses and organizations
There are an estimated 1.4 million LGBTQ-run companies in the U.S., according to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. How to find one near you? Try searching “LGBTQ-owned businesses” in the Yelp app or at Yelp.com.
Find ways to reduce implicit bias
It starts with making a conscious effort to see people as individuals. You can take it further by learning more through inclusivity training or reading, such as Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald.
Support gender expression and fluidity
Wild Diversity is all about “being who you are, where you are.” Let others be who they are, too, and respect how they express themselves.
Interrupt oppressive behavior
“If you have somebody dead naming or misgendering somebody, stand up for them,” Mercy says. “If you have somebody showcasing some prejudice, be there, stand with them, stand beside them. If somebody has to deal with a traumatic incident or event, support them, be with them, talk to them, ask them what they need.”
We’re grateful for Wild Diversity and every person around the world who helps create safe, welcoming spaces for all to get outside. Outside is better together.
Wild Diversity is a nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, that aims to help create a personal connection to the outdoors for Black, Indigenous, all People of Color (BIPOC) & the LGBTQ2S+ communities, through outdoor adventures and education. Learn more at wilddiversity.com.