Let's wake up!
You know it's Pride Month, right? And it's about damn time that we step up to elevate voices from our queer community, so grab a chair, and let's have a chat.
The importance of LGBTQ+ visibility in the outdoors isn’t our story to tell, so we're letting our queer ambassadors, employees, and friends speak for themselves. It’s our job as allies to sit back, listen, and make changes that foster an environment where everyone is seen, heard, and respected. But first, we have to come clean.
When it comes to queer visibility in our marketing, brand imagery, and athlete sponsorship, we know we haven’t done enough. Our inaction has caused people to feel underrepresented and undervalued in the sport that they love. We've also failed to shut down homophobic speech on and off the mountain. Customers, friends, and employees have told us how much this hurts, and it's our goal to become a better ally. We can't walk away from our past, but we can step up to make a more inclusive future.
Be Seen. Be Heard.
We know there’s a robust LGBTQ+ community in the outdoors, and it’s part of our responsibility to make everyone feel seen, valued, and appreciated. We’re starting with sharing some voices of Burton ambassadors and employees, and we want to hear from you, too. (More on that later.)
To get the conversation going, we asked our community one simple but very important question:
Why is LGBTQ+ visibility in the outdoors important, and how has your individual intersectionality been a part of your experience?
Here’s what they had to say:
Ali Kenney (She/They)
By making queer people invisible, we are reinforcing society's hierarchical constructs. Since when are snowboarding and the outdoors connected to reinforcing the views of the establishment? We are the anti-establishment, inspiring people to wake up and live one's best life, to live creatively, to create the world we envision. So let's WAKE UP and recognize the beauty of non-dominant identities.
Mandi Parkes (She/They)
The visibility of queer and trans folks in the outdoors is strongly correlated with feelings of acceptance and belonging. Having spaces where visibility is prioritized in the outdoors offers me more opportunity to feel like I can show up as my full, true, and authentic self without needing to censor or code switch my lived experience or language. As a queer person, I am always looking for indicators for inclusion, and as an ally, I am always thinking about how I can show up for other communities.
Jenna S. (She/Her)
For years I've never seen myself represented in the outdoor community. Now, when I see queer faces in ads or on TV, I see an all-out celebration. To me, there's nothing better than encouraging people to be radically authentic while doing what they love. As a gay, gender non-conforming individual, it's vital to keep seeing products and people that validate my identity. After all, there are no closets to hide in when you're outside. And that's the way it should be.
Asher Henson (He/Him)
Trans visibility in the outdoors is important to me because, up until now, I've felt invisible my entire life. As a genderqueer person, it's hard to embrace the possibility of who you are when you're constantly inundated with cisgender and heteronormative imagery. My transness was actualized outdoors. When no one else could, the woods gave me the safety to realize who I was. In a world saturated with transphobia, my tree-filled catharsis was what I needed to heal.
Chelsea Waddell (She/Her)
As a gay Black woman, it is so powerful for me to see other people who look like me in the outdoors. It reminds me that I belong here. Visibility is important because when the world sees every part of me, that's when they see the real me.
Bridget Daley (She/Her)
I never feel like I don't belong when I'm alone on the trail or in the woods. It is only when I'm with other people, people who align more with the representations we've seen in movies, magazines, and ads, that I'm still gripped by a feeling similar to before I came out—fear of being found out. I sit with this and realize how my white skin or straight-passing appearance, which are privileges and safety blankets not every identity has, tempers this feeling and is a product of those representations we see every day in the outdoor industry.
Connecting with Like-Minded Folks.
While there’s still a ton of work for us to do as a brand, there are a number of badass affinity groups already working towards increasing awareness, diversity, and visibility in outdoor culture. If you are looking for events, groups, or meet-ups, these are the folks to connect with.
Get Out And Trek: A fun-loving community of LGBTQ+ adventurists, Get Out And Trek (GOAT), is actively working to change the face of the outdoors. Through our trips, festivals, and advocacy they are building a better, more inclusive outdoors for Queer people. Get out. Be Free. Be a GOAT.
Seen Snowboarding: A collective of snowboarders that promotes queer visibility and inclusivity in snowboarding through events and community engagement. Follow their Instagram to learn about future meet-ups and queer snowboard news.
The Alpine Alliance: Founded to create an all-inclusive representation, empowerment, and safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. More specifically, the LGBTQ+ community that's brought together for the love of the outdoors. They love the outdoors because it's a place of no judgment, and the mountains don't care who you are. Focused on creating a sense of community and support through meet-ups, virtual hangouts, and maintaining a close support network for one another.
At the start of Pride Month, we asked to hear from our community. Our mission was to get a conversation started and spread awareness of the experiences of our LGBTQ+ community. Thank you to everyone who responded; we appreciate your honesty and willingness to share. Here is a selection of some of our favorite shared stories:
I think it's important that we teach queer kids they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. Way too often, people try to belittle us and make us feel insignificant. We need to empower our youth and create spaces for them to be their authentic selves. LGBTQ visibility is beyond important within snowboarding because some community members are ignorant of the challenges queer people face. When brought to their attention, initially, the reaction is anger and hostility. This behavior only reinforces what we already know: snowboarding has not been a safe space for queer people. I believe it is important we see professional snowboarders from all walks of life, not just the contest kids who can triple. Snowboarding needs to support true diversity at a grassroots level. - Montana Gardner (She/They)
This question always prompts resentment from me. It makes me think about the shell that snowboarding pushed me into. The perpetuation of fear and hate that the snowboard community taught me growing up. But the funniest thing about all this is that it was always my choice to feel that way. I chose to feel ashamed when my guy friends made gay jokes or laughed about two guys kissing. But ultimately, I don't think they genuinely hated queer people or wanted to insult me. Usually, they were just immature and had nothing better to say. So why is it important? Of course, so kids don't have to grow up tormented, but also because people will stop making gay jokes when they see someone with a pride flag on their snowboard doing a better method than them. - Jack Hessler (He/Him)
You may not be able to see who we are behind masks and helmets all winter long. But it's important to know that we stand together and are stronger as a community in the outdoors. Every person on the mountain deserves respect and a safe space to show up and have fun. - Steph D. (She/Her)
Being with nature is where I feel fully accepted and part of something greater than myself. I feel a true sense of belonging and connection when I'm on the land. - Harlie Pruder (She/They)
LQBTQ+ visibility in the outdoors is important because nature and the outdoors don't judge you for being who you are, so you shouldn't have to be afraid of who you are in the outdoors. There is more to someone's identity than just their sexual orientation or gender identity. For me personally, as an out-gay coloured snowboarded, I want to be able to show other people like me that they have a place on the mountain just like anyone else does. - Tenisha Rehberg (She/They)
LGBTQ+ people deserve space everywhere, including the outdoors. Visibility helps to break down negative stereotypes, allowing us to exist in the outdoors without having to defend our right to be there. - Geoff Roest (He/Him/His)
This isn’t another empty corporate promise. This is the first step on a long road towards equity, justice, and inclusion. It will be a multi-year effort, but in the end, we hope to evolve into a company that shuts down hate speech and uplifts communities with diverse representation in our marketing, brand imagery, and athlete sponsorship. Burton began as an unaccepted bunch of outsiders looking to have as much fun as possible. It’s time to welcome everyone to the party.