As the Vermont sun burned away that morning’s cloud cover, our group was excited to put Nikki’s lessons into practice. Outside, we explored the generous expanse of land. When I lifted my camera and looked through the viewfinder, I saw queer and trans people finally relaxed, smiling, fully immersed in the moment. Their vulnerability came naturally as we all volunteered to be each other’s portrait subjects. Being seen–fully seen–for who you are while doing something you love opens a gateway into the realm of believing I am welcome here.
As a queer person, showing others through photographs that I am here also means you are welcome, too. Despite nature’s genderlessness, it can still be made to feel hostile if all we’re ever shown in the media are cookie-cutter images of who should (and, therefore, should not) be taking up space in the outdoors. By practicing our LGBTQ-specific directional and conversational cues and gender-affirming styling techniques, we tailored our course to the queer and trans identities. Getting LGBTQ+ the visibility they deserve is half the mission—the other half is making sure the process of getting seen isn’t a harmful one.
What Nikki gave us that warm day in October was a lesson on awareness, even as queer people ourselves. Seeing yourself there—in the outdoors, in the faces of other queer people, in an image taken with your identity in mind—was exactly what my younger self needed to feel a part of the outdoor community. Again and again, The Venture Out Project creates a hub for queer and trans people to step into, breathe a sigh of relief, and know that they are welcomed.
Learn more about The Venture Out Project at www.ventureoutproject.com