The Venture Out Project: Inclusive Outdoors w/ Ana Seiler!
Meet Ana Seiler
Ana currently calls the valley and hilltowns of Western Massachusetts home. Originally from Maine, she discovered her love for getting lost in the forested areas around New England in college.
After graduating, Ana explored her passion for native pollinators, regenerative homesteading, and farm-to-table food equity through “WWOOF” (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and various seasonal gigs. If you were looking, you might find her in a garden with her hands in the dirt or attempting to keep up with her puppy, Dunkin, on a trail somewhere.
Her heart is with the land and the people who steward it, fostering connections that bridge the gaps of access and education in gender-diverse outdoor spaces.
Ana Seiler – TVOP
Ana grew up in Southern Maine and never really connected with the overtly masculine representation of the outdoors she had seen growing up. However, the outdoors drew Ana back and eventually lead to the Venture Out Project.
After moving out to Western Massachusetts to pursue agriculture work she was close to the TVOP offices and craving community.
“I signed up for one of their outdoor hikes their day hikes around mountain Tom, which was ironically, the same time that they had posted a position open for communication specialists. So I jumped on both opportunities to take hikes on them and join their team.
And I feel like I came across them by pure magic, and it has felt like that ever since.“
Barriers to the outdoors
Connecting with nature is important for keeping us healthy, and committed and connected to protecting the Earth. Unfortunately, there are barriers queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ youth and adults in these outdoor and natural spaces, especially because it intersects with many other identities.
“We’re kind of always given this cookie-cutter image of who’s supposed to be in the outdoors. And I think that that really serves as a major limitation for queer and trans people when they don’t see themselves represented outside.”
At TVOP the mission is to dismantle the norms of outdoor recreation and create a space where the queer and trans community feels safe and represented.
“(Representation) shows us that we aren’t the first and there’s a community of people, past and present that are encouraging us and supporting us in that new activity.”
Barriers include financial accessibility, managing medication, or finding comfortable gender-affirming clothing on the trail. TVOP works to support their community and overcome these barriers and connect with the nature.
Historically companies and even organizations have depicted the outdoors as a space for white cis men. The TVOP community contributes to reframing the narrative of the outdoors and nature in human and non-human systems.
Organizations looking to increase diversity in their conservation area or affinity groups can partner with The Venture Out Project to help reach their goals.
Diversity also is a huge part of nature. Ana, being a horticulturist, says that nature in itself is genderless and doesn’t present the same pressures, stereotypes, or expectations that happen in the front country.
“One of my favorite facts from horticulture is the fact that plants that have male and female reproductive parts (are) considered a perfect plant. We wouldn’t our dominant culture in the United States wouldn’t necessarily say the same about a human.
TVOP is a place that people can go to really explore outdoors, and let go drop off those the masks that we wear that allow us to fit into society.”
building environmental leadersEnvironmental stewardship is taking ownership of caring for the land that we live on. Through the work with The Venture Out Project, they help to build that human-nature connection and create leaders and environmental stewards.
“It disentangles it disconnects them from the fact that we’re all in this one big, reciprocal relationship with each other, and with the land and with the creatures that live on it. And so what TVOP does, we get queer and trans people into outdoor spaces, we’re building this community, we’re strengthening bonds with each other, we’re showing positive representation. But what we’re also doing is we’re allowing them to get comfortable with these outdoor spaces, we’re allowing those connections to rebuild that have been broken down by that white, straight sis able-bodied male representation that we’ve always been given.”Society values individualistic and materialistic behaviors. However, The Venture Out Project allows people to connect, collaborate, and communicate with each other in safe and equitable spaces. Over the campfire, TVOP facilitates conversations around topics that their participants feel need to be addressed. This creates leaders and fosters new ideas to help solve world problems like climate change and social justice.
be an ally
TVOP trips are specific to the groups they serve, but they also encourage you to be an ally. Ana says there are few ways you can begin to be an ally. One way is to become comfortable with using pronouns, as well as re-examining your relationship with gender.
TVOP works to dismantle these relationships with gender through language to allow their participants to feel at home in outdoor spaces.
“When we’re on the trail or teaching people about proper Leave No Trace bathroom etiquette, personal hygiene things. Rather than saying something like, “When women go to the bathroom,” we’d say, “For people who squat to pee.” So we’re removing the gendered language out of that because, to be honest, anybody can squat to pee. What’s important is that they’re getting their personal hygiene needs met.”
Making your language more inclusive is essential for making sure that queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ people feel not only comfortable but welcome in the outdoors.
Ana encourages everyone who identifies with TVOP to come on a trip.
“The community that we create is something that I want every LGBTQ+ person to experience. It’s so much more than backpacking. It’s so much more than canoe camping or whitewater rafting or skiing or the actual activities that we’re doing. And it’s so much more about, you know, not needing to explain to people why you’re a trans man that had a baby or stuff like that. You don’t have to explain yourself in the same way. And it’s incredibly freeing.”
If you want to get connected to a trip with The Adventure Project, they have winter and summer trips available on their website. You can also keep up with the Venture out Project by following TVOP on Instagram!
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