Inspirational Stories: Celebrating Pride Month With Alexis Caught
At Cotswold Outdoor, we believe the outdoors is for everyone, and we want to play our part in ensuring it is an inclusive space for everyone. The LGBTQ+ community is one of the communities often lacking representation in the outdoors, and we think that needs to change. As part of Pride Month, we want to blaze the trail for a better future for everyone outdoors. That's why we've caught up with LGBTQ+ activist, outdoor enthusiast and bestselling author of ‘Queer Up’, Alexis Caught, to learn about his experiences outdoors and what more we can all do to ensure that everyone feels empowered to get out and enjoy all the outdoors has to offer.
What are your first memories of the outdoors?
I can remember “climbing” Cader Idris, a really special mountain in Wales (the prettier, more interesting, but overlooked younger sibling to Snowdon) and taking breaks along the route by sitting in my dad’s rucksack as he carried me up. I can’t have been older than five, but the memory of it is quite vivid; just me, my dad and the mountain. I remember him telling me stories of the giant who shaped the local surroundings and other folklore.
What does Pride Month mean to you?
It’s difficult to sum it up. Pride is an important historical milestone in the LGBTQ+ fight for rights. It’s where we began to celebrate our community as well as protest (and Pride, really, has to stay a protest), signalling a change in our community’s fate and ethos. Pride Month is an important time to stand up, be counted, and recognise a community, which is often an invisible minority, where we can remind one another that there’s solidarity and safety in numbers and inspire those yet to come out that there is hope and a community waiting for them once they do. But pride is also a powerful emotion that we carry within us the other 11 months of the year, that encourages us to push back against shame, hold our heads high and fight for the freedoms and rights to be our true, authentic selves.
How important are role models and representation for the LGBTQ+ community to become outdoor enthusiasts?
In Britain, our society largely revolves around drinking, it’s ingrained in so many of our cultural and social occasions – and yet this can exclude so many. For the LGBTQ+ community, where we’re facing increasing losses of queer spaces - and sadly, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to face alcohol and substance abuse issues than the wider population - the great outdoors can be a wonderful antidote to these pressures. Getting immersed in nature, the outdoors, connected to our land and geography is a freeing, equalising and healing experience, which has not only proven to be good for our mental health, but sharing these activities with people has also shown to help build bonds and relationships. Encouraging LGBTQ+ people to get outside and connect with one another - and nature along the way - only pays dividends.
How does the sea make you feel and why should we appreciate natural environments like oceans?
Peaceful, connected, alive. Whether it’s slipping into the water on a hot summer’s day or plunging into the cold for the thrill and endorphin rush, getting into water is so connecting. There’s a reason why water plays a part in so much mythology, folklore and spirituality: there’s real power in connecting with it and feeling yourself at peace floating there. It can provide us with so much, from helping to cool the planet and offering us leisure to care, food, and the potential for energy generation. I believe our oceans can be our biggest friends in helping to transition to a greener, more sustainable and harmonious planet, but that they also have the potential to be our biggest threat as sea levels rise and flood large swathes of land we call home. They have immense power - so let’s work with them, protect the oceans, and they will protect us in return.
What changes have you made to better the environment?
While I have made personal changes – I don’t have children, I don’t drive a car, I’ve minimised my meat consumption, I take fewer flights, and only purchase new clothes from sustainable or more eco-conscious companies - the overwhelming and most important thing we can do is to put pressure on governments and big polluting businesses. The big polluters have a larger part to play, and can make a more significant impact than individuals. So, while I think we can all do our bit day-to-day, we must also use our buying power to boycott polluting companies and use our voting power to put pressure on politicians at a local and national scale to take the climate emergency seriously.
Greenpeace are campaigning to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 to safeguard wildlife and help mitigate the impacts of climate change. How can people help?
One way I like to help is to always take a little bag with me whenever I’m at the beach, and as we walk along, we pop any litter we find into our bag and take it home. Similarly, when going to the beach, make sure you leave nothing behind and take all your rubbish. When swimming, I’ve switched to marine safe sunscreens to help reduce the harmful chemicals found in some sunscreens, so I’m not contributing to aquatic issues like coral bleaching or introducing toxins into the waters.
Finally, when shopping for clothes, think about switching to trusted and accredited eco-friendly sources which have been checked for inclusions of harmful chemicals which ultimately end up in our waterways and oceans.
What more can brands, retailers, and the outdoor community as a whole do to make the outdoors more inclusive and accessible?
I’ve found the outdoor community to be vastly welcoming. There’s something about being holed up in a bothy with a group of strangers, which always brings out good in people, as provisions are shared, and stories (and even sometimes songs) are swapped. I think what we can collectively do though, is push for the right to roam, something those brilliant Scots have pushed for and won, and us in England, Wales and Ireland are sadly lacking. Land is collective, and we should all have the right to connect with our home and the lands we’re surrounded by, yet vast swathes of it are not accessible to the public.
We in the outdoor community know the benefits of the outdoors, so let’s get more people accessing green spaces.
Do you think there is a relationship between diversity, inclusion, and climate change? And are different communities disproportionately impacted?
As has been shown repeatedly throughout the history of humanity, whenever there is a threat to collective safety, security or status quo, it’s those at the margins of society who are first and worst hit.
Already people in the global south lives are radically being affected by climate change with droughts, flooding, and famines, which will only get worse. Here in the west and economically stronger countries, we’re made to feel these things are far away, but they’re becoming increasingly more real with dangerous weather disasters and threats to crops increasing year on year.
For those of us in minority communities, the existential threat is high. There are no LGBTQ+ rights on a dying planet, women’s rights are not protected by fundamentalist regimes, and racial equality and international co-operation are also threatened by nationalist and supremacist ideologies which seek to protect “their people” before others. Brexit and the shift to the political far-right in America and Britain show that these societal threats are already happening.
That's why I'm so keen to support charities like Mermaids who are doing amazing work to support transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children, young people, and their families, so that we can all have a future to look forward to.
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