Why I Always F*ck Off to the Forest for Pride™ (And You Can, Too)

In this illustration, three bodies are intertwined in a group hug. There are colorful fraying strings falling all around them, against a hot pink background.

Illustration by Joyce Chau

We’re taking some time this Pride to look out for ourselves and each other, with the intentionality and respect we all deserve. What do we really need right now? How can we show up for each other? How can we celebrate the resilience of this community while still making space for our own rest? How do we honestly feel about Pride?


The other day, as part of a three-day POC-specific professional development seminar, the facilitators asked us to think about a time we’ve felt able to be fully ourselves and/or fully authentic — in a workplace situation. Some blessed angel asked if it had to be at work, and they said no, we could think of a personal life situation instead. Everyone was on mute but I could feel the sighs of relief. But I still had to wrack my brain.

To my delight, the one other trans woman of color among the 30+ attendees was in my breakout room, and we realized that neither of us ever feel free to be completely ourselves or completely authentic — not just at work, but in any situation where other people are around! I had just come back from Yosemite days earlier, and realized that the only time I’m able to truly be myself, to be comfortable and authentic, is when I’m in the forest, or on a mountain, or somewhere else completely alone.

the author being proud at yosemite

The author at Lake Tenaya in Yosemite, feeling herself

Trees aren’t transphobic or racist. Neither are bugs or deer or vast, lush forests or slowly-melting snowbanks or eagles or the rolling winds cresting over a verdant vista. There’s nothing but the Earth that created and sustains me and the sun and stars and the silence. I’m able to be proud in a way that I’ve never felt like Pride has offered — there are no cops, or TERFs, or racist white cis gay leather daddies, or corporations, or community-sanctioned alcoholism and risky sex masquerading as liberation. Just silence and acceptance.

My absolute favorite thing to do in life right now is bouldering. It’s been proven to be an effective treatment for depression, which is great since I’m depressed. But the key for me is that it’s one of the most embodied activities I’ve ever encountered. Routes up a boulder are called “problems,” because there is a specific, most efficient and effective way up every route – and that means you have to “solve” the problem by figuring out the best way to get your particular self up to the top. But the way you practice this problem-solving is with your entire body! It’s the most consummate composite of body and mind, and given the society in which I exist, this trans body thrives when I’m able to marry the two. While the gym is a nice place to practice, and is becoming less aggro and masculine by the year, outdoors is really where the magic happens.

bouldering

The author at the top of a boulder in California, feeling proud, with a friend making her way up as well.

Backpacking, for me, is similar. I have everything I need on my person. I have a starting point, a destination, and a body to get me there. In a dense forest, the fallen trees obscure the trail. Sometimes I make my own, sometimes I get scraped and banged up by branches and rocks, and sometimes I check my GPS to see how far I’ve veered off-course. I’ve never felt as in touch with – as proud – of my self, of my body, as when I finish a boulder problem or arrive at a long-awaited waypoint or peak or trailhead. As when I look out over a sweeping panorama and can see, off in the distance and tiny, where I started. Sometimes I think about how I’m not white, or cis, or “fit,” and how the outdoors isn’t really for me. Being out there feels radical.

That’s why I’ve always fucked off to Yosemite, or some other more-accessible isolated forest space, every June. I went a couple weeks early this year because of scheduling, but nature’s always there waiting for me.

half dome accepting

Half Dome in the distance, accepting, welcoming

So, just over a week ago, I did a little bouldering and hiked 11 miles up to the top of El Capitan and exchanged pointed looks with Half Dome, which smiled over at me approvingly. “You belong here,” she said. “This space is for you.” And I did, and it was. And I was proud, both to have made the trek and to just, exist. Best Pride ever. Can’t wait till next year.


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Abeni Jones is a trans woman of color artist, educator, writer, and designer living in the Bay Area, CA. Follow her art on Instagram @abeni.jones or check out her website at abenijones.net. Got a music recommendation, a positive trans woman story/news item, or wanna book me for something? e-mail me by clicking here!

Abeni has written 66 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. As a nature queer I agree with this. It’s just nice to be out among the earth in nature & not worry about anything. Why I spend my Sundays as much as I can up a hill/mountain or even a park.

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