Based in the North York Moors, Rob Mitchell is a mountain leader for Outdoor Lads, a UK-wide community who run a range of sociable outdoor activities for gay, bi and trans guys. In this episode, Rob, a gay man, talks about discrimination linked to homophobia. He also talks about the importance of a supportive community to help individuals deal with stress and life challenges.
Finding Our Way podcast champions diverse outdoor voices and is proudly sponsored by Berghaus.
How can all clubs be more welcoming and inclusive?
Any club should think long and hard about the messages it sends out - think about what it might look like to other people. Does the wording of anything on your website suggest 'We are for this particular type of person only'? Does the imagery suggest inclusion? We can't make things up, but let's try and make sure we’re saying ‘this group’s accessible’.
Having different types of events will improve inclusion - not everybody wants to go on a 25-mile hike for 18 hours over half a dozen different Munro summits in Scotland. Some people want something a bit more casual. So make sure you've got different types of events, and for different levels of ability, so you're not just narrowing it down to a limited number of people who are already very experienced in the hills. There are lots of people out there that need introducing to the hills and will be put off by a big challenging event.
Are groups specially aimed at certain people, like gay, bi and trans men, divisive?
I think as human beings, we all need to form groups. We all need to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of community. Outdoor Lads are just that - part of a group that was set up by, and was intended for, gay men but that's not to say others can't join. It's not about being divisive, it's recognising that there are groups within that broader family [of outdoor enthusiasts]. We pride ourselves as a group on being welcoming, supportive and inclusive, and try and make sure everybody feels valued, especially newcomers. And if it encourages more people to get outdoors, then that's got to be a good thing.
You don't need anybody's permission to try something new. You know, you might just have a couple of friends that have got a similar feeling, a similar ambition. Just go for it. Put your heads together, come up with a plan, see if anybody else wants to join you and just do it. If it works, even if it's just two or three of you doing something and you come back buzzing, other people will think, 'Oh, that sounds good. I'd like a piece of that. Can I join? Can I come next time?'
As a hillwalker, how has Outdoor Lads helped you grow your own passion?
I’ve been an active member since 2008 after I went online, found a walk locally and joined. Then I was out with Outdoor Lads in more wild landscapes like the Lake District and then eventually venturing up into Scotland. It's broadened my horizons immensely and boosted my confidence and skills. I’ve just qualified as a Summer Mountain Leader and that’s all down to Outdoor Lads, inspiring me to get out more, to push myself, enjoy it and be a bit adventurous. Getting good at navigating is fantastic. When things come together, when you're aiming for something in the dark and you're pacing yourself...when you find what you're looking for - wow! It sounds bonkers but it really feels fantastic.
What does walking mean to you?
Feeling totally, totally free
Outdoor Lads Twitter
Information and advice for the LGBT+ community and their allies:
Lowland Leader, Hill and Moorland Leader and Mountain Leader (ML) qualifications
Meet our guests from Season 1:
Rehna Yaseen: Free kit, ‘BAME’ and inspiring young South Asians
Euan Ryan: Making films, climbing and hidden disabilities
Bonita Norris: Everest, ethics and disordered eating
Rob Mitchell: Cake, maps, and gay, bi- & trans lads outdoors
Cherelle Harding: Urban community, reggae and rolling down hills
Stu Skinner: Deserts, jungles and mental health training
Finding Our Way is sponsored by Berghaus, and hosted by BMC walking ambassador Mary-Ann Ochota and expedition leader and equity champion Cress Allwood. Our editor is Chris Stone.
Get involved with the conversation by sharing your thoughts on the BMC Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #FindingOurWay.
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Finding Our Way is the new BMC podcast where our guests are as diverse as the outdoors should be.
Hosted by BMC Hillwalking Ambassador and TV Broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota and Expedition Leader and equity champion Cress Allwood, the podcasts aims to diversify the people we normally hear talking about the outdoors, celebrate their stories and shine a light on their insights.
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