There are many things that make Colorado College unique — our location at the foot of the Rocky Mountains is one of them. For a lot of students, CC’s outdoor community is a central part of their college experience, and even their personal identity. Unfortunately, many feel that CC has failed to make the outdoor community a welcoming space for all identities.
This is a sentiment that some students and faculty are trying to change. This week, the Outdoor Recreation Center collaborated with students and groups like the Butler Center and Wellness Resource Center to create a series of events to celebrate the representation of all identities in the outdoors. On Monday, the celebration began with a lunch talk by Elyse Rylander, founder of the organization OUT There Adventures, which aims to bring queer youth into the outdoors while also developing leadership skills and community.
An article published this month in Outside Magazine named Rylander a “Trailblazer for LGBTQ Youth.” In Tuesday’s ORC meeting, while talking about what brought her to OUT There Adventures, Rylander reflected on her own assumptions about the outdoors and challenged us to reflect on ours. Asking the students in the crowd to close their eyes, she told a story of a mountaineer, and then one about a group of bikers. She then asked the students in the crowd to say what came to mind when they imagined these people. Most admitted that they imagined white men.
Many students pointed to the media as the reason for this. Rylander agreed, but said that “lived experiences” are also an important determining factor. The people that we see doing an activity around us, or the people that are most visible, are the people we associate with an activity. The assumptions and dynamics that stem from this can create an exclusive environment — a phenomenon that many people at CC are actively trying to change.
On Tuesday, students gathered in the Innovation Center to design a flag for the ORC that celebrates inclusion of all identities in the outdoors. It’s an idea that Britt McClintock, Inclusion and Identity Executive-in-Residence at the Outdoor Education Center, had previously tried to express when she collaborated with students to create a new ORC sticker, which states “All Adventurers Welcome.” The new flag made on Tuesday is made up of an assortment of old outdoor equipment like tents, ropes, and tires; it will eventually be hung inside the ORC.
On Wednesday, the events of the week culminated in the biggest of them all: Pride Outside. Students gathered on Yampa Field not only to buy and sell gear as in previous years, but also to listen to live music, play field games, eat food, and pose in a polaroid booth set up by the Wellness Resource Center.
After the student band Parents had left their makeshift stage, Andrew-Allison Godfrey, Outdoor Education and Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund Coordinator, stood on the porch of the ORC and read out the names of raffle winners. On the level below him, students lounged in groups and played spike ball. A rainbow flag, acting as the backdrop of the WRC’s polaroid station, stood up tall in stark contrast to the lush, spring green of Yampa.
The event was only two hours long, but it was the beginning of a conversation that many students and faculty believe to be long overdue at CC. As Rylander pointed out at the ORC meeting on Tuesday, danger only arises when we refuse to have conversations about the subjects that make us uncomfortable.