Climbing with Pride: An Insight into the LGBT Community

This article is mainly about the NotSoTrad Climbing club.
I am very proud to be one of their membership officers.
If you are interested by this Club Next Wednesday (20/01) is their first Beginners Night of the year. To register for this free event, email either [email protected] or [email protected] for more details. You can also check out
Article written by Natalie Berry – UKC in Nov/2015
“Are there any gay climbers?” was a question candidly posed as a thread title on UKC forums in September last year, which sparked an interesting discussion about participation in climbing by gay men – are there any? Where are they? Is there something about our sport which doesn’t appeal to gay men? A more recent post enquiring about gay climbing partners in Yorkshire yielded similarly uncertain conjectures and brought up the topic of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender climbing clubs and their role within the climbing community. 
Not So Trad in Chulilla, Spain, 84 kb

Not So Trad in Chulilla, Spain © Sara Kedge

Some responses included:
  • “Why not join a heterosexual climbing club?”
  • Is this a wind up?”
  • “This seems as pointless as a thread seeking fellow ginger haired climbers, or left handed climbers.”
  • Surely a common interest in climbing is more important than their sexual interests.”
From the above comments it’s clear that there is currently little understanding of the situation of LGBT climbers – if we are having to ask whether gay climbers exist, where they are and why they would want to stick together as a minority.Historically, British mountaineering and climbing has not lacked higher-profile homosexuals. In his 1927 book On High Hills, Geoffrey Winthrop Young – prolific British mountaineer, former Alpine Club President and key figure in the foundation of the British Mountaineering Council – wrote of his motivations for climbing, with an undertone of guilt regarding his then illegal sexual preferences:“In return for my guardianship of their integrity [the mountains] offered me a sanctuary for all the higher impulses, all the less sordid hopes and imaginings which visited me anywhere through the years.”(1)
Siegfried Herford and George Mallory

Siegfried Herford and George Mallory at Pen y Pass, December 1913 Geoffrey Winthrop Young © Alpine Club Photo Library

Young was an admirer of Everest mountaineer George Mallory – a member of the ‘Bloomsbury set’ of Cambridge intellectuals in the early 1900’s – who was rarely short of male attention:“Several of the male members of the group were homosexual and admired George Mallory, as Geoffrey Winthrop Young did, for his exceptional physical beauty.” (1)
John Menlove-Edwards

John Menlove-Edwards on Lliwedd

John Menlove-Edwards, renowned for his numerous first ascents in the Llanberis Pass and Snowdonia, was also a homosexual. His sexuality went against his traditional upbringing within Christian socialism, which left him feeling very much like an outsider, vulnerable to depression and his feelings of isolation eventually resulted in suicide in 1958. A highly self-reflective writer, he described climbing as “an impersonal struggle making personal relationships much easier.” (1)Commenting on the prevalence of homosexuality in this pivotal period in British climbing history, Simon Thompson wrote in his book ‘Unjustifiable Risk? The Story of British Climbing’ :“Since most climbers were (not surprisingly) less than forthright about their sexual orientation it is hard to judge how prevalent homosexuality was in climbing circles at this time, but it was probably fairly common. Many leading climbers, both before and after the First World War, went to Cambridge University, where homosexuality was both widespread and generally accepted.” (1)If, at a time when homosexuality was so deeply frowned upon as to be an illegal act, it appeared to be relatively accepted within climbing circles, over 100 years on and 48 years after homosexuality became legalised in the UK, why – in a much more liberated climate – are LGBT climbers relatively under-represented, their voices muted and their choices questioned?In 2015, it’s safe to say that UK society in general is more accepting of homosexuality and transgenderism. Homosexuality is legal, same-sex marriage legislation has been fought for and achieved (with the exception of Northern Ireland), Pride marches unite and better education in schools has created a safer and more tolerant environment for LGBT individuals. Nonetheless, homophobia, transphobia and discrimination still exist and life in a heteronormative society can be a daily battle for many who go against the grain.As a microcosm of society, climbing attracts people from all walks of life. It’s a minority sport for the most part unencumbered by gender groupings, and provides an escape for many into the undiscriminating playground of the outdoors.LGBT climbing clubs exist, but why do we need them? Is our community unwelcoming to LGBT climbers? There are currently no statistics on LGBT participation in climbing specifically, but on a wider level in sport in general there are patterns emerging which demonstrate the barriers holding LGBT individuals back from taking part in particular types of sport.This year, Denison and Kitchen conducted a major international study on homophobia and sport. They found that over half (54%) of gay men and over a third (36%) of lesbian women did not feel accepted at all, or only accepted a little, in sport. Smith et al., (2012) conducted a survey of the experiences of LGBT people in sport, of which 115 respondents were transgender (6.7 percent). 75 percent of these respondents thought transphobia was a problem in sport, with 68 percent more likely to participate in sport if it was more transgender-friendly and inclusive to transgender people.But how do these statistics relate to climbing? To build a bigger picture of the LGBT climbing community in the UK, we got in touch with four individuals who shed light on their situation, what boundaries they come up against and what it means to be an LGBT climber, with some academic insight from PhD researcher in LGBT inclusion in sport Catherine Phipps.

Sports spaces are symbollically connected to sexuality – as conceived spaces – in genderspecific ways.”(2)

Catherine Phipps – PhD Researcher
Catherine Phipps © Catherine Phipps

Catherine Phipps © Catherine Phipps

Catherine is a PhD researcher from London, researching LGBT inclusion in university-based sport. When asked what barriers LGBT individuals can come up against in sport participation, Catherine mentioned that there are different barriers relevant to each of the four categories of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender:“Stereotypes exist that gay men are less suited to sport or simply do not participate in high numbers, as gay men are often linked to femininity.
Perceptions that male athletes are masculine/heterosexual may create pressure for gay/bisexual men to keep their sexual orientation private.”
However, she maintained that there have been clear improvements and better experiences overall since the 1990s and early 2000s.Catherine continued:
“For women, the ‘lesbian label’ still exists, especially for women who participate in traditionally masculine sports, which may pressure lesbian women to hide their sexual orientation or present an image of femininity, especially since female athletes are often heterosexualised in the media. There is very little research on bisexuality and sport; however, research suggests the main barrier for bisexuals specifically is failure to consider bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation, and it generally being silenced compared to other sexual orientations.”For transgender people, Catherine revealed that the main barrier in sport is sex-segregation in training/competition; it is often not clear under what conditions transgender people can train and compete in men’s/women’s teams. This is due to sport often relying on binary models of gender. She explained:“This causes particular problems for transgender women who compete on women’s teams and who are often considered to have a physical advantage over those born female. This is minimised when sports are mixed-gender and non-competitive (such as climbing!). However, indoor climbing facilities with no unisex toilets/single-cubicle changing rooms would still cause issues for many transgender people.”I began to wonder what types of sport are most popular with certain groups, and why – team, individual, recreational or competitive activities all offer different experiences for participants. Could sexual orientation and gender identity shape sports participation?Catherine commented:“Research suggests there is a lack of openly gay/bisexual men in mainstream team and contact sports, with a higher likelihood of involvement in health and fitness. This could be due to gay and bisexual men dropping out from these sports in higher numbers, possibly due to bad experiences in school, or other reasons. Alternatively, there may be pressure to ‘pass’ as heterosexual in these environments, as ‘coming out’ as homosexual in a hyper-masculine environment may be difficult.”For women, the situation is slightly different, as Catherine described:“Data from a 2012 study involving 203 lesbian/bisexual women and 230 heterosexual women revealed that women are equally likely to be involved in mainstream club sports regardless of sexuality, although lesbian athletes are slightly more involved in ‘masculine’ sports. Another study in 2009 stated there are similar participation rates in individual sports and fitness for women irrespective of their sexual orientation. However, an international study on homophobia this year found no significant differences between the types of sports lesbian and heterosexual women were involved in.”The experiences of LGBT students at FE/HE institutions was researched by the NUS (2012) in their report ‘Out in Sport’. Catherine explained their finding that traditional notions of gender often informed students’ choices around sports participation:“Individual sports and fitness activities were most popular amongst all groups, but it was found lesbian women were more likely to play organised team sports, and gay and bisexual men were more likely to go to the gym. Gay and bisexual men were underrepresented in mainstream club and ‘masculine’ team/contact sports, with football especially unpopular with bisexual men. Swimming was least popular with transgender students, the only group to have participation below 5 percent. In contrast, martial arts were found to be more popular for transgender students; it is commonplace for martial arts training to operate in mixed-sex environments.”From Catherine’s information, it would appear that social stereotyping can play a significant role in explaining the lower levels of participation in certain sports and activities by LGBT individuals. Climbing could be viewed as a male-dominated sport with hegemonic masculinity playing a key role, despite it rarely being a competitive team sport, with strength and boldness being widely considered as ‘masculine traits.’ Equally though, it has feminine aspects such as flexibility, grace and gymnastic poise. Does this make it more gender-balanced than other sports perhaps?Catherine was inclined to agree, but explained that sports are not always easy to categorise:“Probably climbing would be considered more of a gender-neutral sport than possibly rugby/boxing (masculine) or gymnastics/netball (feminine). However, there are no clear definitions of which sports are considered masculine/feminine/gender-neutral, and this will differ between countries and cultures. For example, football is considered quite a masculine sport in UK, but more gender-neutral in the USA.”Taking gender inequality and the demographic shift within climbing into account, a question arose: as more and more women get into climbing, is this toning down hegemonic masculinity, challenging heteronormativity* and balancing things out? Catherine commented:“Possibly, and I would argue hegemonic masculinity is probably not as prominent in climbing as it is in gender-segregated sports, which tend to be more hyper-masculine. This was evident in Dashper’s 2009 study on equestrianism, another mixed-gender sport.”When asked why heterosexual people might question someone’s wish to meet similar people, or even see it as offensive/to the exclusion of heterosexual people when joining an LGBT club, Catherine responded:“It’s hard to know for certain, but from my own research with student unions who run university-based sport, many are against LGBT-only sports clubs as they are not inclusive to all. There is also the perception that people who attend LGBT-only sports clubs are only there to meet a partner, and many find it contradictory that LGBT people would separate themselves, as research on Volleyball in the Netherlands by Elling et al. discovered in 2003.”On the contrary, I wondered why some LGBT individuals might be reluctant to join an LGBT club. Catherine explained that many (not all) LGBT-only sports clubs are based around inclusivity and non-competitiveness, which may deter some LGBT individuals who would prefer competitive sport. Additionally LGBT people who are not open about their sexual orientation/gender identity at all (or possibly only to certain people) may feel uncomfortable attending and publically expressing their identity. She added:“Some may feel they are effectively excluding themselves from mainstream sport by attending an LGBT-only club – separate LGBT clubs may be marginalised/subordinated. Separate men’s and women’s teams in LGBT-only clubs would still be an issue for transgender people. Heterosexual transgender people may feel they have little in common with others in LGBT-only clubs.”(*Heteronormativity is a leading principle in most capitalist societies and within mainstream social practices like competitive sports, where especially ‘hegemonic masculinity’ is celebrated. Heteronormativity refers to the fact that ‘real’ men and women are considered heterosexual and that according to the ‘natural’ gender order men possess physical, mental and social power over women.) (2)

To find out more about LGBT climbing clubs, I contacted Not So Trad club founder Martin Oldham to hear about the LGBT climbing community from a club perspective.

Martin Oldham, member of LGBT climbing club Not So Trad

Martin Oldham

Martin Oldham © Marianne Khoo

Tell us a bit about Not So Trad!Not So Trad is a climbing club open to Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered Climbers and Mountaineers, and their friends. The only requirements we ask of members are that they acknowledge the BMC’s participation statement and support the BMC’s equal opportunities policy and equity statement. We are based in London, and most of our members live in London or the South East, but we welcome anyone regardless of where they live. Our full name is “Not So Trad – Southern LGBT Climbers”. Originally we were a group of climbing friends who had formed within the Gay Outdoor Club, but in 2008 we decided to set up independently, because we wanted to have a distinct identity as a climbing club and we wanted to affiliate to the BMC. We also wanted to provide a visible LGBT presence within the UK climbing community, which we felt was lacking at the time.We now have 110 members. We have a good gender balance, with around 40% women members. This is something we are proud of, because it is rare for LGBT sports clubs to have nearly equal proportions of men and women.  I imagine it is fairly unusual amongst climbing clubs too.We also have members who are transgender or who identify as non-binary gender. One of the things some of our members find appealing about climbing is that it is largely a gender neutral sport – unlike many sports, there aren’t strong gender distinctions in how you do it or who you do it with.We have a few members who are straight. They joined the club because they are our friends and they enjoy climbing with us. But they also like what we offer as a club. In particular, we have a really varied schedule of climbing meets during the year. It is really affirming that straight people want to join Not So Trad and feel comfortable being part of a predominantly LGBT club. It also shows that Not So Trad is effective and successful as a climbing club. First and foremost, we are a group of climbers – that is what unites us.
Why are clubs such as NOTSOTRAD important for the LGBT community, and for society as a whole?Not So Trad provides an environment where LGBT people can climb and feel welcome, safe, and uninhibited about being themselves. It’s a place where as a gay man or a lesbian you feel you are normal, rather than the exception. Being in a minority can be quite hard work at times, e.g. if people are making assumptions about us which we need to correct, or we feel we have to challenge stereotypes. For many of us, this is the situation we are in in our working lives, so when it comes to our recreational time we prefer to be in an environment where we are not in the minority and we can be relaxed about who we are. We don’t always want to have to educate or represent, especially after a long day’s work! There are a variety of other reasons why people might join Not So Trad: to take up a new activity, to widen their social circle, to meet new people etc, but I think principally it’s about being in a social environment where we feel comfortable and relaxed.  The wider benefit that Not So Trad brings is that it encourages people to take up climbing who might not otherwise do so. LGBT people are under-represented in climbing (and in sport more generally). As a club, we increase the level of LGBT participation in climbing. We do this directly, by welcoming people who are new to climbing and providing opportunities and encouragement for them to develop as climbers (e.g. we hold meets specifically aimed at novice climbers and we organise subsidised ‘learn to lead’ training weekends). Also, by providing a visible LGBT presence in the UK climbing community we can help to challenge preconceptions LGBT people might have about climbing, or climbers might have about LGBT people.Many members have gone on to climb outside the club and, yes, with straight people! We have members who are also members of the Climbers Club, the Alpine Club, university clubs and a variety of other groups. It’s a mistake for people to think we exclusively climb with LGBT people – this doesn’t reflect the membership of the club, who we are as climbers, or who we climb with. Why are LGBT people under-represented in climbing? That’s hard to answer. I think many LGBT people have the perception, rightly or wrongly, that climbing is a difficult sport to break into, that it has quite a closed culture based around tightly knit social groups, and that you are less likely to be accepted if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (I’m not saying this is true, just how it is perceived). The perception that climbing has a ‘macho’ culture can also be off-putting for lots of people, many gay men, and particularly women.
In your opinion, is the climbing community more accepting of minority groups than wider society?In my experience climbers tend to be more liberal, cosmopolitan and tolerant in outlook than society more generally. As a generalisation, climbers are a friendly and laid back set of people, and more open-minded than most.
I think it’s important to say that there’s a big difference between being accepting of minority groups and being welcoming. Being accessible is not just about leaving the door unlocked, it’s also about opening the door and encouraging people to come in!
What can climbing and the outdoors in general offer people who might feel marginalised from wider society?Climbing has a distinct feeling of community and its own culture. Being accepted and welcome within the climbing community can give a sense of belonging and shared values, and that can be a very positive thing for people who feel marginalised in other contexts. Learning to climb, developing skills, teamwork, overcoming physical and mental challenges can help build confidence, which can also be valuable for people who feel marginalised.
Not So Trad in Fontainebleau

Not So Trad in Fontainebleau © Dave Farrow

Does the club experience any form of prejudice or discrimination within climbing circles? Asking around, I have not heard of any instances of explicit prejudice or discrimination.
A couple of years ago we were climbing at Portland alongside a group from one of the university clubs. Some of them were using the term “gay” to mean something negative, e.g. “you can’t do that move? Don’t be so gay!”. We had a quiet word with them, I think they understood why this was offensive and they stopped doing it. The sad thing about this incident was that it was a university club. University clubs could be playing a valuable role in bringing new people into climbing and encouraging more diverse participation. However, by their behaviour this group was creating a very exclusive environment. If I’d been at that university, there’s no way I would have joined this club, because of their homophobic behaviour. Times change, these sorts of incidents are becoming much rarer thankfully.
What changes have you seen in participation in the club over the last few years? Is awareness growing?Membership increased rapidly in the first couple years after we set ourselves up, but then levelled off at around 100. We have a steady intake of new members that makes up for people leaving the club. I’d say the average age is falling and we now have a higher proportion of members under 30 than we did a few years ago. We don’t have many inactive members. Meet attendance has increased year on year, and become more consistent, because we have got better at organising the meet schedule and working out what members want. Some meets, particularly those aimed at novices, can have over 30 attendees. Most have between 10 and 20 attendees. We have a regular indoor climbing night every Wednesday at the Castle in North London, which gets 20+ people each week.We now have more members who live outside London. Partly this is because members have moved away for work, but stayed in the club. But it’s also because new members who don’t live in the South East are joining, which reflects a greater awareness of the club outside London. We don’t have aspirations to be a UK-wide club, because organising a national membership and meets schedule would be too much of an administrative burden. We are more interested in climbing than committee meetings etc. But we’d be happy to consider partnerships or collaborations with other groups and clubs, e.g. by having joint meets.
Have attitudes towards the club from non-LGBT climbers changed at all?I think more people have heard of us. We often get chatting to other climbers in campsites, in huts, on belay ledges etc, and typically they ask who we are and where we are from. Reactions are overwhelmingly positive. It was nice to see someone recommending us in a post on UKC recently: “Not So Trad is a really good gang and very active and I would highly recommend seeking them out, even if you’re straight (can I say that?)”
Why do you think people would question an individual’s wish to meet similar people, or even see it as offensive/to the exclusion of heterosexual people?This comes up from time to time. Someone once posted on UKC that we were discriminating against him because he was straight. So we invited him along to one of our meets to climb with us. And he said he thought we were a friendlier bunch than many of the other climbing clubs he knew!We are not exclusive – we have straight members and many of us have straight climbing partners outside the club. This year we organised joint meets with the Climbers Club and the Pinnacle Club, and that’s an initiative we hope to develop further and with other clubs. If anyone wants to climb with us, get in touch and we’ll see what we can sort out. We are happy to extend the hand of friendship to anyone who wants to climb with us.
What is your response to someone who claims that sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t make a difference in climbing partnerships, and asks why you don’t want to join a mainstream club?Often statements like this come from people who don’t really understand what it’s like to be lesbian or gay in an environment where the majority of people are straight. Behind it there’s an assumption that because there is less direct discrimination these days, LGBT people should be happy joining in with everyone else. But being equal doesn’t mean being the same. As I explained above, for many of us, being in Not So Trad is about being in an environment where you feel, in terms of your sexuality, you are the norm rather than the exception.It is a false dichotomy to present it in terms of “LGBT” and “non-LGBT”. We don’t see Not So Trad as an alternative to the rest of the UK climbing community – we aim to be a club that adds something to the climbing community, by providing a specifically LGBT-friendly climbing environment that doesn’t exist elsewhere.However, there is a legitimate criticism that by segregating ourselves in our own club, there are fewer LGBT climbers dispersed among other clubs, which means members of those clubs are less aware of LGBT climbers, and there is less being done to combat homophobia and trans-phobia or to challenge stereotypes in those contexts. This is undoubtedly true (and a problem in LGBT sport more generally, and particularly team sports). But attitudes around LGBT inclusion have shifted a great deal, even in the past 7 years since we set up Not So Trad. LGBT people are gaining more confidence about moving into environments they have previously felt excluded from. We would hope that over time it becomes more normal for mainstream climbing clubs to have LGBT members. What do you think could be done to create a more welcoming environment in climbing walls and mainstream clubs?
  • Climbing walls and mainstream clubs should adopt and enforce a zero tolerance policy towards homophobia and transphobia.
  • Clubs should think about diversity, how they can be more inclusive and more open to LGBT people. Talk to LGBT people about it!
  • Clubs could actively promote themselves as inclusive and LGBT-friendly. University clubs, which have a duty to be inclusive, should definitely be doing this.
  • Collaborations (e.g. joint meets) with LGBT groups like Not So Trad.

From Catherine’s statistics on LGBT sports participation and Martin’s mention of the perceived ‘macho culture’ in climbing – I wanted to find out why fewer women join LGBT clubs than men and why. To find out more from a female perspective, I contacted lesbian climber Roslyn McKendry.

Roslyn McKendry, biology lecturer, founding member and ex-president of Not So Trad


Roslyn McKendry

Roslyn McKendry © Roslyn McKendry

Why do you think so few LGBT individuals might be attracted to climbing as a hobby/sport? Are there invisible barriers? 
I generally meet very few LGBT people anywhere, unless I go out of my way. When I returned to the UK, I started climbing at the Castle in London and met a good group of friends there. I also linked up with some LGBT climbers – I don’t remember how I did this but I definitely had to go out of my way to seek them out. We ended up founding Not So Trad, so now I actually know lots of LGBT climbers but I guess this is not the norm.
In your experience, are people more or less welcoming in the climbing world than in your other activity groups, or than society as a whole? 
In general I find climbers to be a great bunch and have rarely experienced anything negative.
Have you experienced prejudice or discrimination within climbing circles?
One incident that comes to mind was a negative reaction to Not So Trad being an LGBT club.
Why do you think people would question your wish to meet similar people, or even see it as offensive/to the exclusion of heterosexual people? 
I guess there could be a number of reasons for this. Some people might assume that an LGBT club is exclusive (which NST is not – we have quite a few straight members), that it has a big ‘Keep Out’ sign posted over it, and react to that … or they may take our interest in meeting together as some sort of criticism of the straight climbing community.
I had two reasons for joining an LGBT club. On moving to London I hadn’t intended to make any special effort to meet LGBT people. I assumed that this would happen naturally, and that over time I’d make some LGBT friends. After 3 years I really had not met anyone! I think if you ask a straight person to imagine living in a world where they are surrounded by LGBT people and never meet straight people, most (all?) would concede that they would be pretty keen to meet others like them. That was my first reason. I just wanted to meet people like me and, if we had a shared interest in rock-climbing, even better. Secondly, even if straight people are open and welcoming, LGBT people can sometimes feel uncomfortably different. This happens to me when I am home in Ireland. Everyone else I know there got married in their 20s, got a mortgage, has two kids, a stable job etc. I can still sometimes feel a bit like a freak.
Why do you think there are generally far fewer women than men joining LGBT clubs? Does the “macho” element in sport play a role in this?
There is generally a male/female imbalance in LGBT clubs, and sometimes a really big one. I expect there are various reasons for this.
Language plays an interesting role. Back in the 70s, many LGBT clubs used to be called ‘gay’ clubs, but a lot of lesbians didn’t feel included in the term ‘gay’ and the clubs were predominantly male. Gradually clubs started including ‘lesbian and gay’ in their name. Not So Trad actually evolved from the Gay Outdoors Club which was predominantly male – perhaps 20:1 (male:female) at a guess. We made sure to include ‘lesbian and gay’ in our strapline and members were committed to creating an inclusive environment. But it took a long time to see that intention translate into a more diverse membership. When a potential new female member shows up and sees 15 male members and one female member some will question whether this really is the club for them. We had a hump to get over. And we needed to think about all the ‘messages’ sent out by the group, not just in words, but also photos used on the website, flyers etc. Did they reflect the diversity we wanted to represent?
I’m sure there are many other reasons for low female participation in LGBT clubs. Men have historically been encouraged more in sports, may be more confident, volunteer more readily to get involved. These are obviously generalisations, but I think they play a role. And then, of course, not everyone sees lesbians and gay men as the most obvious grouping. Although many of us have shared the experience of feeling alienated or marginalized due to our sexuality, we are men who form primary relationships with men, and women who form primary relationships with women. Someone once described it as being like a restaurant that serves vegans and cannibals!
Roslyn McKendry

Roslyn McKendry © Roslyn McKendry

Going back to the language point, more recently (perhaps 2 years ago) NST decided to change the words in our strapline. Although bisexuals and transgender people were included in out constitution they weren’t mentioned upfront in our strapline. We changed ‘lesbian and gay’ in the strapline to ‘LGBT’. Many lesbians and gay men haven’t been very accepting of bisexuals or transgender people historically. This is much better now. Just because we’re a bit different doesn’t mean we are always good at negotiating other types of difference. But we’re learning. I actually think NST does a really good job of being inclusive. Having some straight friends and transgender members, joining and taking up posts in the club, felt like a really positive step. It is relatively easy to feel comfortable with others who have a similar experience of the world as you (not just a comment about LGBT people!) but so much richer if you can break out of that. The partnerships forged through epic days of climbing really help to break down barriers between people. I think most of us would say that our social circle is more diverse since joining NST…and richer for it.
How easy or hard is it to find other LGBT climbers to climb with?
It’s very easy for me in London as I live right next to the wall where Not So Trad meet. I’m guessing it’s not so easy elsewhere. I’m really not sure how many LGBT climbing groups there are out there.
What is your response to someone who claims that sexual identity and gender shouldn’t make a difference in climbing partnerships, and asks why you don’t want to join a non-LGBT club?
For me it generally doesn’t matter whether my climbing partner is LGBT or not and probably at least half of my climbing partners are not. I am also in a non-LGBT club, the Climbers Club. However, it is really nice to be part of an LGBT group too. We have some similar experiences of the world and it is nice to have those experiences easily understood. Plus we must have a great meets list!


LGBT Climbing Clubs


References and Further Reading


(1)- Elling, Agnes and Jan Janssens: ‘”SEXUALITY AS A STRUCTURAL PRINCIPLE IN SPORT PARTICIPATION: Negotiating Sports Spaces,” International Review for the Sociology of Sport , March 2009, vol. 44 no. 1 (71-86)


(2) – Thompson, Simon: Unjustifiable Risk? The Story of British Climbing, Cicerone Press, 2010


(3)- National Union of Students ‘Out in Sport’ Study Report

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