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Queer Climbing at TCA

TCA climber Roxy Barry writes about an informal climbing meet up that aims to make all climbers feel welcome.

In 2019, I wrote an article for pride month about queerness and climbing for womenclimb. I talked about how more representation and accessible avenues were needed to make the climbing community more queer-friendly – so in 2020 TCA Glasgow stepped up to the mark to be the psyched and supportive home of the informal climbing meeting up: Queer Climbing Social. This event is run by the Queer Climbing Collective (Scotland) and is a casual, social-climbing club for the LGBTQ+ community and allies.

Since I wrote the original article, I’ve had numerous conversations with people about this subject and cultivated my Instagram feed to feature more queer climbers and more queer-friendly accounts (I’m pleased to say, they are out there!). The queer climbing community exists – when you go looking for it. In 2019, the majority of LGBTQ+ friendly climbing groups and events I could find were based in the US (especially the large and loving community around @pattiegonia, a drag queen working to promote sustainable, inclusive outdoor pursuits) – so as a local attempt to promote visibility and awareness in the UK, this queer climbing social at TCA has taken shape over the past couple of years.


Who is this event for?

Inclusivity and accessibility are at the heart of this event – we are open to everyone, of all abilities, genders, ages and backgrounds. Queer Climbing Social is aimed at people within and allies to the LGBTQ+ community, to climb in a social environment with like-minded people. Discrimination of any form (racism, sexism, transphobia, bi-phobia, homophobia) will not be tolerated.


Why do we need a queer social?

For the LGBTQ+ community, this is a question that doesn’t need asking. However, a few comments on my article for womenclimb revealed that the reasons bear repeating. Those unfamiliar with LGBTQ+ issues usually respond to these topics in a similar manner:

“how does sexuality or gender identity have anything to do with climbing?”
“why segregate yourselves”
“this stuff shouldn’t matter – we’re just climbers”

These comments come from people who usually haven’t had to worry about feeling ostracised or drained from navigating sports (or life) as a queer person. We live in a world where heterosexuality and cis-gender is the assumed ‘norm’. To challenge (or correct) these assumptions can be scary.

When derogatory language is used in the climbing community, at walls or in online spaces (I’m looking at you, Glasgow Climbers) and isn’t called out, but accepted as ‘banter’ or a ‘joke’ – most of us wonder how you don’t understand why we want a group to climb with who aren’t going to make us uncomfortable just to get a laugh. Where we can have a good time and relax without becoming the butt of a lazy joke. Language is a powerful tool to oppress and hurt minorities and to express prejudices (even through jokes) – immediately making people feel unwelcome – and its important that we all recognise that.

The baseline of it is that ‘this stuff’ shouldn’t matter. But it does to marginalised groups – and will continue to matter until oppression is a distant memory (a girl can dream). To deny it is to be part of the problem. It’s not about people asking others about their sexuality or genitals while climbing (bit creepy – don’t do this) but more about how people act and think and what people say. Is what you’re saying gender-specific? Are you using a slur as a ‘joke’? Stop it! It’s weird (and please, tell your mates).


How we can all help

But what can be done? I hear you ask. To make people feel more at home (without affecting everyone else):
– don’t use slurs, even as a ‘joke’
– share your pronouns (and ask for others or use gender-neutral pronouns)
– call out questionable language
– don’t assume people’s gender
– ask for gender-neutral facilities
– just be a nice person?
– do your own research!

At queer climbing social, everyone attending is welcoming, friendly, and open. We’re there to climb routes and share our joy of climbing.


See Climbing Clubs at The Prop Store and The Newsroom for info on dates and timings.