Out & Back: Outdoor solace for Seattle's queer people of color

A love of the outdoors and a longing for community are the founding principles of Jas Maisonet's QPOC Hikers.

Jas Maisonet says they always felt a pull toward the outdoors, but it wasn’t until a trip to Yosemite National Park in 2013 that they discovered how transformational connecting with nature could be. That trip helped Jas discover that they didn’t identify as a girl, and they’ve since been able to live authentically as a queer, nonbinary person.

After the Yosemite trip, Maisonet completed a 52-hike challenge and was officially hooked. When they tried to find more people to explore with, though, the options were limited. Most opportunities for networking for queer people were limited to bars and other events centered on drinking and partying. Seeking queer people of color narrowed the opportunities even further. So Maisonet decided to merge their love of meeting new people with the love of the outdoors. QPOC Hikers was born.

“The outdoors are for everyone,” Maisonet told me during the taping of this week’s episode of Out & Back, “but internally, QPOC get a gut feeling it’s not.”

In an effort to address the lack of representation and feelings of exclusion many queer people of color face in the outdoors, Maisonet founded QPOC Hikers in Seattle in 2019 and began arranging outdoor events year-round, from birding to hiking to snowshoeing. The organization also provides resources and a platform to share stories and inspiration with other queer people of color.

When they’re not leading groups outdoors, Maisonet can be found bouldering and climbing throughout the Pacific Northwest. They are a talented climber and patient teacher, as I found out while making this episode. Maisonet coached me through my first time bouldering, and told me more about their story and the organization.

For more from this episode, listen to the Out & Back podcast. You can find it on SpotifyApple Podcasts, Amazon or wherever you get your podcasts.

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