Conservation Colorado Celebrates Pride Month
Conservation Colorado recognizes and celebrates pride month and we want to highlight the incredible LGBTQ+ staff that fights for land, water, air, and communities. Everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, deserves the opportunity to go outside and enjoy what nature has to offer without feeling excluded or unsafe.
Meet our staff and read their stories below:
Sara Rose Tannenbaum – Climate Advocate
Activities: Walking, napping in the grass under trees, gardening
Being outside is where I feel most connected to my identity. I’m lucky to feel free, at ease, and invited to be my whole self outdoors – which is what Pride is all about!
We all have multiple identities. While I identify as queer, I also identify as hearing impaired. As much as I love water, my hearing aids do not. I have to take them off when I swim, sweat a lot, or it’s raining. When I don’t wear my hearing aids I feel less able to connect with other people. As a result I usually enjoy hiking by myself.
The outdoors is for everyone! While our history of the land is laden with oppression and exclusion, I think the land is also where we can find our healing and connectedness. Making sure people know you don’t have to look, act, or engage a certain way in order to connect with nature is super vital for this healing.
One time at Forestry Camp… (a program I did my junior year in college) I was on a hike with my friends. We came upon a large log we had to cross to get to the other side of an eroded creek. My friends confidently continued on, while I stopped in my tracks — unsure of my body and my balance. “Just dance across, Sara Rose,” they said, knowing that when I dance I feel my most free. So I swung out my arms and took my first step. When I made it to the other side I was full of joy and pride.
Jesús Castro – Northern Front Range Field Organizer
Activities: Walking and hiking
I love the outdoors. Horsetooth Reservoir is my favorite place to go on a hike. I feel very connected with nature and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community – public lands and outdoor spaces are very important to me. Being outside in nature helps me feel more relaxed and at peace.
As a person of color and a member of the LGBTQ+ I get a little nervous doing outdoor activities. I have encountered discrimination in the past while on a hike. I believe everyone should be able to enjoy the outdoors regardless of sexual oration, identity, or skin color. I would love to create an LGTBQ+ group and take members of my community hiking, swimming and camping!
Last weekend my friend and I went on a small hike, after the hike we went to a farmers market and drank iced coffee! It was a wonderful day!
Rebecca Vigil – Digital Engagement Coordinator
Activities: Hiking, foraging, mushroom hunting
My place to recharge and reset is outside enjoying our public lands and not just because there are rainbows and cougars, it’s because the fires of the wild unknown have burned down false narratives self-imposed or assigned, and it’s where my authentic self has been forged and cast.
My LGBTQ+ identity is something that has been publicly known for longer than I can remember, and I feel lucky to have always accepted this about myself, and I believe with my self-acceptance, naturally everyone close to me accepted this about me as well, it’s just part of who I am, take it or leave it, but if you’re going to leave it, please remember to #leavenotrace. I can say that the part of my identity that has made me feel the most unsafe is being a woman — uninvited men have approached me on the trail, and notes asking me out have been left on my car miles after an initial interaction. I’m more alert and threatened by encountering people with bad intentions than I am of a wild animal or inclement weather. Preparation for a worst-case scenario is vital to my comfortability and safety. I realize that quality gear, safety & protective equipment, and access to the outdoors, in general, is a privilege that not everyone can afford.
Public lands can be made more inclusive by first understanding all barriers to access and a proactive approach to removing them. This is how we will build back better. It’s important to note that I advocate for all Coloradans to have access to the same positive experiences I’ve had; it’s why I work at Conservation Colorado. In my free time, I love hiking and foraging; it makes me feel confident and self-reliant. These hobbies challenge me to learn about the fragile flora and fauna ecosystems impacted by humans and climate change. The symbiotic intersectionality creates a unique and irreplaceable Colorado that so many living organisms rely on.
Jenny Gaeng – Transportation Advocate
Activities: Backpacking, day hiking, thru-hiking, mountaineering, packrafting
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I embraced being queer around the time that I started backpacking. I was 21, and I had spent my whole life trying to fit into a mold and failing — always feeling lost. And then suddenly, there was this new kind of freedom. Adventure was waiting. The world was bigger than I thought. In the space between two mountains, I could just be ME, with none of the pretenses of gender, and I could fall in love with anyone that I wanted to.
We need to have our voices heard. We need to support programs and organizations that get queer and trans people outside in groups where they feel safe and supported. We need gear and clothing that isn’t designed and marketed for the false gender binary. But most of all, we need real change in every facet of life. We need to address the epidemic of violence against trans women of color, who deserve to feel safe everywhere, not just the wilderness. We need to fight the anti-trans bills sweeping state legislatures around the country, because kids need lifesaving healthcare, not just time in nature. We need to stop assuming people’s sexuality and gender and pronouns! The culture of outdoor recreation will only change when we eliminate queer- and transphobia everywhere.
I’m lucky to have a great community of queer folks that I hike and camp with often. During COVID, it was one of our only ways to be together.
Last October, we visited Dinosaur National Monument in northwest Colorado and camped at the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. The water was low and clear, the cottonwoods shone in gold stripes along the bank, and we sat on a sandbar and laughed about how nice it was to be “vibin’ on the beach” during a year of isolation and pain. For a few days, the canyon walls blocked it all out. The night sky reminded us that the universe was bigger and more beautiful than we could imagine. And we knew that we were completely safe to be ourselves.
Nico Delgado – Strategic Communications Coordinator
Activities: Hiking, backpacking, camping, rafting, sitting around the campfire, outdoor cooking
When I first moved to Colorado at the age of 13, my dad would urge me to go hikes with him and do outdoor activities. While parts of me did enjoy this, I was trying to navigate my gay identity at the same time. I was forced to rely on TV shows and movies with queer characters to guide me on my gay journey, and that ended up making me feel insecure about adventuring in the outdoors. This is because gay characters in TV didn’t like going hiking and camping – instead it fed me the idea that I’m only supposed to be invested in fashion and theatre. While there is nothing wrong with loving those things, I actually do love me some designer shoes and singing Legally Blonde: The Musical on repeat. But what troubled me is that I felt like I could only be one thing.
It took me a while to accept that I can be gay AND love hiking. When I was going through high school and college, my peers would wrongly assume that I did not want to come along for rock climbing, hiking, or rafting – just because I was gay. This made me initially think that the outdoors weren’t for me, but I was able to overcome that and realize that I love being outside. Hiking has allowed me experience moments of healing and joy – and all queer people deserve this.
Alexis Covarrubias – Protégete Community Organizer
Activities: Swimming, hiking, enjoying the hot springs, camping
I’ve always had a hard time embracing hiking or other outdoor activities because I consider myself to be more feminine, and so I always thought I was too ‘girly’ to do outdoor stuff.
Just feeling comfortable is an all around barrier I’ve experienced from being a girl, to being Mexican and lesbian. It’s hard feeling welcomed in those spaces.
I’ve always enjoyed taking a hike to somewhere new with my LGBTQ+ friends. Being surrounded by other folks who are like you and experience the same always makes it more fun and comfortable.