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Being non-binary in the outdoor industry

Hello, I’m Carly, a non-binary person working in the outdoor industry here at Mendip Activity Centre.

Everyone is welcome in the outdoors
Pride flag

I recently had the privilege of delivering some training to our team on gender identity in the outdoors. It helped our staff to identify institutionalized gender norms and how we can go about being more gender-inclusive within the outdoor activity industry, specifically when instructing on activity sessions. This is a challenging issue as we are all taught gender norms from birth and these are reinforced throughout childhood in schools as well as at home.

A group of Scouts taking part in an floodlit archery activity
Scouts taking part in an outdoor activity

Some of the ideas discussed included:

  • Trying not to split the group into "girls versus boys"

  • Trying not to automatically give "gendered" roles such as "carrying" jobs to boys

  • Introducing yourself with your pronouns and inviting others to share theirs.

  • Using gender-neutral terms to address a group such as "everyone" or "guys"

What else is Mendip Activity Centre doing? We want anyone taking part in our adventurous activities to feel comfortable the whole time. We're slowly moving forward with gender neutrality within some of our toilets, showers, and changing areas. Our family adventure campsite has separate toilet and shower cubicles that are not assigned to a particular gender. At our watersports venue where we cannot provide this yet, we have signage to encourage people to ask for separate changing spaces. We're also no longer asking individuals or groups their gender when they fill in medical disclaimers.

A non-gendered toilet and shower block at Mendip Activity Centre's campsite
A non-gendered toilet and shower block at our campsite

I believe it is more important than ever to reassure young people that the outdoors is a safe space, somewhere to feel truly free from gender norms and other expectations. We are seeing an increasing number of people being brave enough to share their gender identity with the simple expectation that they are taken at face value and their correct pronouns are used.

The outdoors is always there! It doesn’t judge on what you look like, how you identify, or where you are from. The positive benefits the outdoors brings, such as a boost in mental health and the feeling of freedom, work no matter who you are or how you identify.

Carly (They/Them)

Outdoor instructors enjoying themselves at the best activity centre in the south west


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