Oct. 4, 2021

Queer in the Community

We are joined today by Kevin Belanger. Kevin is here to share his wisdom, knowledge, and personal experiences on the important conversation of being queer in the outdoor community.


We are joined today by Kevin Belanger. Kevin is here to share his wisdom, knowledge, and personal experiences on the important conversation of being queer in the outdoor community.

Kevin was a guest on Bike Life episode #33, Great American Rail Trail. He is the Manager of Trail Planning with Rails to Trails Conservancy and The Great American Rail Trail, a multi-use cross-country trail under development enabling users to hike or bike across the US on a safe and scenic path.

As a queer person, Kevin has a different point of view on biking and the outdoors. There are many barriers to tour cycling, but the best way to overcome these barriers is by educating and bringing the conversation forward. Kevin travels extensively, especially in rural areas, and is grateful to say that he has had very few bad experiences.

Kevin was young and not out yet when Matthew Shepherd was murdered in Wyoming just for being gay. Matthew’s murder profoundly affected him and always colored his impression of non-urban, less diverse areas. His first work trip took him to Wyoming, and he admits to being very nervous. But fortunately, Kevin met great people on that trip that helped changed his perspective.

Kevin does not necessarily present as gay and has the privilege of passing. He is a drag queen on the side; his drag name is Whisky Ginger, and she is a salty redhead. But when Kevin is around a group of straight men who don’t know he is gay, he hears many things that he would not typically hear. He finds it fascinating to have a foot in both of these worlds.

Kevin feels that the bike community is open and full of love and diversity for the most part. Of course, there is always room for education, but he feels very welcome and accepted while touring. He would like to see more diversity in the outdoors and biking community and is intrigued by the new affinity groups he has read about. These groups create a safe space for people of color, queer people, and various groups to share their interest in the outdoors and cycling. He does not view affinity groups as a place to hide or be separate, but rather a place to share common interests.

There are several ways that Kevin feels Warmshowers can help create a more inclusive community. Language plays a key role, especially when asked to identify gender. Also, he would love to see a place on the user profile to indicate that a host is LGBTQ+ and BIPOC friendly. Warnshowers is currently undergoing a technology revision and will incorporate these ideas. The cycling community has been predominately white and straight for a long time, and Warmshowers is actively trying to change that.

There is still a lot of work to do around this topic, and some might feel uncomfortable talking about it. If you don’t know how to handle a situation, then do some research. Where ever and however you can, be a part of the change and learn to be more accepting of others. There is a place for everyone in this conversation and the bike community. It starts at the individual level, and it’s ok to make mistakes along the way. As Kevin says, “as long as you are misstepping in love, you’re good to go!”

Follow Kevin’s travels on his blog By Way of the Trail and learn more about Rails to Trails Conservancy and The Great American Rail Trail.

Join our community at Warmshowers.org, or you can reach Tahverlee at tahverlee@warmshowers.org.

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