Meet the Adventure Group Making the Outdoors Inclusive as Hell

Approach nature mindfully with The Outdoorist Oath.

The Outdoorist Oath
Photo courtesy of The Outdoorist Oath
Photo courtesy of The Outdoorist Oath
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As most franchise films and fitness magazine covers would have you believe, nature is a place primarily occupied by heteronormative white people with six-pack abs and plenty of money to afford the latest overpriced hiking gear. The great outdoors, historically, has long been typified as a larger-than-life playground for burly athletes and rugged outdoorsmen. Rainbow flags and platform heels? Not so much. But thanks to organizations like the Outdoorist Oath, preconceived notions and stereotypes are getting pushed aside for inclusion and intersectionality, proving that nature is indeed for everyone.

Founded in 2022 by Teresa Baker, José González, and Pattie Gonia (the latter being a famed environmentalist drag queen taking wigs to adrenaline-pumping new heights), the Oath was conceptualized to foster a healthier outdoor environment for everyone—especially those in underrepresented communities, like LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC, that might feel othered. Its guiding light is the intersection of the planet with inclusion and adventure, and how “Oath-takers” can be more mindful in their approach to nature. For some, this means being a thoughtful ally who understands that nature could mean something different for someone else, while others might take the Oath to adopt a more intersectional ethos while out hiking, kayaking, or even strolling around a neighborhood.

The Oath’s co-founders are vibrant examples of that mission. Baker is the founder of the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge and the In Solidarity Project, working to mentor outdoor brands to become more inclusive. González, who serves as the Oath’s Director of Strategy and Education, is the Founder and Director Emeritus of Latino Outdoors. Pattie Gonia has experienced a meteoric rise of late, thanks to her unique brand of bedazzled environmentalism, which sees the glamazon doing everything from skiing to bungee jumping in full-blown drag. All the while, as a staunch advocate for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC inclusivity outdoors, she’s helped raise over $1 million for like-minded nonprofits and serves as the Director of Strategy and Sponsorships for the Oath.

The Outdoorist Oath
Photo courtesy of The Outdoorist Oath

“The Oath came about as a WHOLE-istic approach to ally both people and planet,” she says. “Often, we don’t know where to start when it comes to allyship or we are afraid we’ll do the wrong thing. Our aim is to provide a starting line and be safe space-makers for people to access free education on allyship in the pieces that make up our industry and our environment—planet, inclusion and adventure—however that’s defined by you.”

The whole thing is directed by Gabaccia Moreno, a first-generation Mexican-American advocate for outdoor advocacy, who helps steer the organization’s efforts as an educational resource, community outlet, and means of breaking down perceived barriers of entry, ultimately ensuring that nature is safe and welcoming for all.

“Our co-founders have been consultants in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, as well as the environmental space,” says Moreno. “They’ve always offered services for companies and organizations, and members of their community were asking, ‘How can I learn from you? What can I do? How can I show up?’ So they all came together to start thinking through how that could look.” Thus, the Oath was born, so named because an oath—as Moreno points out—is a promise that’s tied to an action. She adds, “It’s empowering people to take action, in a way that’s refreshing and intersectional.”

“Intersectionality is at the core of all that we do,” Moreno emphasizes. “It’s important, because we want to avoid silos. We want people to understand the interconnectedness; everyone has a different entry point to how they start their allyship journey, and what happens when we operate in these intersections—of planet, inclusion, and adventure—is the area of abundance.” She describes this interconnectedness like an ecotone, where two landscapes merge and transition into one another, noting that these shared passions can create a unified love for nature that transcends societal barriers (“We take a lot of our philosophy from nature”). Another key tenet, she says, is the simple pleasure of having fun and being happy outside. “We ground our work in joy. The work of being an ally can be very isolating and exhausting, especially when folks feel like they’re swimming against the current. We always offer joy as a grounding for approaching this work.”

The Outdoorist Oath
Photo courtesy of The Outdoorist Oath

The inherent joy that can be found in nature lends itself to the Oath’s focus on inclusion and allyship, ensuring the outdoors are as joyful for someone in a wheelchair as it is for a thru-hiker. “For us, the action starts with the individual and then influences the collective,” Moreno explains. “The main thing that we try to get across with the Oath itself is we embrace a definition of adventure that is different for everyone.” That means for the adventure pillar of the Oath, understanding that it looks and feels different for everyone—one person’s neighborhood park is another person’s Mount Rainier. “It starts with the self acknowledgment that this is what that looks and feels like for some, but it doesn’t have to be the same for the pro athletes or mountaineers; for some, it’s having a barbecue in their backyard or walking in the park. That is adventure and that is valid.”

Building a sense of community around that philosophy, the Oath invites inclusive communities and allies to sign up online and take the pledge—all for free. Each Oath is a two-hour group educational session, presided over by online workshop facilitators, followed by the ceremonial signing of the Oath—i.e. adding their names to the ever-growing list of intersectional nature-lovers, all of whom receive updates about ongoing events, webinars, and what they call “stretch sessions,” continuous education resources and events that include everything from movie screenings to in-person meet-ups.

“These sessions are to expand and stretch your allyship muscles in different directions,” Moreno says. “Our workshop is one thing; we present a model to approach and create our own plan for taking action. But what nurtures that and keeps it fresh is to continue to learn.”

Events are updated on The Oath’s website and social media, but Moreno says the newsletter is the best way to stay up to date on the latest happenings. In the future, The Oath hopes to grow, inviting more and more people to join the community and learn—and in some cases, unlearn—to ensure a more mindful approach to the outdoors. This includes working on more youth-specific programming (currently, The Oath is only available for adults) and hosting more in-person events.

“We believe in this model,” says Moreno. “Most everyone has expressed how helpful it’s been, how empowered they’ve felt. We hope we can continue to be that source of inspiration and education for the community.”

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Matt Kirouac is a contributor for Thrillist.