Support Queer Youth Rite of Passage

$10,866 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 167 people in 8 months
Join us in this wholehearted call to support Rites of Passage Journey’s first program for LGBTQ2IA+* youth—the Queer Mountain Quest !

*This acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual, plus (+) non-binary and other gender & sexual minority identities. In the story below, we will sometimes use the word “queer” in place of this acronym for brevity.

Your donations will make it possible for 9 queer youth, ages 13-18, to experience this once in a lifetime journey, and will support the greater cultural effort of re-establishing healthy initiatory practices for queer folk. Your donations will be of immense support as we work to make it possible for any queer young person called to this opportunity to access it, regardless of their socioeconomic background. We are committed to providing support not only with program tuition, but also travel costs and gear, as needed.

*If you want to fast-forward to the bulleted list of intended program outcomes and a budget breakdown, please scroll to the bottom!

“Queerness is as old and complex as lichen; it informs our soul’s work. It is an aspect of the soul likened to the anima and animus; it is the animx. When speaking of energetic forces and only acknowledging feminine and masculine, the liminal walkers continue to be erased. We are liminal—not invisible. In contrast to the chronically binary language used in the dominant western culture—and in rites-of-passage work—we could acknowledge the feminine, masculine, and the liminal.”

          -Pinar Sinopoulos-Lloyd, Queer Mountain Quest co-guide

What is a ‘rite of passage’ (ROP)?

‘Rites of passage’ refer to intentional, community-based ways of marking the transition from one stage of life to another—from childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood, or adulthood to elderhood. A rite of passage often serves as an initiation into a new role in one’s family, community, and the wider ecological world. Such rituals can take on many forms in cultures all over the world. However, particularly in many land-based contexts, rites of passage involve a “liminal” or in-between period where the initiate is “alone” without many of the affordances or structures of their society. During this mythic time, there is a potent opportunity to engage in relationship and dialogue with one’s own psyche/soul, the more-than-human world, and/or one’s own notions of the sacred or transcendent. Out of this can emerge a powerful and resilient sense of identity that is informed by both human and other-than-human community, and therefore can bring new possibilities and perspectives back to the world to which the initiate returns.

“‘Coming of age’ involves coming upon what is ageless in a person.” — Michael Meade

How a ‘rite of passage’ looks at Rites of Passage Journeys

Rites of Passage Journeys specializes in a particular type of rite of passage—that is, coming-of-age, which encompasses the transitions, struggles, and realizations that occur between youth, adolescence, and young adulthood. For 50 years now, Rite of Passage Journeys has been offering transformative adventure-based programs that strive to be culturally appropriate rites of passage for our society and time. This past year, several QTBIPOC and white queer outdoor educators and wilderness practitioners teamed up to envision a rite-of-passage program at Journeys that will specifically support queer youth in stepping into who they are with all the mysteries and complexities of their identities fully welcomed. The Queer Mountain Quest, like many of Journeys’ other programs, will be a group backpacking trip that will include a 48-hour solo component (for a more detailed description, see the program description below!) During the solo, participants will have the opportunity to be alone in an intentional wild space before being welcomed back into their group of fellow queer sojourners. In group together, they will receive support to deepen into the stories of who they are, and will prepare to return to home and into empowered futures.

The importance of rites of passage for LGBTQ2IA+ people

As queer folks, we often are versed in dreaming ourselves into being without much help from the human world. Although social media has helped create adaptive queer digital communities in the last decade, many of us, especially those of us from rural areas, still grow up not seeing any adults that ‘look like us’ in-person in our communities, and therefore have very little basis for imagining our own futures. In this is a wound of queerness, but also a gift—the gift of being able to ‘think outside the box’ with respect to our own destinies. We want to honor and uplift the brilliant adaptive strategies that queer youth naturally have simply by virtue of who they uniquely are in the world. However, even though finding our way along the interstices and edges of culture has become a way of being for many LGBTQ2IA+ folks, no one is meant to do this work alone! Part of the power of programs with a rite-of-passage model lies in the vulnerability of being seen—we are witnessed by peers and mentors in our struggles, dreams, and visions, and this can help us continue to believe in ourselves and create space for ourselves in a world that does not always create space for us.

Queer and trans identities are still misunderstood and maligned by mainstream culture, and queer and trans youth face higher rates of depression, social isolation, and suicidality than their non-LGBTQ counterparts. Just being who we are can come at a cost—the cost of mental health, (physical and emotional) safety, security, and many other things. In our LGBTQ2IA+ communities are also the fresh and raw memories of many ‘young ancestors’ who have left us too soon because their brilliant gifts were not honored by those around them and by our culture at large. Because of this, there is such power in coming together in a queer-only space, where at least some experiences are held in common. Together in a backcountry setting, in the spellbinding company of the more-than-human world, we can encounter the opportunity to see our queer identities and forms of embodiment as necessary and vital ecological expressions that can be powerfully mirrored by nature.

“I’ve learned to trust nature. If she can make my weirdo, genderqueer, capable self, she can make anything. Nature helps me reimagine and reform justice and hope like the ocean reimagines and reforms itself when it washes back in from sand/mountains/faucets.”

     —Jay-Marie Hill, quoted in Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown

In our society, many commonly accepted ‘landmarks’ of growing up are bound up in dominant narratives that center heterosexuality and a binary view of gender. Moreover, many ‘rites of passage’ that survive through organized religion can be suffocating and invisibilizing spaces for those with emerging queer identities. These are additional reasons that it is important to create transformational and initiatory spaces specifically for queer folks, especially at the critical junctures of youth.

It is time to support emergent cultural spaces where queer stories are told and centered—stories of creative and innovative forms of embodiment, diverse ways of loving and relating, and subversive ways of defining self. By supporting rites of passage for queer youth, we support our culture at large into being one that supports the wild dreams of the younger generations, which is  vital for cultural resilience and adaptation in the face of a changing world and a changing earth.

Outdoor education, adventure education, and immersive transformational spaces in general can be financially, culturally, and emotionally inaccessible to queer folks and particularly queer folks of color. These programs often have high costs associated with running them, not limited to the necessary insurance needed in backcountry settings, as well as the needs of staffing these programs with qualified guides. Historically, queer culture has been more urban-based and queer folks can be wary of being in backcountry or rural settings due to personal safety. Culturally, outdoors culture has often been the provenance of those of a very specific demographic, and outlets available to youth for learning wilderness self-reliance and connecting to nature have been historically more conservative or binary in their approach to gender. Last but not least, queer youth don’t always have the support of their parents in accessing programs like this. It is for these many reasons that we are excited to ask for your financial support in helping us reach our ideal goal—which is to run a full program while being able to provide tuition and travel costs to those who need it!

Queer Mountain Quest Official Program Description

An epic journey into nature, self, truth, and community for LGBTQ2IA+ youth ages 13-18

Rite of Passage Journeys has answered a community call to provide meaningful rites of passage for queer* youth in an inclusive, safe and healing way. On this two-week nature-based adventure, participants will find support, challenge and mentoring along their unique journeys from adolescence to adulthood, offering rich opportunities to deepen into their queer identities, come together in queer community and build enduring relationships with nature and self. Through both facilitated and self-led explorations, youth will discover inner resources that allow them to claim their identities and particular gifts to offer the world.

The first week centers around a backpacking journey through the mountains (Klallam Land / Olympic National Park, WA), where participants will learn outdoor skills and work together to form a solid group culture. Old-growth forests of cedar and fir and star-studded skies will help form the container for the youth to begin to drop into their individual intentions while supported by queer peers and mentors. After a day of hiking or meandering in an alpine meadow, participants will gather by fire in talking circles to explore their deeper questions of Self and World, and bear witness to others’ stories.

In the second week, participants will enter the coastal section (Quileute Land) and traverse along wild beaches, forests and headlands along the Pacific Ocean. These powerful places will partner with youth to support them in courageously stepping into their 48-hour solo vigils. Vigils are offered as an opportunity for youth to be fully with themselves, to consider their unique callings and receive guidance from the wild world. Afterwards, youth will engage in mindful integration of their newfound skills and visions. Participants will return to base camp in celebration of their journey and learnings, greeted by family, friends, mentors and community.

Group Size: There will be up to 9 participants, as well as 3 guides for this journey

Cost: No one who is called to participate will be turned away. Full price for our 2-week programs is $1975.

Gear: Additional resources and gear loans are available.

*We acknowledge that the word “queer” has been used in the past as a derogatory term and is still hurtful to some in the LGBTQ2IA+ community. Many LGBTQ2IA+ communities and individuals have reclaimed the word “queer” as an empowering and uniting expression of the many complex identities within the community. Here, we use “queer” as an inclusive term and an uplifting declaration.

 - Increased self-confidence and reclaiming of inner strength
- Increased sense of belonging in the human and natural world
- Insight into nature as a queer ancestor
- Insight into queer futurism, hope and resiliency
- Understanding and honoring of intersectionality within queer communities
- Increased leadership and teamwork skills
- Increased ability to listen to intuition
- Improved physical strength and personal resolve
- Knowledge of natural history of Northwest terrain
- Increased knowledge of low-impact camping techniques
- Understanding of a healthful path to queer adulthood
- Completion of a transformative rite of passage   

Budget Breakdown

Guide compensation: $6400 for our 3 wonderful staff to develop, prepare, and lead this 2-week journey

Food: $1600 to feed 12 people for 2 weeks in the backcountry

National Park permit: $1000

Gear & Supplies: $500

Transportation: $400

Basecamp & Support staff: $500

Travel support for participants: up to $2000

Total Expenses $12,400

Our goal is to raise $10,000 in donations, and the remainder in program payments from our participants. Any additional funding will support future versions of this journey!

Additional Resources and Information

Queer Mountain Quest Program Page - Includes guide bios and how to register!

Rites of Passage Journeys’ ‘About Us’ and Mission

Rites of Passage Journeys FAQ - Questions like ‘What are Rites of Passage?’ ‘What if I’ve never been backpacking before?’ Answered here!

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Hello supporters!

We didn't quite believe this day would come so soon! As of last week, we surpassed our fundraising goal and are now at $10,351!! I am presently still working on getting all your thank-you notes out (thank you for your patience!) and it's such a continued joy to feel the support from each and every one of you, it has really culminated in something amazing. We are very moved to have received an amazing donation from One Willow Apothecaries in North Carolina, who have connected with Pinar and I over social media about our work with Queer Nature. We encourage you to check out their online learning programs (from which this donation was made possible) and radical work!!

As I reported last time, the Queer Mountain Quest is now full and we are going on to a wait list. My spouse Pinar and I actually had the pleasure of meeting one of the participants who is signed up, a young person who attended one of our local ancestral skills workshops here in the Boulder area. It was lovely to start weaving these connections.

We of course, will still gratefully receive donations, since the costs associated with a full program are a little bit above even what we have raised here. So, this campaign will be live for some time to come!

In celebration,

So (and Pinar, Roz, Anna, and Cam!)
Pinar tabling at Boulder Pride!
queer tracking wander in the mountains!
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Wow, everyone! We've got some exciting updates for you about the Queer Mountain Quest.

In just two weeks, we have raised over 70% of our goal. So that's awesome!

Secondly, our campaign was selected by GoFundMe's "Gives Back" program to receive $1000. When Pinar and I awoke yesterday morning to see this donation from the GoFundMe team on the campaign page, we were awed, humbled, and incredibly grateful (see attached screenshot). It is an honor to receive this distinction from GoFundMe and we are energized to know that this work is inspiring to folks far and wide.

And the last exciting announcement is as of today, the Queer Mountain Quest is officially full and there is actually one youth on the wait list. We are excited to be planning for a full program, and we can't wait to meet these adventurous young people who have heard the call.

The fact that these young people will know when they are in the backcountry together this August that a vast network of people rallied to uplift them and help them be there is really just making our hearts crack open right now. What a gift. What an ability we have, when we care together, and turn care into action!

Gratitude, howls, and yips,

So (and Pinar, Roz, Anna, and Cameron)
+ Read More
Hello everyone,

I know we haven't posted an update in a while so I just wanted to send out a little chirp from us, the Queer Mountain Quest team. We continue to be incredibly grateful for the way our interconnected networks and communities are showing up to support this offering. Thanks to each and every one of you for your donation—and your belief in this work.

We are excited to inform you that as of a couple of days ago, the Queer Mountain Quest is almost full with 8 youth signed up!! Almost all of them have requested financial support to attend, so I wanted you to know that you are literally making this happen for them. Because we do now expect a full program, we will need to continue rallying to spread the word about this campaign! Thanks for any signal boosting you can do in that regard (and I know many of you have already done so—thank you!)

In continued solidarity,

So (and Pinar, Roz, Anna, and Cam)
+ Read More
Good evening folks! Since our last update just about 24 hours ago, we have added nearly $1000 more to our fund for a current total of $2,141. This is just in two days. Wow!

Thank you for believing in this work, and for that part of your heart that is moved by this project. As some of the first donors, your contributions—no matter the size—have had a huge impact on this effort. Like the "butterfly effect," these actions you have taken to turn dreams and visions into reality will ripple out and converge to produce something queerly beautiful. We're excited to see it unfold.

with gratitude,

So, Pinar, Anna, Roz, and Cameron
beaver track—ecologicalchange-makers!
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$10,866 of $10,000 goal

Raised by 167 people in 8 months
Funds raised will benefit:
Rite of Passage Journeys
Certified Charity
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Bothell, WA
EIN: 352283871
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