This past Saturday I led my first hike along a short section of the Blue Hills Skyline trail with about nine folks in tow. This was the first Boston-based TVOP (The Venture Out Project) day hike. We had about six local participants, one western mass regular, and Perry and Luke of The Venture Out Project come all the way out from NoHo. Most of us carpooled from Jamaica Plain which enabled folks who don’t drive or have cars to be able to come.
It reminded me of these Queer Kickball games I use to organize in Jamaica Plain every Sunday for about a decade. I threw in the towel about six or seven years ago when it lost momentum and when the attendance started to dwindle. There have been a few games here and there since it stopped being a regular occurrence but when it was at its peak we would have an average of thirty people show up. We even had bases and cones and we had a special place to stash our gear in a yard nearby. Sometimes we potlucked it and some folks just watched or maybe kicked once or twice while others really got a workout out of it. It was a great place to meet folks. My favorite thing about it was that we were not a group of athletes. In fact many folks were out until 2 or 3am the night before and yet here we all were just being outside and getting a little exercise and just being “out” in our neighborhood. The gathering happened fairly causally every Sunday afternoon in the park by Stony Brook T. We would stretch, I would give a little talk letting folks know that if they haven’t kicked a kickball since Elementary School then they were at high risk for pulling a quad if they didn’t stretch. It happened all the time. Someone would kick with everything they had for the first time in their young adult life and then yelp as they felt the burning tearing sensation happen on the front of their leg. Fortunately there was ice available nearby at a corner store and the injured usually recovered by the following week. Sometimes kids who were just hanging around would come play with us from the nearby playground and basketball court. They would try to figure us out and this one kids once asked if we were playing boys against girls which was pretty funny cause this kid had no idea who the boys were and who the girls were. The magic of it was the camaraderie, the supportiveness, the positivity, the fresh air and the goofiness. We would get playfully competitive and even disagree about how many outs there were or whether or not something was a foul yet we never really kept score (unless we were playing Somerville which is another story).
The Venture Out Project feels like a grown up professional version of JP Kickball in some ways. I think its really powerful and important to create opportunities for folks to get outside. Especially folks who might not otherwise. While hiking sounds simple and is simple in many ways, my experiences hiking have been deeply profound in my ability to heal by adjusting my own focus towards light and peace and courage from experiences of oppression, trauma, stress, and disease. I think creating outdoor space for LGBTQ folks is a form of social justice that I want to foster.