Pattie Gonia wears a lot of hats. From photographer to Eagle Scout, environmentalist to “backingbacking queen,” she’s an advocate for the outdoors in as many ways as possible. But perhaps most importantly, she’s a self-described ally-in-progress. We asked Pattie to describe what allyship means to her, the importance of making mistakes, and what steps we can all take to make the outdoors (and the world) a better place for everyone.
Ally. We are hearing this word more than ever before. It’s written on every other social media post. It’s spoken at dinner tables. It’s sharpied on signs as we march in the fight for Black lives.
But what does it look like to do this work not just in the next few months but as a part of our daily lives?
Here’s what I’ve learned as an intersectional advocate and ally-in-progress from people far smarter than me. It’s my hope as an imperfect white Queer person to share this information with you so that you see that you are capable of taking action, staying focused, and avoiding burnout.
INVENTORY YOUR CAPITAL
Taking an inventory of your capital is one of the best places to start when it comes to allyship. Think about what capital you hold in a situation. Let’s use the outdoors as an example. Capital can range from money to your job title to your connections to your social media following to your voice to your time. Think of these forms of capital as the many tools you hold to take action to ally marginalized people.
My work as an intersectional advocate is focused on marginalized communities in the outdoors including LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender queer) people, BIPOC (Black, Indiginous, Peope of color), and disabled people and how their lives are affected by barriers to the outdoors and disproportionately affected by climate change.
The action I take involves my art forms of drag and photography, my social media platform and my privilege as a white Queer person, my time and my money aiming to create movements that inspire other people to take action as allies-in-progress, too.
When you can start to think of all the tools you have rather than just donating money or posting a black square on Instagram you can realize you have so many ways to make an impact not just now but for years to come.
MAKE YOUR ALLYSHIP INTERSECTIONAL
We hold many identities. We are mothers and runners, outdoorists and Queer, people of color and environmentalists. We are intersectional humans so our allyship should be intersectional. This intersectionality allows for allyship in one area to strengthen work in another.
The beauty of intersectional allyship is that it allows us as intersectional humans to weave our stories, our communities, our art and our culture into the work of allyship. It mirrors what nature has always taught us–that diversity and interconnectivity are essential.
Plain and simple, allyship is better with friends. Find community and if it doesn’t exist, make it. Spend time with people that you can dialogue and create change with. Hold each other accountable. And make that community as full of diverse voices and lived experiences as possible.
PUT ON YOUR BOOTS
If you’re reading this, you likely care about issues surrounding intolerance towards marginalized communities, but because of your privilege, you have the ability to opt out of this conversation with your silence. However, a true ally will work to engage others in their community in the fight to eradicate hate. This is the difference between being not racist and being anti racist. Work to know who you are, what you stand for and then put on your boots….or HOKA shoes…. we have work to do.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Allyship isn’t judged by time or intensity and it sure as hell isn’t made of one-time radical acts. Instead, allyship is a mindset that aligns your daily actions with empathy for others- especially those with less privilege than you.
In this way, allyship offers a practice of unlearning, reflection, internal work to remove our biases, racism, and intolerance and to take action with external work.
CHANGE THE WORD ALLY TO ALLY-IN-PROGRESS
In conversation, I find that describing myself as an ally-in-progress feels far truer to where I’m at and keeps me in a constant state of growth. I’d welcome you to do the same and to always remain a learner and and a doer.
REALIZE THAT YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES
Allyship looks like admitting I’m flawed, but that my intentions are pure. It means trying to lead in my own small and imperfect way. It means knowing I will fail and owning up to it when I do. Just remember that it’s not about intent it’s about your impact so when you get corrected, make sure to listen, apologize, commit to changing your behavior as you move forward.
REALIZE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
No matter who we are, we have a shared responsibility to actively ally people with less privilege than ourselves. There’s no “outdoors for all” when intolerance exists.
ALLYSHIP’S JOB IS TO KEEP US UNCOMFORTABLE
Lastly, and I think this is the most important realization, allyship’s job isn’t to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside because we ‘did a good thing.’ Instead, allyship’s job is to make you uncomfortable. Allyship’s purpose is to open your eyes to the injustices of the world and incite you to act.
The future of the outdoors, the running community, and our world at large will be determined by actions of allyship.
Just remember, when it comes to allyship you have nothing to prove and everything to give.
You have nothing but an opportunity.
What will you do with it?
Advocates/accounts to follow on Instagram:
Ahmaud Arbery and Whiteness in the Running World by Alison Désir for Outside Magazine
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WHITENESS IN THE OUTDOORS. I’ve had this idea in my head for a while now and the recent events in the news, specifically the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man hunted down by two white men on a jog led me to spend the past few days listening and learning from people of color, specifically African Americans in the outdoors. . This post is my attempt as an imperfect white person with privilege to take action and encourage other white people to do the same because there’s no “outdoors for all” when racism exists. As a white person, I can’t speak to the unique experiences of marginalized groups surrounding race, so this is my attempt to amplify the voices of POC in the outdoors. . Thank you for reading. I’m always seeking to improve my skill of allyship as I’m not an expert in this and I am open to constructive feedback. . SHARE- Feel free to share, but if you do, please tag the people of color you see mentioned on each page as this is information compiled by me but told by them. . SAVE- Please don’t just read this once and move on but save this as a resource to come back to and reread. . CHALLENGE- read and then reread and then comment a friend, an outdoor leader, sponsored athlete or brand you think would benefit from seeing this too. . Credit to @alisonmdesir @_lassosafroworld, @teresabaker11, @she_colorsnature, @courtneyahndesign, @katieboue @naturechola, @vasu_sojitra, @skynoire, @ava, @chescaleigh @guantesolo and ellen tozolo