Welcome visibility at the summit

The Adirondacks are for everyone.

That seems to be the underlying point that one college student, Veronica Ashcroft, is trying to make right now.

Last week, Staff Writer Lauren Yates wrote about Ashcroft’s effort to summit 115 mountains throughout the northeast — including the 46 High Peaks — with a transgender pride flag.

It’s an impressive challenge to take on, physically, and one that could potentially inspire others to do something similar. But some readers may ask themselves, “People hike all the time, and people have hiked more mountains than that before, so why is this noteworthy?”

Ashcroft said she started transitioning last year in rural Tennessee, and that while she was working on a trail crew there, she was often the only visibly queer person around.

“That feeling like you’re alone, it can prevent you from wanting to do stuff in the outdoors,” she said. “I know that from personal experience and I know that because I know friends who don’t really go on hikes, or don’t do as much outdoor stuff as they typically would have, because they’re afraid of feeling marginalized or stigmatized because of their queerness.”

We believe that no one should feel excluded from enjoying all that the Adirondacks has to offer because of their gender, sexual orientation or the color of their skin. Hikers setting out in the High Peaks should be prepared, be careful to respect rules in place to protect alpine vegetation and the natural environment, and be wary of physical injuries or getting lost, but no one should fear discrimination.

We would argue that most people throughout the North Country are respectful, kind and caring. There’s a lot of people here who try their best to make others feel welcome, whether that person is their neighbor or a visitor from out of town, and regardless of what they look like, who they love or who they are. But that may not matter if people like Ashcroft feel alone in their journey and don’t see themselves reflected in the wilderness or in our communities.

The work of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, which just a few years ago received state funding and hired its first executive director, is just one piece of a broader puzzle. Sometimes, it takes more than one organization to make a real difference — it takes small steps by individual people, too.

Visibility doesn’t matter to everyone, but it does matter to some people, and at the end of the day it doesn’t hurt anyone. By showing other people that she’s happy and healthy, summiting mountains throughout the northeast, Ashcroft is proving a point. Happiness, peace, pride — all of the things that come with reaching a summit after a long hike, those are feelings that anyone should be able to enjoy. We’re glad she found those feelings here and that she’s sharing them with the world.


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