Is NOLS a safe place for LGBTQ folks?
February 14, 2011 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I'm a trans-man looking into a month-long NOLS course. Is NOLS a safe place for LGBTQ folks?

I am a trans-man researching a NOLS trip and haven't been able to find any information thus far about NOLS philosophy on acceptance of GLBTQ folks. I pass as male and it's not something that I anticipate needing to talk with my team on the trip about. It is likely that I will have to include information about my transition on the health history form, and it is also possible that others on the trip will find out for any number of reasons. Does anyone out there have experience with how NOLS responds to transgender individuals? Will this be a safe place for me?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ask customer support. They are very good at telling you exactly what kinds of people tend to show up to each trip.
Also, if you're looking into trips for this summer, they're pretty much all fully booked. I got a spot for a 31- day domestic trip off of a waitlist a few weeks ago (which I'm about to give up for irrelevant reasons) after finding out that trips abroad are mostly full by now.
posted by halogen at 10:21 AM on February 14, 2011

I'm not transgender but I did a NOLS trip. I can't speak to the NOLS students or the instructors but be aware that NOLS courses take place in remote areas, the residents of which places may not be amenable or even familiar with the notion of being transgendered.
posted by dfriedman at 10:21 AM on February 14, 2011

Not that non-discrimination policies perfectly predict attitudes or how you'll be treated, but they are useful in determining whether or not an entity is evolved enough to realize they should include gender identity and gender expression as distinct protected classes and usually indicates some experience with transgender people. NOLS' non-discrimination policy does not include gender identity or gender expression, unfortunately.

Regarding asking the company: it might be worth it to find a way to network with past participants rather than the program itself because often places claim to or think they handle certain situations better than they do. I am not sure if there are places online--forums, message boards, etc.--where NOLS participants chat and dialogue, but if those places exist, you might seek those out.

Best of luck!
posted by Rudy Gerner at 10:48 AM on February 14, 2011

I work for NOLS, and I love this community of people, and think that they are open and welcoming. I also think that going on a NOLS course can be an amazing experience in so many ways. If you want the very best answers, shoot Tania Tam Pak an email, she is the Diversity and Inclusion Manager. Just put an underscore between all three of her names, and add She's great, should be really helpful. And all courses are not full! And waitlisted students often get on!
posted by grinagog at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2011

I took a NOLS semester many moons ago and worked for them for a few months afterward. I can't imagine that it would be a bad environment for you -- certainly not based on the instructors I've interacted with, or the staff. The students will be a mixed bag, depending on who ends up on your course.

Have fun! It's a good group of people, as grinagog says.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 12:34 PM on February 14, 2011

Not a NOLS affiliate, not transgendered, but have read so much lately about how difficult it can be for transgendered persons to receive adequate health care (even in life-threatening cases) from some medical outlets, I would make sure that, in case of emergency, your NOLS site is located close enough to a trans-friendly hospital or clinic.
posted by availablelight at 1:53 PM on February 14, 2011

I do not/nave never worked for NOLS, but I have taken 2 of their courses. When I was 14, I did a backpacking course in the Wind River range, and in college I did the Semester in the Rockies. I loved both courses, and enthusiastically recommend NOLS to anybody who's interested in that type of experience.

One of my instructors on my semester trip was gay. He came out to us in a kinda clever way halfway through a 3-week hiking trip, and it was an utter non-issue. I would definitely call and ask them about their official policies AND ask if they can put you in contact with past students or instructors who are LGBTQ. Note that while NOLS hires fantastic staff, and has some control over that aspect, the other students will have a lot to do with the trip dynamic as well..... and, well, they're just a crap shoot.
posted by Metasyntactic at 3:35 PM on February 14, 2011

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