June is Pride Month. We’re celebrating LGBTQ+ individuals who not only have an interest in the outdoors, but embrace the love they have for the natural world. These local individuals share their stories on why they love exploring the outdoors and how the outdoors is safe and welcoming to everyone.
Meet Julie Stubbs (she/her/hers) & Gia Giammarinaro (she/her/hers or they/theirs)
Great Parks: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. My name is Jashan Singh and my pronouns are she/her. For this interview and future publications following this interview, which pronouns would you like us to use when referencing yourself?
Julie Stubbs: Hi, my name is Julie Stubbs and she/her is great.
Gia Giammarinaro: This is Gia Giammarinaro, and she/her or they/theirs are all fine.
GP: What is your specific interest in the outdoors?
GG: Everything. I love everything about the outdoors. I love the way it makes me feel. I like what it invokes in me. I like the awe that it inspires and I like everywhere I’ve ever been outside.
JS: I don’t have a specific thing. It is really just about being outside. If I have a few days inside, I’m really not a happy person. It’s just the place I want to be. Specifically, I do love to study plants and trees. That’s kind of my thing. But there really isn’t too much I don’t like.
GP: What started your interest in the outdoors?
JS: I was born this way. I think I came out of the womb this way. I seriously think my mum and dad, whom I love very much, were townspeople. They were not into hiking or camping or any of those things. So I really think it’s just inherent in me. Even my friends back in England are not hikers. I was born this way.
GG: To also quote Lady Gaga, “I was born this way.” I remember one of my first memories is when I was little, we had this hillside that had landscape plants. It was an ice plant ground covering. The bees would come and just cover it. I would just sit and sing to the bees when I was really little. And it’s pretty much been that way ever since. I remember in sixth grade camp, we were taught that we could eat manzanita bark and certain flowers. I was just all over after that. I just wanted to be outside and show people you could eat mustard flowers.
JS: I think long before I was interested in identifying anything, it was more of just the raw beauty of being outside. Seeing a bluebell field in England … it was just awe inspiring.
GG: It’s that feeling of peace when you’re out there.
JS: Yeah, it’s good for the mind.
GP: Did you have someone who inspired you?
GG: I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau’s sidekick. My dad was a tuna fisherman and I grew up near the ocean and I would see “Ocean World” on TV and just want to be that diver right next to him seeing all the things. Ever since then, I have wanted to be out there. I want to be seeing it and feeling it and understanding it. The people that really enabled me to be able to do this as a career were my science teachers in high school. They empowered me to be able to do this as a career, to go to college and all the things you have to do. They were amazing.
JS: I would say, probably because of where I grew up, David Attenborough was someone I was watching on TV a lot. It was just that gray mop of flapping hair as he was sitting in a tree with a camera panned on him and suddenly you would realize he was in Malaysia somewhere. That was just a lot of intrigue for me. To this day, he is my hero.
GP: Have you had any obstacles you had to face while enjoying the outdoors?
GG: The short answer is, yeah. A couple of things – I think one has to do with perhaps our orientations but the other has to do with gender. I’ve been accosted and approached as a woman, and I’ve been accosted and approached as a gay woman. Those experiences can be somewhat intimidating, but I just couldn’t let that stop me being outside.
JS: I’d say the same things. Even out here, I don’t want to be a half mile into the woods. Just being a woman, there’s that sense of vulnerability if you’re out by yourself. I am cautious about displays of affection because of the recourse that we might have. That is always in the back of my mind.
GG: It can be from dirty looks to getting beaten up.
JS: I have not experienced a lot of that. It’s probably because I am quite conservative about it.
GG: Some of that is real, in the sense that I’ve been approached both as a woman and as a gay woman, as I said. But some of it is perceived because whenever you tell people that you love to be outside, people say, “Oh my gosh. Do you go by yourself as a woman?” So I think some of that is perceived by others that have their own perceptions of what it’s like to be outside alone. Some of that is not taking on other people’s fears.
GP: If you are comfortable sharing, what were those obstacles?
GG: One specific example was camping by myself. I was approached in the evening by a man that was also camping by himself. Just by nature and just the fact that I am a female camping alone, he seemed to think I was interested in him. I tried to let him know that I was not interested in him at any level. He was not really having it to the point where I felt like I had to be very careful. I did not sleep very well that night. That’s just one example, but it’s not typical at all. However, it is something that is a barrier to some folks because they think something like that could happen.
JS: I can’t think of an exact time, but I am always conscious of what I am carrying on me, where am I going, does anyone know I’m going there, and who am I with. I think that’s inherent in most women, honestly. Even if you are going home from a night out somewhere, you try to walk down the center of the street so no one can come out from a car and get you. It’s no different outside in the woods than it is in a city in a sense. I just think that’s ingrained in us.
GG: I think there are places that are unfamiliar that I’m less likely to go because I worry that I might be harmed, honestly. Certain places you don’t know people or you don’t know the culture or if you’re going to be safe as a lesbian or even a woman being by yourself.
JS: We have thoughts of traveling out of the country, and I want to read about the culture. We are going there because we want to see nature there, and so part of the inherent culture of it is that I want to understand that culture a bit better so I can fit in better. It’s relevant because it’s our desire to explore a different area or the world. When I go to England, I know how to be outside. I know what the culture is like and what people are going to say. I know how they are going to perceive us for the most part. In other parts of the world, I don’t know any of that, and so it does factor in.
GG: I am not trying to generalize a certain specific place, but if I went to a very rural community where I see signs or flags on people’s land that make me feel like their ideals are so different that I don’t think I would be welcome in their space. That makes me a little worried. Especially being two women going camping, there are certain places that I am not so sure I can safely camp.
GP: What would you recommend someone do to make the outdoors a safe and fun place for everyone?
JS: Just having the right equipment. First of all, just thinking about all of the safety features. Understanding where you are going. Preparing for it. Preparing for the weather. Preparing for how busy it is. Perhaps joining a group, honestly. If you’re not familiar, going with a group can help you learn so much and then you can take it from there. A group makes it more interesting.
GG: I like the group idea. There is safety in numbers if safety is the concern. Another one is just when you’re out and you see people, be friendly and nice. Be welcoming. It’s not a big, broad activist-y thing someone can take on. It’s just a simple thing that everyone can do. If you see a face of someone that you do not “typically see outside,” be extra nice.
JS: Do whatever it takes to go outside and be part of nature. I do think there are lots of benefits mentally just going out into greenspaces. In hospitals, they wallpaper the walls with forest scenes and there’s a reason for that. It changes your brains. It changes how you function as a human being more so than probably many people realize. There’s always a way to do it. There are so many groups out there to join.
GG: I know that nature is my happy place and I think that it could be a lot of people’s happy place. I think it’s big and broad and awe inspiring and wonderful. If we are all kind to each other out there, it can be everyone’s happy place. If you like something, you are going to be more inclined to protect it.
Nature Interpreter, Miami Whitewater Forest