Queer Crush, Pride Parties, and Lots of Love: Pride 2018 at Touchstone

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June is one of our favorite months of the year, because it’s PRIDE MONTH! We love taking this time to celebrate our beautiful, diverse community and to honor the lives of those who made this month possible.

This year, we are celebrating with new Pride stickers and Pride shirts, 100% of the proceeds of which will be benefitting LGBTQ+ nonprofits local to the gyms.

But that’s not all—we’ll also be hosting special after hours parties at Cliffs of Id and Dogpatch Boulders June 30th from 7pm to 10pm, where we’ll be auctioning off special swag like rainbow Organic chalk buckets and bags! All proceeds from those events will be going either to the SF LGBT Center or the LA LGBT Center.

And while Pride the event is only a month long, pride in our communities is all year round. That’s why we’re excited to announce Queer Crush, a monthly meet up for LGBTQ+ folx. We are committed to creating safe spaces in which queer, trans*, genderfluid, and nonbinary climbers can crush climbs and make friends! Queer Crush is currently hosted at Cliffs of Id, Hollywood Boulders, Great Western Power Co., and Berkeley Ironworks—you can join the Queer Crush East Bay or Los Angeles Facebook groups to stay in the loop for all upcoming events. If you’d like to bring Queer Crush to your local Touchstone gym, let us know or get in touch with the manager!

Get to know the current leaders of Queer Crush in our mini interviews below—Ivanna, Mimi, and Wish. They make our community a little brighter, and we hope you get a chance to hang out with them in person at one of their meet ups!

Ivanna Liittschwinger

How long have you been climbing? What drew you to the climbing community?

I have been climbing for about 6 years. One day I went climbing for the first time and fell in love with it right away. I was never an athletic person; I couldn’t find a sport that was fun to work out in or that I was good at. So I felt climbing might be one of the sports that would be fun for me to get in shape. Six years later here I am, still climbing hard!

Is there something special about climbing that makes it a different kind of community than other sports or groups?

What I like about the climbing community is that there are so many different types of people doing the sport. Climbing can be a team effort but also an individual battle with yourself versus gravity. Everyone is very supportive about your personal goals and are so stoked for you when you send your projects. It’s intoxicating.

What inspired you to lead Queer Crush? What do you hope for people to get out of coming to the meet ups?

I wanted to start Queer Crush because my friends and I back in the Bay Area wanted to meet more climbing buds that were also queer. There weren’t any meet ups for LGBTQ+ folx at the time, but there were meet ups for other groups of people. It’s not that we felt left out, we just wanted to bring more people that we related to together and have fun.

What does Pride Month mean for you?

To me, Pride Month means getting together with everyone who is proud of who they are and celebrating who we are. Pride month is empowering for LGBTQ+, trans*, gender-fluid, etc. We are also trying to empower those who feel as if they can’t be out and proud like some of us. We want them to feel loved and show them that they are part of this huge community that is full of love. Pride Month is where everyone cares for each other and no one is alone. We love you and we want you to love yourself.

Mimi Zhang

What drew you to the climbing community?

I started out as a drop-in gym-climber when I was at grad school at UC Berkeley 10 years ago. But I didn’t really fall in love with climbing until I spent 3 weeks in Thailand in 2014, on the sweetest limestone features above sandy beaches soaking in the sun. Climbing has always been a way for me to challenge myself mentally and physically, and to (slowly) over come my fear of heights.

Is there something special about climbing that makes it a different kind of community than other sports or groups?

Climbing, especially on ropes, is an exercise of trust. Not just physically and intellectually, but emotionally as well. Your climbing crew are people you’ve (hopefully) fully vetted through multiple interactions at the gym or outside and you trust them because spending entire weekends with them makes you feel safe, awesome, and empowered.  Ultimately, these people become your best friends.

What inspired you to lead Queer Crush? What do you hope for people to get out of coming to the meet ups?

I love my climbing community and my Queer community and the idea of both of these communities converging is just a dream come true. I hope that by bringing people together at these meet ups, we can foster a greater sense of trust. It’s so important for people to feel safe in their own skin, to come as they are and feel welcome. Climbing is hard enough as it is, we all need to feel safe and supported to become the best version of ourselves.

What does Pride Month mean for you?

Pride Month is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community! It’s speaking out and saying hey, “We’re here, and we’re queer, and we’re super stoked to be this way.”

Wish Sison

Photo by Jen Arter

What drew you to the climbing community?

I started climbing in October 2016 at Dogpatch Boulders. At first, climbing was just something I did for myself. It was a great physical and mental challenge, and the gym was super close to my work at the time.

I never really felt like climbing could be something more than just showing up at the gym, hauling yourself up stuff for a couple hours, then leaving. But I started hearing about groups like Brown Girls Climb and Brothers of Climbing who were building intentional climbing community for folx who’ve been excluded. Then I started going to The Brown Ascenders meet ups and got my first in-person experience of what a climbing community could be like. We were folx that showed up and climbed together, but also thought about barriers to outdoor sports and spaces, and all the other things that keep us from “just climbing.”

Is there something special about climbing that makes it a different kind of community than other sports or groups?

The climbing communities I’ve been in have tended to be super friendly and welcoming to newcomers, but that’s probably coz I found the right communities!

What inspired you to lead Queer Crush? What do you hope for people to get out of coming to the meet ups?

I saw the first Touchstone Instagram post about Queer Crush at Hollywood Boulders with Ivanna and thought, “Oh, that would be fun to do in Oakland. I have so many queer climber friends!”

With Queer Crush East Bay, I’m hoping to help build a welcoming space for QTPOCs, trans* people, and other folx who have been historically left out of LGBT spaces. Climbing and community have been so good for my mental health, and I’m hoping the meet up can be a space for collective healing from the trauma of being folx of marginalized identities. And of course to have fun, meet friends/family/loves and climb awesome stuff!

(I also hope all the queer folx who just come to GWPC for CrossFit try climbing with us and find that it’s for them too!)

What does Pride Month mean for you?

It’s a time to loudly love ourselves and each other with a fierce, liberatory love. And maybe to remind straight folks that they should help us fight to be able to do this all months of the year too!