This LGBTQ outdoor adventure social group provides Phoenix with a safe, healthy, and sober way to connect with the community.
Phoenix native Marcus Childs, 28, had spent years trying to find the right LGBTQ social group to connect him closer to the community.
He said he has tried to join gay sports teams, dating apps, and the bar and club scene, but nothing was the right safe space he was looking for.
“It was really hard to find a social platform to meet other queer people,” Childs said. “I wanted to find other people who could be gay with me in the way that I value.”
That all changed when he created his own LGBTQ Outdoor Adventure group.
“Why don’t I just start my own? Who cares if no one goes,” Childs said he thought. “I’m just going to try my best and see what happens.”
The group, which started four months ago and requires members to be 18 and older, has already expanded to have over 40 attendees at its latest event.
Making Nature and Community Accessible
Childs cultivated his love of the outdoors and the desert to create this group as a way to connect with his community and nature.
“Nature can be very intimidating for a lot of people, especially if you’re not from here,” Childs said. He wanted to share his love of the desert with the community, especially members who are not native Arizonans. “I want to have people really see the beauty of this place.”
Childs, who is sober, found that many other LGBTQ social groups involve substance use.
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To create an alternative, his group doesn’t “advertise, bring, or provide any sorts of substances,” as the group hopes to “provide that safe, social connection outside of bars but also to connect with nature and learn.”
The group holds one event per month. The first event in October was to hike and explore the Golden Aspens in Flagstaff.
After the first event, Childs said attendees told him that they had “always wanted to find a group like this and have never been able to.”
“And in that moment,” Childs said, “I was like ‘Oh shit, this is worth doing.’”
Meeting New People
Madhu Krishna Murthy, 31, attended that first event in Flagstaff. As an avid hiker, he had been looking for an adventurous way to meet people.
“I’ve been hiking for a bit over three years now and I’ve been looking for a group to go out and explore with people who are LGBTQ,” Krishna Murthy said. “There really aren’t a whole lot of suitable places where you can get to meet people apart from the bar setting, so that’s what kind of made me what to enter [the group].”
After going to the first event with zero expectations, “I was pleasantly surprised because I think a few of those people I still talk to,” Krishna Murthy said. He has made several friends through the group that he talks to on a regular basis.
Since the first event, Krishna Murthy has attended almost all of the following meet-ups—an overnight camping trip to Payson, a hike at Tom’s Thumb in Scottsdale, and a hike at South Mountain in south Phoenix.
Between the second and third event, the group’s number of attendees doubled. During the most recent event at the end of January, over 40 people came.
“That was just bonkers,” Childs said.
The group also takes pride in its diversity and inclusivity, as it is open to and encouraging of all gender orientations, sexualities, races, and ethnicities, and people of all backgrounds.
“Usually, as a gay man, I only run in gay social circles, but I don’t get the chance to meet lesbians or trans people,” Krishna Murthy said. “This is one of the groups where everyone is welcome.”
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The group is also diverse when it comes to hiking experience, including everyone from outdoor enthusiasts to beginners.
The group—which operates entirely on Instagram—has found success through relying on social media to gain members.
Childs created the page in September 2022 and has gained almost 1,000 followers in four months.
“This isn’t just a nice thing that I’m doing for myself,” Childs said. “People care about this, too.”