It is the mid-2010's and some famous people openly announce being trans.
The local caving world laughs; I see their posts on the caving group pages, acting like children making fun of people for being uniquely themselves, making plenty of misogynistic remarks.
A few years later and the Black Lives Matter movement rises.
The local caving world laughs; as if it is funny that non-white-people are being routinely murdered. They wear confederate flag shirts to meetings, claiming, "it is just history!", apparently fine with the history that promotes.
Running into misogynistic walls myself, ignored whenever I speak out for equality, I pulled back from the local 'organized caving world'. But as the years wore on, as Trump fueled these issues into pure hatred, it merely got worse. COVID-19 added a layer of complexity, and as the world yearned for relief and a vaccine developed and approved, I heard those in leadership roles claim COVID is fake, and the vaccine is only to implant microchip tracking. I heard horrible things said about immigrants, about multiple ethnic groups.
A decade of work in the community, being on leadership boards, holding officer positions, really crumbled because there is no way to push back against such engrained and imbedded hateful views. I was even lied to about my own safety - directly - to my face. I think many women in caving experience assault, but very few speak out, and even fewer are listened to - I know I gave up.
Organizations can claim they have !!!policies!!! But, to what end? No one is ever banned. There is full tolerance of such behaviour. "Boys will be boys." Such a dangerous saying.
Change can only happen from within an organization if the majority in the organization are willing and able to hold people accountable for their actions.
Most existing organizational structures are unable, or unwilling, to do just that. Therefore, the only way forward is to create new and better groups.
My take on the 'state of the world' as it were, is that as an individual it is hard to affect everything, everywhere. We each have a limited network of connections we make in our lives. But if we help each other grow for the better in our little bubbles of the world, the bubbles themselves grow, interconnect, and eventually combine into a large bubble and in this way we can affect change on a large scale.
Last year I saw this neat infograph from ohhappydani in which she describes how easily it is to get stuck in the 'Cycle of Inaction', and we need to transform into the 'Cycle of Action'. And it clicked. The caving world as it is, is not one I feel particularly safe in. I also want it to be more inclusive - not just of me (queer/neurodiverse/female) but everyone else who is not the 'typical caver' (ie white cis-male). There *ARE* cavers who feel the same - and we started finding each other during the pandemic as it became quickly obvious about people's true selves during this time. Knowing there are safe people to cave with is great, but it doesn't help solve the inclusivity issues if no one knows who we are.
I struggled with how to approach that until it clicked about taking direct action, some ideas following the internet-rabbit-hole I fell into from ohhappydani's work. The ideas I found meshed great with my bubble analogy I've had for years, that it isn't about some grand scheme it's about what can you offer, what is your sphere of influence, what is your passion? Take *that* and start there. And it was actually from ohhappydani's instagram feed I found the Black Adventure Crew which is local to me, so following her advice I reached out.
We chatted for a while and eventually did a fun intro trip with kids, but ended up not able to go far into the cave thanks to rain flooding out the main passage. We all had so much fun though that a second trip was planned almost instantly!
This time we went to a cave that even if it rained it wouldn't matter. A lot of people it was their first trip underground! If you recognise this cave you'll know there is a 'wet way' that I have often taken out just to have a different passage and can do a loop of sorts. In this 'wet way' there is a deeper watery spot that one can hop down into and see a hidden waterfall, henceforth named Mermaid Falls because that is what the group decided to call it and to my knowledge it has no official name (so spread the word, if you know the spot I am talking about!). Every single person did this extra-wet side trip: the first time I have ever had everyone jump on in after me! Adventure crew, indeed! (And I looked it up, this was my 30th time in this cave, so that is one group out of 30!)
It is so much fun caving with people who actually care about each other. I may not be able to change organizations, but I can change who I cave with, and I can share my knowledge with *ANYONE* who wants to learn about caving! If you are in TAG (tennessee-alabama-georgia) area, worry about not be accepted, but want to try caving, or other outdoor activities, make sure to check out Black Adventure Crew, feel free to contact me, or check out Southeast Outside facebook group.