9 QUESTIONS WITH STONEWALL CLIMBING DC
At Arc’teryx, we believe that the mountains are more than just geography — they’re where we play, grow, and connect with ourselves, each other, and the world around us. We also believe that everyone should feel welcome. To kick off our new series highlighting our incredible community partners who believe the same, and in honour of Pride Month, we’re proud to spotlight Stonewall Climbing DC, an organization creating a more inclusive climbing community in their hometown. We connected with founder and commissioner Bryan Yamasaki (they/them) to learn more.
For those who may not know Stonewall Climbing DC: what is the organization’s overall aim?
I’d like to start by saying “thank you” to Arc’teryx Washington DC’s staff and Arc’teryx HQ for acknowledging our community. It is a gift and an honor to be recognized for the work as an individual and as a collective. Affinity groups are gateways to accessing anything we collectively want or need. Our affinity group is an intersectional 2SLGBTQIA+ climbing community founded and operated by queer, non-binary, neurodivergent, people of color that creates access to climbing and the broader outdoors. We are one of a handful of gateways to accessing climbing and the broader outdoors in our region depending on which descriptive identity (sexual orientation, race, gender, age, ability, etc…) you wish to be seen as.
What inspired you to start Stonewall Climbing DC and, more broadly, to get involved in community work in this space?
My answer to what inspired me is not the most conventional of responses to this type of question. There’s a quote by Dr. Robert Ford that goes “Suffering. The pain that the world is not what you want it to be.” The suffering that comes from loneliness is what drives me. I was alienated and marginalized in other queer climbing spaces. I needed to create a new space that embodies what it means to be a community; one that prioritizes intersectionality to uplift those of us on the margins.
When you think of the work Stonewall Climbing DC has done over the past years, what makes you the most excited and proud?
SCDC: We make best efforts to ensure that no one is left behind. We changed ourselves from being a gay bouldering league in 2016 to an intersectional community in 2019 that is driven by access and community partnerships.
Through our community partnerships with Unmatched Athlete (@UnmatchedAthl), Soul Trak Outdoors (@SoulTrakOutdoors), Escala (@Escala_DC and @Escala_Bmore), and other organizations like Team DC Sports (@TeamDCSports), USA Climbing Youth Region 81 (@USAC.Youth.81), Mid Atlantic Climbers (@MidAtlanticClimbers); local businesses like Good Wolf Gear (@GoodWolfGear), Patagonia Old Town (@PatagoniaOldTown), and Arc’teryx Washington DC (@ArcteryxWashingtonDC); and local climbing gyms like Movement Gyms DMV (@MovementGymsDMV), Sportrock (@Sportrock), the Boulder Yard (@TheBoulderYard), and Bouldering Project DC (@DCBoulderingProject), we are able to be innovative in thoughtfully creating streams of access to climbing and the broader outdoors.
I’m excited for our future collaborations with community partners and sharing what resources we have with our community partners as we bridge the adventure gap.
How do you want people to feel after they come to a Stonewall Climbing DC meet-up or event?
I want people to feel connected to themselves, to our community members, with the broader community, to an entirely spiritual plane of existence where they are centered, still, calm, and at peace. I want people to feel that they found their safe place to experience and express this level of connectivity; the joy it creates.
What does the outdoors mean to you? Why is increasing equitable access to the outdoors important to the Stonewall Climbing DC community?
I never truly had a connection to the outdoors yet deep down, I was always yearning for green spaces. It wasn’t until I was working as a crisis counselor in suicide prevention amidst the chaos of 2020 through 2022 that the outdoors became a refuge for me, offering me respite from the collective suffering humanity was experiencing. The outdoors may not be for everyone; however, we are committed to lowering, if not removing barriers to entry for people historically excluded so that they may have the agency to come to their own conclusions and self-discovery.
What does climbing and the DC climbing community mean to you?
As a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent person of color, climbing and the climbing community is a dangerous game, with the highest of stakes — survival or extinction, metaphorically speaking. Other local leaders and I all recognize that we are fighting an ongoing battle against systems of oppression. Through our ongoing work, we have changed the landscape of the climbing community for the better as we create space, educate others, and reshape our world out of a need for sociocultural survival.
Take a microphone moment: What would Stonewall Climbing DC want to say to other organizations with similar missions around the world?
Take note of the mistakes you make and your failures, and lean into your suffering. The pain that comes from knowing that the world is not yet what you want it to be will lead to your awakening in becoming an agent of change.
Let’s talk about your partnership with Arc’teryx: What has been a highlight of our partnership? How can Arc’teryx support Stonewall Climbing DC and amplify its mission?
We are a grassroots organization that strives to be innovative when it comes to building community by creating access to climbing and the broader outdoors. Stonewall Climbing DC’s relationship with Arc’teryx truly is a partnership rather than a sponsorship-based relationship.
Arc’teryx Washington DC made a donation to our community in 2022, helping us fund our year-round queer visibility initiative. Additionally, Arc’teryx amplified one of our outdoor climbing programming events, GYM2CRAG, by helping to introduce over 30 people to outdoor climbing in collaboration with Soul Trak Outdoors and Escala. We look forward to future collaborations with our community partners this summer/fall through our GYM2CRAG program.
How can people who aren’t in Washington DC get involved and support Stonewall Climbing DC?
Our community is focused on access, so we’re always asking: what is necessary to ensure we are an accessible community for queer, non-binary, neurodivergent people of color? In doing so, we continuously work to lower, if not remove, geographic, financial, and sociocultural barriers to entry to climbing and the outdoors. Anyone can support our community in one of two ways: fuel our fire by making a financial donation via PayPal or carry our torch by connecting with us virtually and putting into practice our way of life in how we treat ourselves, others, and our environment.
Find Stonewall Climbing DC online at @stonewallclimb on Instagram.