Climbing Group Provides Community for All

With Sport Climbing added to the roster for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, it might be time that you begin your journey to becoming a hopeful Olympian (or at least trying to become one) with the new Queer Climbing Night.

In conjunction with Phlash, Philadelphia’s queer climbing group, Queer Climbing Night will begin September 1 from 7-10 p.m. at Philadelphia Rock Gym, 3500 Scotts Lane and will meet the first Thursday of every month.

Photo courtesy of Laura Klatka Beaman

Photo courtesy of Laura Klatka Beaman

Phlash was founded in 2013 by Pat Zabawa and Alex Chavez. According to Phlash Co-Host Laura Klatka Beaman, Pat and Alex were inspired by different LGBTQ Climbing organizations in various cities across the country. “Phlash provides a network for existing queer climbers, introduces non-climbers in the queer community to the sport of climbing, and strives to increase LGBTQ visibility to the rock climbing community,” she said.

According to Phlash co-host, Crys Fitzgerald-Moore, the night is for everyone, no matter the experience.

“For someone totally new, all you need is some comfy clothes that won’t restrict movement.  First timers will have the option to get the Climbing Intro Package which will give them the bouldering class, belay class, and gear for the night,” they said.

New-comers will be given a two-week trial membership for $22.50, a 50% discount to try out PRG. Crys said that for any individual who might find the cost too expensive, Phalsh will belay them on a couple of tries for no cost.

Crys encourages everyone to come for the night and said that Rock Climbing provides an opportunity for self-exploration.

“You are physically pushing your body to the limit and seeing what it can do. For a lot of LGBTQ folks, our relationships with our bodies are complicated and always in flux. It’s my hope that a queer climbing group can make a safe space for explorations like this,” they said.

With sports culture often dominated by cis-hetero and/or gay men, it can be hard for people who identify as outside of the gender binary to find a safe space to practice sport and exercise—something Crys understands.

“I’m gender queer and binaries have always been uncomfortable spaces for me. Gyms in general can be very cis-hetero/gay male centric and are a large motivator for me to help facilitate queer spaces. Climbing as a sport is great because how good you can become isn’t gender or sex dependent,” they said.

Laura sees rock climbing gyms as different from any other gyms and said the sport often attracts those who are unique.

“Climbing is a sport that attracts unique personalities who often do not fit into typical social molds,” she said. “While gender-bias can still be problematic at times and the sport does tend to be more male-dominated, I have always found the rock climbing community to be welcoming of the LGBTQ population.”

Crys said that Climbing is a sport that isn’t dependent on gender or sex to determine how good one is at it.

“There are different styles of climbing and techniques that really make it a level playing field across body types. I would say to those outside the binary, climbing and strength training was a huge catalyst for helping me redefine my relationship to my body as a gender queer individual,” they said. “For me it started as a fun hobby to do with some awesome queers and ended up becoming a passion and way to shape my body in a way that better fit my gender identity.”

For Laura, the rock-climbing community has become a family.

“Rock climbing is more than a sport- it’s a community and a way of life. Most of my best friends and best moments of my life can be traced back to the rock climbing community and Phlash,” she said.

For more information on Queer Climbing Night, please visit their Facebook page here.

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