From left to right: Shanita King, Tay Feldman and Stacey Rice
“Who’s on Top? LGBTQs Summit Mt. Hood” is a new documentary about members of the LGBTQ community who challenge stereotypes about gender and sexuality and demonstrate their diverse journeys in overcoming physical and figurative mountains.
We sat down with three of the film’s stars, Tay Feldman, Stacey Rice, and Shanita King, to discuss their experiences as female-identifying folks in the outdoor space.
What made you begin mountaineering?
Tay: I began climbing in a gym in Olympia, WA, my first year of college in 2008. I didn't know anybody who climbed, but the gym held a Ladies Climb Night, and I convinced my college roommate to go with me. I had never been surrounded by so many women before, and it was such an uplifting experience. I bought a membership that night.
After bouldering alone for weeks, I entered a climbing competition and got first place for women's beginners and won my first pair of shoes. The other climbers started to take notice and began to take me under their wing to literally teach me the ropes, taking me climbing outside and teaching me how to camp.
Stacey: I have always wanted to climb a tall mountain. When I saw the opportunity to apply to be a cast member of the Who's On Top Documentary, I knew I had to sign up. I would get to share my experience as a transgender woman and the mountains I have had to overcome to be my true self, while we would climb a literal mountain at the end of our film journey!
How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do?
Shanita: On my path, I have found my greatest strength and encouragement came from a space of deep self-love and acceptance. I would encourage all women to start there and to cultivate whatever practices in your life that bring you deep self-love and acceptance. From there, we have the wisdom, capacity, and tools to move mountains. Then we can navigate from an empowered and authentic space no matter what path we are on.
Tay: One of my side-hustles is co-managing the Facebook group "Broads Ascend." I originally ran a "PDX Women's Climbing" Facebook group and felt the name was too exclusive for the type of community I wanted to create. I then found that each of the gyms in Portland had a women/trans/non-binary climbing group or initiative, so I gathered all the facilitators of those groups to merge and build a climbing community both online and in-person.
The name "Broads Ascend" was created by a group of trans, non-binary, and women climbers at Portland Rock Gym and we wanted to honor that by continuing to use the name. From our description: "This group is open to all women, ladies, girls, genderqueer, and trans folks who are interested in rock climbing, ice climbing, alpine climbing, and mountaineering.
Training on Mt. St. Helens
What are you doing when you’re not working hard?
Tay: I work hard and play hard! However, when I'm not climbing, backpacking, or mountaineering for work *or* for fun, I'm dancing. I love social dancing and go out to nights of salsa, bachata, merengue, swing, or blues regularly. My favorite is seeking out the incredible talent in the live music scene of Portland, Ore.
Stacey: You will find me sitting under a big tree somewhere deep in the woods, wandering the back roads of the Pacific Northwest or hanging out in Willamette wine country.
Shanita: I love to spend time with my amazing partner, our pups and my friends in nature, practicing yoga, riding my bike, painting, drawing, gardening, creating new things, exploring and having adventures in nature, dancing and listening to music.
Hiking at Powell Butte
Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?
Tay: My most significant and most public accomplishment was being the Lead Guide for "Who's On Top: LGBTQs Summit Mt. Hood." Shooting a documentary on the side of a mountain is tough work, and I'm looking forward to seeing the final product. You can follow me at @midwesternmountaineer and the film at @whosontopdoc.
Stacey: I love to do storytelling and have done several storytelling events over the last year. You can find more information about the events I am a part of at https://www.ourboldvoices.com/.
Shanita: My partner and I are about to officially launch our first self published coloring book, "Journey Into Heart." This book is a meditative arts coloring book focused on self-love and is the first offering from our meditative arts coloring book series. I am also going to be offering live painting at some upcoming music events in Portland and am super excited to co-create with amazing musicians.
The documentary “Who’s on Top? LGBTQs Summit Mt. Hood” is slated to be released this Winter. If you would like to donate, you can do so here, and make sure to stay in the loop for this film by following their Instagram and visiting their website.
Photos courtesy of @whosontopdoc