From left to right: Shanita King, Taylor 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.
Here, the documentary's subjects Taylor Feldman, Stacey Rice, and Shanita King discuss their experiences in the outdoor space.
What made you begin mountaineering?
Taylor: 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 came from a space of deep self-love, acceptance, encouragement, and support of loved ones. Whether I am climbing a mountain or pursuing my visual art passions, I would encourage all women to start there and to cultivate whatever practices in your life that bring you a deeper level of self-love, happiness and self-acceptance. From this empowered space, we have the wisdom, capacity, and tools to move mountains. We have the ability to navigate the terrain and obstacles of life no matter what path we are on.
Taylor: Mentorship is a core value to me. I have had such inspiring and compassionate mentors throughout my life that I am always eager to fulfill that role for someone else. I go out of my way to connect with other women, femmes, trans, and non-binary people- specifically when it comes to climbing or other outdoor pursuits that are historically male dominated. One summer at my previous role at Mount St. Helens Institute, I hired a full guide team of 8 women to lead our 70+ guided programs. There are many organizations that have all-men guide teams and no one bats an eye, but a team of all women is fairly unprecedented in my world. It meant so much to me to coach other women to be leaders in the outdoor industry and further serve as mentors to the generation of guides that will follow them.
Taylor practices some Alpine Ballet.
What are you doing when you’re not working hard?
Taylor: 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 quality time with my amazing partner Nikki, our precious pups and my friends in nature. I also love practicing yoga, riding my bike, gardening, dancing, creating new things, exploring and having adventures in nature. When I am not playing and enjoying down time, I love to pursue my creative passions whether it’s working on a painting, a mural, Art+Activism =Artivism or offering Meditative art sessions. In addition to offering Live Painting at music events, I have just begun to offer Live Painting at weddings. My partner Nikki and I are am also in the process of working on our second Meditative Arts coloring book. We self-published our first book “Journey Into Heart” 2 years ago and it’s a celebration of self-love. We are both super excited to share our second book, focused on sustainable self-care for activist.
Who's on Top is now available to stream on Apple TV, Google, and Youtube. Photos courtesy of @whosontopdoc.