Micah Meyer at Horseshoe Bend in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, often called the "East rim of the Grand Canyon." | Micah Meyer

From 2016 to 2019 I traveled to all 400+ National Park Service sites in America as an out, gay adventurer.

This was before the outdoor recreation industry in America had ever included an openly LGBTQ+ person in an ad, and I regularly received emails and messages on Instagram from National Park Service employees that said, “Thank you so much for your visibility. LGBTQ+ Park Rangers get no recognition from our employers.”

I have kept a message from a park ranger from 2017, who sadly said he was discriminated against for job promotions in favor of someone more “normal,” nonetheless thanking me for the work I was doing “to help the National Park Service be a better steward of a diverse workforce.”

Years ago, an out employee at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona asked if they could use one of my rainbow flag pictures from my parks journey in their NPS Visitor Center. I was sent this affirming image this week from a visitor. It shows little steps that make a big impact for LGBTQ visitors.

In recent years, the National Park Service has added Stonewall National Monument to its list of official sites, Yosemite National Park hosts an annual Pride, and outdoor brands have gone from being afraid of showing LGBTQ+ people, to using drag queens in their national campaigns, and now back to our current status of being afraid to show LGBTQ+ people again.

The deemphasizing of Pride campaigns following the Bud Light/Target backlash in 2023 feels like the spark that is now making Pride Month 2024 seem more bleak than years past.

That feeling was punctuated earlier this month when National Park Service Deputy Director Frank Lands released a directive that essentially prohibits NPS employees from wearing their uniform at Pride events, such as parades.

Lands contends the uniform rules are longstanding, saying in a memo that NPS employees are prohibited from, “participating in or attending any demonstration or public event wherein the wearing of the uniform could be construed as agency support for a particular issue, position, or political party.” NBC reported that this effectively bans Park Service employees from marching in Pride parades, for example, which is a change from past practices.

As one Park Services employee told NBC: “I see Pride as a key service to the public, and I see stepping away from that as a political statement. I see denying this decadeslong tradition as cowardly, and I see it as validating the far-right provocateurs who are trying to push into political discourse whether or not queer people can exist.”

This is the latest in what looks like a rainbow arc of ascending and descending acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in America over the past few years. And when it comes to the outdoors, it has a unique story arc of its own. One that, sadly, is further behind many other cultures when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance.

In response, I made a short film to describe the journeys LGBTQ+ people take on our ways to acceptance, and also the journey outdoors culture has taken, and share both of those through a multiday rafting excursion in the wilderness of Utah — one of 31 states across America currently considering anti-DEI legislation.

May it give you hope, resilience, and most importantly, a heavy amount of queer joy as we navigate this Pride Month 2024.

Micah Meyer can be reached at Instagram.