Interview with Perry Cohen, Founder of The Venture Out Project
Sustainability & Activism

Interview with Perry Cohen, Founder of The Venture Out Project

We sat down with The Venture Out Project's founder, Perry Cohen, to learn about what inspired him to found Venture Out Project and how we can all become better allies in our local outdoor communities.

Hey Perry, thanks for chatting with us! What inspired you to found The Venture Out Project?

11 years ago, I was just beginning my own journey of coming out as trans. The place where I felt the best and most like myself was always outside.

I remember one day I went on a big hike, Mt Monadnock, I got to the top and I thought, I wouldn't be here without my body. So often queer or trans people feel critical of their bodies, so it’s really powerful to have this moment of appreciation for our body and what it’s capable of.


I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if other queer and trans people could actually have a moment of appreciating their bodies?

I quit my corporate job and started looking for queer, outdoor adventure jobs.

There was nothing.

So then I thought naively, how hard could it be to start a nonprofit? I wanted to bring queer, trans people outside and have this type of embodied experience.

Why is it important to get queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ identified people outside through wilderness trips, skill building, and community empowerment? What happens when you do this?

I grew up in NH. I took going outside for granted. It was a place where there were no, mirrors, no gendered bathrooms, always a place where it was function over fashion. I didn’t realize how special that was until I grew up.

In nature, it’s always the different thing we’re drawn to. Whether that’s a rare plant or a particularly unique tree, as a queer person, it’s really special to see different celebrated in nature. I think it can be a very beautiful thing.


Bringing people outside and giving them permission to be a beginner, it’s really important. I grew up in the outdoors, but for folks who grew up in the city, going outdoors can be so intimidating and scary. When you add a marginalized identity on top of it, it’s so prohibitive to get outside. You’re not only afraid of bears, you're afraid of what people will do or say to you.

With a group like Venture Out Project, there’s safety in numbers. We teach participants that it’s okay to be a beginner and it’s actually so much fun. You can experience things you never thought you could do. Doing that in community with other people like you, it’s just magical.

It’s also really hard to make friends as an adult. When you don’t have your phones and social media, you have conversations and get to know each other. The speed at which you can do that over a weekend during a group trip, it’s incredible. It builds friendships and creates these strong bonds.

What are 3 tips you have for people who want to become allies in their outdoor community?

  1. Invite people in. Going outside and trying something new can be really intimidating, so make sure you are not just saying you can come, but saying no, I really want you to come, what can it take to make you feel comfortable? There’s a real different between saying you’re welcome here vs. specifically reaching out to someone and inviting them in.

  2. Make sure they feel comfortable.When you do invite somebody, make sure that you make them feel as comfortable as possible. Like attire – are you going to be touching their body to fit them for something, can you engage or let them know before? If you’re going climbing or backpacking, offer to let them try on the harness or backpack at home. If you have people who are bigger bodied, they may worry about being too heavy, so let them know that the harness will support and fit them.

    If you’re going out to a spot where there are bathrooms, check ahead of time if there is a gender neutral restroom and let your friend know. Or offer ahead of time to go with them to the restroom so that they don’t feel unsafe.

  3. If you’re the ally and you hear a comment, step in.The queer or trans person may be feeling so disregulated at that moment, they can’t respond. Even if you don’t know what to say, step in. Show that you care enough to throw your support behind them.

Anything else you’d like to share with the Sunski community?

We’re really excited for the relationship. It’s super important when we have brand partners, who are really showing up as allies.

We have volunteer-led hikes all across the country. We would love for people to go to our website and come join us. We get questions,like, I’ve been outdoors my whole life, I'm an experienced outdoors-person. Why should I come? And I say, but have you ever done a trip with all queer people? Give it a try. Sometimes it’s not about bagging the biggest peak, it’s who you’re with.