For Jake Fedorowski, running is a reset. As they log miles around his Seattle home, they connect with his body and mind and “escape the chaos” of everyday life.
Without him, Fedorowski tells SELF, they wouldn’t be able to come out as themselves and keep pushing for change, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusion in the running community, and it’s a space that needs it.
But through the grassroots efforts of queer runners, including Fedorowski, progress is finally on the march.
After seeing a handful of races like the New York City Marathon and Philadelphia Distance Race debut in non-binary divisions in 2021, Fedorowski created The Guide to Nonbinary Inclusion in Running last year. This free program helps race directors develop more inclusive events, addressing issues ranging from the use of pronouns in registration to signage and porta-potty colors. They also work as consultants, advising race organizers, including those of the Chicago and San Francisco Marathons, respectively, on best practices for hosting non-binary chapters. To help runners find races in these categories, they created a database of nearly 300 races that have posted these types of offers.
Now, Fedorowski has teamed up with a group of fellow activists who want to expand these efforts on a national scale. On May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, they announced the launch of the Queer Running Society (QRS), a collective that advocates for LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation in the running industry.
QRS leadership is made up of supporters from many facets of the running community, including road, trail and track. Together, they seek to connect queer running communities (the organization’s website already lists over 60 queer running clubs across the country), campaign for representation in leadership roles, boards and panels at races and other events. racing; share queer resources; collect feedback on the atmosphere of the event and the inclusion initiatives of the queer community; and determine the number of queer participants. They also hope to create a certification program that race organizers can use to indicate that their event is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people, for example, if it follows certain criteria, such as including a non-binary division, all-gender restrooms, and policies. of trans inclusion. .
“The whole goal is to elevate and bring the experiences, initiatives and stories of these different queer communities to the forefront,” says Fedorowski. “Put it all together, put it in front of the athletics industry and show that not only are we here and have been here, but that there are solutions and things we can do as an industry to make sure this community is included. in the future of sport.
During the height of the pandemic, the number of queer running groups increased across the country, but the lack of LGBTQ+ representation among running, event and marketing leaders remained apparent, says Fedorowski. At the same time, the queer community has faced a greater wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in recent years. To date, the ACLU is tracking 482 anti-LGBTQ bills in the US, many of which target transgender youth participation in sports. Within this climate, the organization hopes to combat these attacks.