Climbing for Equality: A woman’s quest to LGBT rights

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December 2, 2010
By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
Jody Cole is preparing to climb Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro next January in a bid to promote equal rights for LGBT people.

Cole recalls being “dumbfounded” by a recent string of suicides by LGBT youth.

“I couldn’t believe it was coming to this point and I admit, I got angry,” Cole said. “I’ve just had it with the bullying and the violence and the shame that comes with being bullied – for any reason – but especially because you are gay.”

Cole has been a longtime activist, having spent time working with Equality California for several years in their efforts to repeal Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state.

“It’s one thing to be denied equal rights, but to commit suicide and end your life because you simply do not feel you can live with the shame any more, that means we’re not getting the message out there that we are valuable, we are good citizens, good neighbors, good friends, and will lead healthy, productive lives and contribute to society, just like everyone else,” Cole said.

Cole makes her living taking others on excursions to some of Africa’s most picturesque and exotic destinations. She is the founder and guide of Wild Rainbow African Safaris.

Cole previously climbed Kilimanjaro in 1998.

“It was really the hardest, most painful thing I had ever done,” Cole explained. “I have always been an avid hiker and wilderness adventurer. I began expanding my knowledge of mountaineering back in 2000. I’m the kind of person that can’t do anything half way – I love it if I can have a pack on my back, blisters on my feet and spectacular scenery all around me, so climbing mountains is the logical next step in the adventure.”

Reaching the summit was an unforgettable experience, according to Cole: “I was overjoyed, beat, and I swore I would never do it again it was so hard. But like most things that are hard to do, I also was so very proud of myself for making it. I’ve had the first certificate on my wall for the past twelve years and it always gives me hope that I can make it through whatever I’m faced with.”

Cole is hopeful her climb up the mountain can serve as inspiration to others: “If I make it to the top, which will be up to me, my training, the limitations of my body at this age, and the altitude, I hope that for someone out there who is cheering me on, it will mean they, too, can achieve anything they set their minds on. I’m so very lucky to be able to climb for Equality California. But it will take more than luck to summit the mountain. I’m hoping some young person out there will be inspired to live on.”

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