By Audra Labert (she/her) | CDTC Communications Manager
It’s not easy to catch up with Cal Dobbs these days. Since mid-March, the 2022 Triple Crowner has traded mountain tops for mile markers on his trans-continental run across America. CDTC caught up with Cal in Texas, where he gave an interview on foot from the road. Even with the occasional traffic sounds, tractors, and even turkeys in the background, Cal’s message and purpose for taking on another monumental project are clear.
Cal Dobbs is a queer transgender, ultra-marathoner, and long-distance hiker currently running across America from California to Florida to fight for the inclusion of transgender people in sports and access to gender-affirming healthcare. In 2022, he completed his three-year pursuit of the Triple Crown– hiking the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails– making him the first known transgender person to do so.
“My experience on the CDT was absolutely perfect. I love how it’s way more remote than the other trails. I think the CDT has a special place in my heart because it’s the trail that I really came into my gender identity as a trans person,” Cal shared.
Halfway through the CDT is where Cal came into his identity as a transmasculine person and began embodying a more authentic version of himself. His experience on the trail allowed Cal the freedom to strip away society’s expectations and be who he truly is. “I think that this is something that a lot of members of the LGBTQ community, in outdoor spaces, can relate to– nature doesn’t judge or discriminate,” added Cal.
Out on the trail, Cal found a sense of community with other thru-hikers, one where differences became small in the expansive content of a cross-continental trail. Cal added that thru-hiking tends to draw a unique group of individuals.
This spring, Cal left behind the mountain passes and long miles on dusty trails for a different sort of challenge: Running across the U.S. from California to Florida. Cal’s dream of running across America came about long before his Triple Crown in 2022, and he remembers first having the thought as a middle schooler–around the same time as he began to understand his gender identity.
“This trans-continental run feels like a kind of homecoming for me, in the sense that I get to fulfill a childhood dream as an adult. How often do we get to do that? And I also get to do it as my most authentic self,” Cal shared. Creating space for all people to feel at home in outdoor expanses of the CDT landscape is part of the CDTC’s mission and a vision for a more just and equitable future– one in which our National Trails System reflects and respects the history of all cultures, and actively engages all people.
The way Cal sees diversity is as necessary in human culture as it is in ecosystems. Stability in nature is a reflection and result of diversity, and Cal believes that it’s a principle to replicate in how we understand differences as people. Differences amongst individuals are strengths, not weaknesses, and the CDT experience is one means of understanding the relationship between self and the world.
“Nature doesn’t care where you came from, or what car you drive, or you know who your family is there any of that,” said Cal of his experience on the CDT, adding, “A trail, like the CDT, is such a monumental challenge that it really strips you down to just the core of who you are. From that place, you’re able to meet other individuals on the level of the soul, instead of with all the pretense and projections of society.”
When asked how running for trans rights connects with the hiking community and the Continental Divide Trail, Cal responded, “We bring our queer and trans identities with us into these spaces, and celebrating identity in these spaces makes us stronger.”
A life off of the trail presents different challenges, relating back to Cal’s reason for giving an interview from a road in middle-of-nowhere Texas. The long-time endurance athlete enjoys moving outside, but his purpose on the trans-continental run is bigger than one individual out on the road. Cal is increasingly concerned about the onslaught of anti-trans legislation across the U.S. and hopes this run will be part of a changing tide, one where diversity is celebrated– not persecuted.
“The plight of trans people is really about feminism, bodily autonomy, and freedom, and the notion that we can cherry-pick who has rights is a very dangerous one,” Cal urged.
Despite occasional pushback about his goal and purpose, Cal remains inspired by the kindness of strangers in unexpected places.
“We live in a time in this country with a lot of fear of difference but the kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me. I think that’s a testament to the experience of humanity,” Cal said, and added, “Deep down we have the biological desire to connect with others, and outdoor spaces remind us of those roots.” –
“This year alone there have been over 450 explicitly anti-trans bills proposed across 41 states. More than 50% of trans and non-binary youth in the U.S. considered suicide this year and those numbers are increasing. The rise in suicidal trans youth is not incidental – it is a direct result of growing up in a country that makes it very clear you are not wanted.”*
Learn more about Cal Dobbs and the Trans Continental Run at *CalDobbs.com
“Our stories are what brings us together as humans.” – Call Dobbs.
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CDTC is celebrating its 2nd Annual Pride on the Divide starting in June! Check out events and other opportunities to participate.
The CDT holds a feeling of joy, transformation, connectedness, and community for many of the 2SLGBTQIA+ who travel the CDT tread, live in CDT communities, and steward the trail. We want to elevate and celebrate these stories and perspectives and share why the CDT Experience is one that can be enjoyed by all people.share your story