Pride flag mounted on world’s second highest peak for ‘queer kids dreaming of own mountains’
A queer athlete has celebrated turning 20 by flying a Pride flag near the summit of the second-highest mountain on earth – in a country where same-sex acts are criminalised – in a bid to inspire other LGBTQ+ athletes.
California-based athlete Aidan Hyman withstood “intense altitude symptoms, blood clusters and fever” in order to unfurl the Pride flag near the top of K2 in Pakistan.
He tells PinkNews that he took on the challenge to “show all queer people – yes you can” and to “showcase the resilience and power of queer athletes”.
The queer athlete trekked for almost three weeks and celebrated his birthday on 19 June with his teammates and climbers he met in the small village of Askoi.
Same-sex activity between men in Pakistan is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment from two years to life. Under Sharia law in the country, homosexual acts can also be punishable by whipping or death.
In May 2018, the country’s Transgender Rights Bill was signed into law after years of political attempts to provide discrimination protections for trans and non-binary people.
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However, in 2022, senator Mushtaq Ahmed, of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan’s largest religious party, filed a petition to the Federal Shariat Court arguing that the bill contradicts the Islamic principles of the country.
Hyman, who studies at the University of California Davis, says he didn’t always feel accepted growing up and playing sports, and yearned to see more out gay men in competitions.
He says his mission to climb up the K2 aimed to show young queer athletes that that “they belong”.
“Your love is a strength and you are part of one of the most uplifting communities on the planet,” he tells PinkNews.
Hyman admires Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley, but still believes “there is so much progress to be made” in sport.
“Whether it’s training for an Ironman, an ultramarathon, or one of the seven summits – I train for every queer kid that dreams of their own mountains.
“I hope my passions can help inspire others on their journey and maybe provide more space to queer athletes along the way.”
The courageous 20-year-old climbed in support of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – an advocacy group fighting for LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion – and he is on track to raise $10,000.
He said he chose to support the HRC amid a torrent of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation sweeping Republican-controlled US states.
So far this year, more than 550 anti-LGTQ+ bills have been introduced in the US, 80 of which have since been passed into law.
Hyman uses his Instagram account to share the fundraising work he does for the HRC.
In a post captioned “the mountains are for everyone”, Hyman shared his achievement and his desire to make “this world more habitable for everyone, specially the LBGTQ+ community”.
His next mountaineering challenge will see him climb Kilimanjaro – the highest point in Africa and the world’s largest free-standing mountain – where he shared he will “of course bring a huge Pride flag”.
Hyman aims to climb Kilimanjaro in the summer of 2024, but prior to this he is taking part in multiple marathons. He will run the prestigious New York and Chicago marathons – two of the seven world major marathons – in a bid to claim the title of the youngest queer athlete to complete all seven.
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