This week in the Washington Blade’s All Star series, we meet two athletes from Stonewall Climbing whose fourth season is starting this week. Registration is still open for limited spots in the season which runs through September. The Stonewall Climbing league offers recreational climbing in a team format.
After moving to D.C. in December of 2015, Ari Dolmon started looking for a rock-climbing option. Even though she had never climbed before, it was an item on her checklist. She gave D.C. Fray Frisbee a try first but didn’t click with any of the players. Now entering her third season with Stonewall Climbing, she has found the niche that she was looking for in D.C.
“I fell in love with rock climbing immediately and the people have been incredibly welcoming. I had been missing that feeling of being connected to something since moving here,” Dolmon says. “I didn’t think it was going to be my thing, but it really has been for the past year.”
Dolmon grew up in Woodstock, Ill., and didn’t play in organized sports except for one attempt at soccer. While attending the University of Illinois she played pick-up frisbee, rugby and soccer along with taking on several hiking trips in Colorado.
She is enjoying the challenges that rock climbing present and finds correlations with her ongoing transition as a transgender woman.
“When you start out in rock climbing, you go through a period of accomplishments and then reach a plateau. You have to develop skills to reach the next level,” Dolmon says. “Through that you are pushing yourself to be a better person and you have teammates that are there to push you along the way.”
After college, Dolmon worked in Israel as an English teacher. Now working as an associate for a law consulting firm, she came to D.C. because of its strong queer presence and a desire to stay connected to the international community. The welcoming space provided by Stonewall Climbing has been integral to her path.
“One of my challenges is that I want other people to see me the way I see myself,” Dolmon says. “Even over time there is always going to be a masculine and feminine dynamic since I identify as a butch woman. I want to be strong, but strong as a woman.”
Every day things such as the type of clothing Dolmon wears are made just a bit easier when she is heading to a session with Stonewall Climbing.
“I just throw on a sports bra and women’s cut clothing. It makes me happy that I can put myself out there and have the full backing of everyone I know,” Dolmon says. “My mental transition is long past; now I am working on the physical.”
CV Viverito enjoys a team environment and believes that sports lead to being more focused and organized in all aspects of life. While they were recovering and doing physical therapy from a soccer back injury, a friend suggested rock climbing as a possible outlet.
“I love having a sport and a team. Rock climbing is individual but not with the team format of Stonewall Climbing,” Viverito says. “The sport is both a physical and mental workout and it gives you a Zen feeling. When I am on a treadmill, I am thinking about my day. When I am on the wall, I don’t have the capacity to think about anything else.”
Growing up in South Brunswick, N.J., Viverito was a three-sport athlete in soccer, softball and basketball. They (a pronoun Viverito uses) switched over to soccer full-time playing on their high school team as well as on a state club team, the Jersey Knights. They played four years of varsity soccer at Muhlenberg College.
Viverito studied abroad in Spain during college and ended up moving there to teach English and work in ESL curriculum for two years. Their first job back in the States was at Human Rights Campaign before taking a career detour at the Art Institute of Washington.
Citing a desire to return to work in the LGBT community, they are now working as an international programs manager with the Victory Institute.
Soccer was still their sport of choice in D.C. and they played with the Washington Area Women’s Soccer League before discovering rock climbing. The environment at Stonewall Climbing has been a welcoming experience and this will be their third season with the league.
Viverito identifies as non-binary and/or genderqueer.
“The last time I played organized soccer was four years ago and I wasn’t out as genderqueer,” Viverito says. “It is no big deal at Stonewall Climbing because the teams aren’t divided by gender. I don’t really have to think about it.”
The leadership of Stonewall Climbing has been encouraging more diversity in the league in the hopes that it will increase the levels of understanding among the athletes and the staff at the rock climbing gyms. There is also outreach and social events with other climbing groups including Brown Girls Climb and Brothers of Climbing.
Recently, some of the gym management sat down for a conversation initiated by Stonewall leadership and facilitated by Viverito.
“We discussed topics such as respectful language, commonality of language, appropriate questions, locker rooms and facilities,” Viverito says. “It was great, and the gym staff learned a lot.”
Viverito started as a beginner and says they are at an intermediate level now and feeling more comfortable on the wall every week. The safe space offered at Stonewall Climbing has allowed them to thrive in their new sport.
“I am in spaces in life where I am not comfortable and that is not the case at Stonewall Climbing,” Viverito says. “It’s a great feeling just getting on the Metro knowing I am heading to climbing.”