Spreading Pride With Outfitter-Artist Rae Lang

Photo: Rae Lang

Lang shares her inspiring story and new design with Public Lands to support and celebrate the LGBTQ community outdoors.

Browse the shelves at Rae Lang’s store, Woosah Outfitters, and you’ll see how the multi-talented shop proprietor and woodcut artist (she/her) draws inspiration from many sources. Whether you’re looking digitally or you’re present at the brick and mortar location in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you’ll notice common themes. There’s the natural world, evident in everything from native fish prints to wildflower-bedecked notebooks to T-shirts with mountains on them—or environmental issues, as in the wave made from a collage of plastic trash in her “Save Our Waters” shirt. And with the new graphic she designed for Public Lands to celebrate Pride Month this June, Lang draws directly from her personal journey.   

We caught up with Lang to hear the story behind the design—available on apparel, stickers, and prints exclusively through Public Lands—as well as the video (below) about her coming-out story and the importance of representation, support, and belonging for the LGBTQ community.

PUBLIC LANDS: Tell us about your new Pride design.

RAE LANG: The graphic is happy, and it feels tropical to me. It makes me smile. It’s very bright, with a rainbow, flowers in the front; tree, mountains, raindrops. It represents how nature itself is most beautiful when it’s diverse. 

We had a call together, and I was talking to [Public Lands] about how my coming-out story is actually pretty heavy. I wanted to focus more on the happy side of it: the triumph, getting through it. Through the conversation was where the raindrops came into play. I thought it was nice to represent that you do have to go through tough times to enjoy the rainbow, to get the sunshine, and for the flowers to bloom. Nature can show the triumphs we experience as human beings.

What does it mean to you that a business like Public Lands is supporting your work?

Doing just this—hiring queer artists, uplifting queer voices, having representation in the public eye—I think it’s how it should be. It’s inspiring to see a company that’s so large and corporate not be afraid to take a stance and share my story. To put it out there that they believe in this, they believe in public lands for all. I wish everybody would be more outspoken about it. This is when we need people to come together and show support for our community. 

Rae Lang poses for a portrait Photo: Rae Lang

How much does your identity play a role in your business, Woosah Outfitters?

It was always very embedded in my business. We’re very outspoken about these things. Anyone who follows us definitely knows we’re a queer business. It’s really important to represent ourselves to the community, for younger generations to see you can be queer and you can be successful. When I was growing up, I didn’t really have any role models, except Ellen DeGeneres. 

I’ve had students and the younger generation write me letters or come up and let me know that it was powerful to see me being out and following my dreams. That meant a lot; that’s not what I’m trying to do. But to hear that, it’s reaffirming that it does make a difference to be visible. 

How else do you support the LBGTQ community through your job?

We host a Pride Market in our garden at Outside Coffee. We host local queer-owned businesses, and sometimes allies. It’s a way for the LGBTQ community to come together, show what everyone’s up to, and for them to be supported as well. We also raise funds for local Pride organizations. And we did a Pride scholarship last year. Queer entrepreneurs applied, and we picked one person who got $500 to help them pursue their dream. 

People can learn more about your personal story with this video Public Lands is sharing. What will they see?

It touches on my coming-out story, how it wasn’t always easy for me. Looking at my life now, from the outside, you might assume ‘She’s got it made, everybody accepts her.’ I’m married, I have a wife and a son who’s 5 months old now. But growing up, it wasn’t that way. [The video] goes through coming out and embracing that part of myself, not being ashamed. 

We talk a lot about bridging the gap with people who might not understand; why it’s so important to open the door and have those conversations. The video has more of an emphasis on connecting and having tough conversations, even if you feel differently.

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