The National Park Service’s centennial slogan is “Find Your Park” and that’s just what Logan Boldon has done.
Boldon recently began an internship as a Student Conservation Association Volunteer Ambassador at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The 26-year-old from Mentor, Ohio, also is transgender.
Over the next year he’ll serve as a liaison between the park and surrounding communities with a special focus on reaching out to people of all backgrounds and walks of life, including the LGBT community.
“It’s important that our national parks reflect the diversity of American culture,” Boldon said. “The LGBT community is a minority; it’s only been in recent years that we’ve gained recognition. I want to help show that our national parks are places where everyone can feel safe and protected and express themselves.”
Boldon’s innermost concept of self as a male rather than a female began at an early age. In middle and high school he cut his hair like a boy and experimented with cross dressing, and was bullied as a result. With college came self-harm and suicidal tendencies as Boldon, shy and introverted by nature, struggled to resolve his gender identity.
The natural world was Boldon’s most reliable sanctuary. At age 19 he took an internship with Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Ohio, and after that he volunteered at Gulf Island National Seashore in Florida.
In December 2014 he came out as transgender.
“I haven’t had surgery or hormone treatments,” Boldon said. “That stuff doesn’t define me. What does define me is my love for national parks, and sharing that with others.”
On June 24, President Barack Obama designated a new national monument at the site of the Stonewall uprising in New York City to honor the LGBT equality movement. The new Stonewall National Monument will protect the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village that was the scene of riots on June 28, 1969, that sparked the modern LGBT-rights movement.
Boldon credits Smokies’ Superintendent Cassius Cash and the park staff for making him feel welcome. Half of the park lies in North Carolina, a state that recently passed a law requiring that transgender individuals use restrooms that correspond to their sex at birth. Boldon’s supervisors, however, assured him that being federal property the park is not bound by North Carolina law, and that visitors to the Smokies are welcome to use restrooms that best align with their gender identity.
Boldon said the park has give him considerable leeway to reach out to the LGBT community as a representative of the National Park Service, especially in the wake of the mass shooting that occurred at a gay night club in Orlando, Fla., on June 12.
“The National Park Service is really the story of everyday Americans,” he said. “As parks go forward into the next 100 years, they really need to be adaptable and dynamic. It’s important to tell the story of all America, not just parts of it.”