Alex Johnson Talks About Pride Month and Shares Her Story
Plus, learn how you can support LGBTQI+ advocacy with the Rainbow Wall project
For the last twenty years, Salt Lake City-based professional climber Alex Johnson has racked up an impressive resume of the sport’s highest honors. She’s been a member of the U.S. National Team for 18 years, became the first American to win a Bouldering World Cup on U.S. soil, and has won medals on stages around the world as a two-time World Cup Gold Medalist and five-time National Champion. While Johnson is proud of her wins and the hard work it took to get there, she counts her proudest accomplishment as something else entirely: coming out. In honor of Pride Month, Johnson and Athletic Brewing Company are bringing back the non-alcoholic Rainbow Wall IPA. All proceeds from the Rainbow Wall will be donated Athlete Ally, a LGBTQIIA+ advocacy non-profit.
Alex Johnson’s Proudest Moment
Johnson came out publicly in 2018. “I had these things that I did in climbing that made me feel confident in climbing. I hadn’t quite felt confident in who I was outside of that yet because I was hiding,” she says. “And so coming out sort of allowed me to be myself and instill that confidence in who I was outside of the sport.”
In 2016, Johnson temporarily retired from competition climbing to focus on her mental health and other outdoor pursuits. (She later returned to the sport for a shot at the Olympics). Johnson has made dozens of first ascents and first female ascents and was one of the first women to climb V12. One of her most notable ascents was The Swarm, a difficult V13/14 highball in Bishop that took her years to solve. “Being able to push myself to that limit at that extreme height is an awesome learning experience for me,” says Johnson. “Climbing has really given me the confidence to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and really trusting myself and being true to myself.”
Over the years, Johnson realized being vulnerable and sharing her climbing goals, whether she failed or succeeded, allowed her to be more authentic to who she was outside of the sport. “Climbing gave me the confidence to come out as LGBTQ, and that has been the most empowering thing in my life,” she says.
A Role Model for Young Athletes
Coming out wasn’t always the plan. She was out to her close friends, but never planned on coming out publicly because she was worried about her sponsorships and how being in the LGBTQ spotlight might affect her climbing career. One day, a young girl on a climbing team she coached admitted that she was being bullied at school for liking girls. The girl immediately asked Johnson if she was homophobic because she had no idea that Johnson also liked women. “It just hit me in the face,” says Johnson. “Like I was doing a disservice to all of my youth athletes and anyone who wants to see them represented in sport.” Johnson didn’t have anyone to look to when she was growing up, and quickly decided she wanted to be the person she needed when she was younger.
Johnson believes her climbing actually benefited from her vulnerability—opening up an expression of movement that she once held back because she had been holding back an entire part of herself. “I wasn’t able to climb to my potential,” she says. “You’re sort of incapable of ever trying your absolute hardest if you’re always holding something back.”
Rainbow Wall and LGBTQI+ Advocacy
Johnson, an ambassador of Athletic Brewing Company, was psyched to work with the company on the non-alcoholic Rainbow Wall Blood Orange IPA (she helped taste test it before it launched in 2021). She loves how beer has a way of bringing people together at a boulder or around a campfire, and how it can function as an extended hand to a friend or a community. The crisp, slightly-hazy beer is named after the Rainbow Wall in Las Vegas’ Red Rock Canyon, which features many 1,000-foot multi pitch climbs (and is also where Johnson did her first multi-pitch climb). “Vegas was the first place I ever felt like I could really be myself and I really came into my own there,” says Johnson. “Having a beer that’s named the Rainbow Wall means a lot to me.”
Named as TIME’s “100 Most Influential Companies of 2022” as well as Fast Company’s “Brands That Matter” in 2021, Athletic Brewing Company is reimagining beer for the modern, active adult. Their great-tasting craft brews provide a refreshing taste of craft beer, without the alcohol or the hangover. As of 2022, Athletic Brewing is proudly B Corp certified. Learn more about Athletic Brewing and how their non-alcoholic brews are fit for all times.