One-fifth of the way there!
BY Jennifer Schumaker
April 27 2006 12:00 AM ET
Soccer mom Jennifer Schumaker’s plan to walk the
569 miles from San Diego to San Francisco
“evolved from a very simple
thought,” she tells The Advocate.
“Three years ago I let a man reenter a
line for coffee, and I thought, He has no idea
that a lesbian was nice to him today.”
Thereafter, Jennifer began coming out to everyone
she had even passing contact with in her life.
The Escondido, Calif., carpool mom is now raising
her visibility campaign to another level: walking most
of the way up the California coastline and coming
out to everyone along the way. She left San Diego
on April 8 and plans to reach San Francisco on June 3,
where she’ll meet out state assembly member
Along the way, each week she’ll be calling in
to The Advocate to tell her story.
miles. As much as my whole body ached and as much as I
missed my children, it felt so good to pass that
milestone. If I can make it 100 miles, I know I can
make it the rest of the way. I’m now one fifth of the
The week started
out on Easter Sunday when I was introduced to a
Unitarian Universalist congregation in Laguna Beach. A
straight couple at the church was generous enough to
pay for my hotel room for the night. As wonderful as
all of my host families (most of them Unitarian
Universalists as well) have been along the way, it was nice
to have a quiet evening to myself.
The RV of the man who dispelled redneck stereotypes
in Huntington Beach.
I see the world
through a gay lens (being gay, how could I not?) and find
myself at times succumbing to my own stereotypical vision of
the world. Passing through Huntington Beach, I
wondered if I’d be welcomed by the man sitting
next to the RV flying a large American flag and blaring
country music. For some people, the Stars and Stripes
symbolize intolerance, not freedom, and the very
American art form of country music can sometimes raise
fears of bigotry. I told him that I wasn’t sure how
receptive he’d be and he said, “Oh, yeah,
rednecks. Well, I feel like ‘to each their
something of my father in one of the three men sitting at
the sidewalk café in Long Beach, and I stopped to talk
to them. Knowing my father’s lack of
acceptance, I guess I was bracing for rejection, but
once again I was welcomed.
As I make this
journey, I find more and more encouragement. When I tell
people what I’m up to, I hear from so many,
brother/sister/cousin/friend is gay/lesbian.”
There’s more support out here than I thought,
and it makes me realize that one important aspect of
my mission is being fulfilled. It upsets me when I hear
legislators and some allegedly religious types try to
present the struggle for LGBT rights as
“us” versus “them.” It
isn’t. We are all “us,” as meeting
these many people with queer connections prove. This
is allowing me to reach across and say,
“I’m a person and so are you.”
As word of the
walk has spread, I’ve started to get supportive phone
calls and text messages, including an unsigned message from
a 16-year-old gay male who said he appreciated what I
was doing. Messages have come from as far away as
Austria and Malaysia.
Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach.
people-watched at Venice Beach, which is known for its crazy
anything-goes atmosphere, I saw many hetero couples walking
hand-in-hand along Ocean Front Walk but no queer
couples showing any public displays of affection, even
though I saw what I took to be gay or lesbian
pairings. I thought, How sad that even in Venice, where
any sort of oddity is accepted as the norm, none
of these couples felt comfortable showing any sort
As told to Walter G. Meyer.