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Laguna Beach

Step by step to
Laguna Beach

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Crossing into conservative Orange County, this Southern California soccer mom and lesbian continues walking the coastline from San Diego to San Francisco to raise LGBT visibility. This is the second of her dispatches from the road

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 Mark Leno.

Along the way, each week she'll be calling in to The Advocate to tell her story.

My first week of walking is behind me, along with the familiar territory of San Diego and my traveling companion for the first week, Jo Rock, who returned home. It will be lonelier now, but it'll also force me to turn even more to strangers for human companionship.

Unfortunately, it also gives me more time to think about how much I miss my children--I feel there is a rubber band pulling me back. I have been away from my kids for weeks at a time when they have gone to visit their grandparents, but this feels different somehow. I know each step carries me further from them, but I also know I am doing this for them. One of the motives for this walk is that if my son, who is now 7, turns out to be gay, as he thinks he is, I want him to be able to go to his first dance with the person of his choosing. I'd like him to be free to be who he is. Although societal acceptance is coming, it isn't coming soon enough for me or my family. If I can open a few minds and hearts along the way, it will have been worth the 500-plus miles.

The Pacific Ocean--not a bad view for a hike.

I found one such opportunity when I stopped for lunch in Carlsbad. I noticed a young man, perhaps 16 years old, in front of me in line. I thought he looked like what one of my other sons would look like in a few years. I was about to tell him this when he yelled to his friend, "Come over here, faggot." He meant it as a joke, but I immediately and politely explained to him how these supposedly meaningless generic insults (like "That's so gay") hurt gay people and make young people afraid to come out. One of his friends said, by way of apology, "I don't know this guy." I explained the mission I was on, the young man apologized for his "faggot" comment, and they all wished me well on my trip. One of their others friends said, "You could totally be his mom."

Those are the moments this trip is about.

Walking into Orange County, in parts so homogenous that it's a stereotype of itself, I saw some Rolls Royces and a Bentley, and it seemed as though they should be filming a TV show here. At the Starbucks in Dana Point, where I was to rendezvous with my African-American support drivers, I was thinking, This lesbian, her transgender traveling companion, and the two black women about to arrive added more diversity to this coffee shop than it had probably seen in a long time--if ever.

Jo Rock's bandaged feet after a few days on the road.

I was alone and it was raining when I hit Laguna Beach. I was cold and wet and sniffling and felt like I was getting a fever. When I saw the rainbow flag above a store it was like a beacon offering shelter from the storm. When my support driver, also drawn by the rainbow, found me there, I knew it was a sign that the sun would shine on the rest of my walk.

As told to Walter G. Meyer.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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