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One-fifth of the
way there!

One-fifth of the
way there!

Js-3-jen

Encountering more cheerleaders than she expected, this Southern California soccer mom and lesbian continues walking the coastline from San Diego to San Francisco to raise LGBT visibility. This is the third 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.

One hundred 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 way there!

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 own.' "

I recognized something of my father in one of the three men sitting at the sidewalk cafe 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, "That's cool--my 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.

As I 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 of love.

As told to Walter G. Meyer.

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

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