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Climb every
mountain

Climb every
mountain

Jennifer_paz

Continuing her walk from San Diego to San Francisco, this Southern California soccer mom and lesbian connects with a suburban gay couple, finds solidarity with two immigrant construction workers, and conquers her biggest obstacle yet. A fifth weekly dispatch 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 she meets 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 assemblyman Mark Leno.

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

Week five on the road brought me past the 200-mile mark, which was celebrated with a small ceremony in which the mayor of Santa Barbara welcomed me.

My walk was covered in the Santa Barbara newspaper, but the article sort of misunderstood what I was trying to say. I'm not out to try and define a more "normal" type of lesbian. I'm doing this long walk because we need to get past stereotypes and away from trying to make others fit our expectations. For most people, the fact that I'm a lesbian shatters my facade of soccer mom. Some of the people I've met seem to think I'm trying to set myself up as the poster woman for all things gay and lesbian. I'm not. I'm just trying to open some eyes and generate some awareness in places where it otherwise might not come.

But the publicity is good, and I have been doing several phone interviews. As word spreads I get more text messages and e-mails and donations, which help as I enter the more remote stretches of the state. The support from other countries surprises me and confirms that this is truly a universal struggle.

I heard from a gay couple in California who said they feel removed from the gay community but also feel that they don't belong in the suburbia where they live. They thanked me for being out here--and for being someone to whom they could relate.

The occasional tears make it hard to see where I'm going at times, but they're worth it. After leaving Santa Barbara, I had to face the biggest mountain of my trip. I had built extra miles into my trip total so I would still cover over 500 miles even if I had to bypass any insurmountable obstacles, but I took this hill on foot and couldn't help singing, "Climb every mountain...follow every rainbow..." Since I have adopted a twisted rainbow ribbon as the symbol of my walk, that Sound of Music song seemed especially appropriate.

The Pacific Pride Foundation and Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum (fifth from left, in camel coat) welcome Jennifer Schumaker to Santa Barbara and celebrate the 200-mile mark with her.

Some workers at a construction site gave me water. These workmen spoke little English, but between their earnest attempts and my broken Spanish we managed to communicate. I told them about my walk, and they seemed quite shocked that I was lesbiana, but they listened to what I had to say. I told them of my discussion a few days earlier with Javier, who had suggested that immigrants and LGBT folk had more in common than many might think. One of the gentleman, Paz, said, "Si, junta," meaning yes, unity. I nodded and joined my hands as Javier had done to illustrate that togetherness. Paz means "peace" in Spanish.

I asked one of the others if he had children and said he did. That's always the lead-in to my next question: "How would he feel if his children were gay." He said that while none were gay, it would be OK if any were.

I headed out of the hills and back toward the coast.

As told to Walter G. Meyer

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

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