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Almost halfway

Almost halfway


Support comes from surprising places as this Southern California soccer mom and lesbian continues walking from San Diego to San Francisco to raise LGBT visibility. A sixth 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.

I'm about at the halfway point, and my feet are starting to feel the strain of the walk. I covered 16 miles the other day and that was pushing things a bit too far. But I continue my mantra: This is still easier than being gay in America.

There's been coverage in the local newspapers of many of the towns I pass through, although the quality varies greatly. In San Luis Obispo it was a tiny blurb next to the obituaries. I try not to be negative or judgmental, but I can't help but wonder if a lone woman were walking 500 miles for breast cancer or cystic fibrosis this might get more attention.

In Lompoc there was a nice long article, and it was good to see that the reporter really got what I was trying to say. I asked him how many children were in the Lompoc schools, and he guessed about 8,000. To take the very conservative figure that at least 5% of the population is gay, that means they have 400 LGBT kids in their schools. If 400 of their kids had some special need--were gifted musicians or were in wheelchairs--the schools would do something to accommodate them, but nothing is done for this large number of children who are "different." I worry about these children. When these kids are 11 or 13 and starting to really feel that normal attraction to others, they can't just escape to San Francisco or a gay ghetto.

I continue to be surprised and pleased by the reactions I'm getting and some of the quarters from which support has come. Experience and expectations led me to be a little wary of approaching the guy with the motorcycle displaying an Alabama license plate--after all, he represented three groups that have traditionally been the least supportive of gay rights: Southerners, the elderly, and males. But when I asked him if he would vote for same-sex marriage in Alabama, he said, "Sure. That's your personal business."

When I saw the couple get out of their car with the ribbon that said, "One Man, One Woman. Supporting Godly Marriages," I was again anticipating a less than harmonious discussion, but Jim and Betty told me their church did not have a policy of turning anyone away. According to these two Nazarenes, the message wasn't an endorsement for heterosexual-only unions but a statement of the sanctity of marriages, preserving them through counseling, and not giving up on relationships so easily when challenges arise.

Jennifer with Margie, a volunteer docent at the Cultural Arts and Education/Chamber of Commerce building in the town of Guadalupe.

And then there was Margie at the Cultural Arts and Education Center in the town of Guadalupe. She worked for years to promote Filipino rights and awareness. As I spoke with her and learned of the work she had done to end prejudice for her people, it again struck me that since there are gay people of every nationality, race, and, religion, we could be the glue that holds this puzzle of cultures together, the catalyst that unites all of these diverse groups, providing the shading between all of the colors of the rainbow.

As told to Walter G. Meyer

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

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Jennifer Schumaker