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Power walk

Power walk


Continuing her walk from San Diego to San Francisco, this Southern California soccer mom and lesbian connects with an old friend, an Adopt-a-Highway sign, and two out of three women at an ice cream store. A seventh 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 have traveled over 350 miles and have less than two weeks to go. It was another week of interesting adventures and surprising support but also a reminder of how necessary this walk is.

The week started out on Mother's Day. It was sad to be away from my children--the first time I've spent Mother's Day without them. But I talked to them several times on the phone and received many other calls of support. It was one of the most grueling days of the walk as I climbed a steep grade in 90-degree heat, but the warm phone calls from my kids helped take off some of the strain. I just have to believe that what I'm doing--in some small way--will make the world a better place for them.

The San Diego Union-Tribune, a gay paper in Chicago, and some other local papers contacted me--so I feel as though my message is starting to get out to a wider audience.

My welcome to San Luis Obispo was all that I could have hoped for. The first two men I encountered immediately opened their wallets and hearts in support of my mission. The Cal Poly students I met were equally hospitable.

The sign outside of Santa Margarita announcing that the stretch of back road was adopted by PFLAG made me feel suddenly at home. I wanted to hug the signpost.

(Left) Two nice Cal Poly students I met in San Luis Obispo--Anika and her best friend, Sean. (Center) A welcoming sign: a highway adopted by PFLAG. (Right) The two welcoming ladies at the ice cream shop in Templeton; the photo was taken by a not so welcoming woman

In the small town of Templeton, I was warmly welcomed by the ladies at the ice cream store when I stopped in for what I thought was a much-deserved treat. After I explained my mission, they offered encouragement and suggested we pose for a photo together. Another woman entered the shop and agreed to take the picture. She then asked about my walk. As soon as the word "lesbian" escaped my lips her whole demeanor changed; she turned cold and stared at me with a look of contempt. As I went on with my statements--that I was just another human being, another woman, another mom--I could see her mind had closed and that anything I said after "lesbian" fell on deaf ears. That experience illustrated so much of what this walk is about for me. As nice and welcoming as the first two ladies were--yes, there is support and friendship out there--there is also intolerance and ignorance.

One of the nicest surprises of the week was an e-mail from an old and dear friend, John Bennett, who was director of the chorus with which I sang when I lived in Nebraska. John is still there, teaching the world to sing. He said he had seen the headline on about a lesbian walking but didn't read the first few installments. He finally decided to see what the continuing series was all about. Back in Omaha I still had no idea I was lesbian, but I had talked with John five years ago when I first found my true sexuality. Since then we'd lost touch, but apparently my outspokenness has always made an impression. John said that when he finally opened the story, he wasn't at all surprised to find that I'm the walker.

As told to Walter G. Meyer

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

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Jennifer Schumaker