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Finish line

Finish line

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Our pedestrian lesbian mom reaches the city by the bay, meets up with some high-powered friends, and witnesses the impact of her 500-mile journey for equality.

Soccer mom Jennifer Schumaker's plan to walk the 569 miles from San Diego to San Francisco "evolved from a very simple thought," she told 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 then raised her visibility campaign to another level: walking most of the way up the California coastline and coming out to everyone she met along the way. She left San Diego on April 8 and reached San Francisco on June 3. Along the way she's been calling in to The Advocate each week to tell her story.

Five hundred miles. Fifty-six days. From San Diego to San Francisco. And there waiting at the end were my wonderful children and so many friends and supporters.

It doesn't seem real somehow. I guess it will take time to process this and let it all sink in. Did I really do it? Did it really happen?

During the eight weeks there were many days when I would go for hours at a time without seeing, let alone speaking to, another human being, and now I'm in sensory overload, being over-stimulated. Along with my physical exhaustion, my mental exhaustion is making it hard to adjust. And after being this lone woman on a quest, I'm back to being "Mommy" with my children wanting my attention.

Two of my children with Paul Boisvert and Rick Marshall, who hosted me for four nights in central California and came to join me for the walk's end in San Francisco.

One of the nicest welcomes was from Dakota, the son of my friend and my son's friend. Him telling me he often felt invisible in his wheelchair is what inspired this walk. Due to his cerebral palsy he has difficulty walking, and although had can take halting steps from one part of a room to another he has never managed the wide expanse of linoleum in their kitchen. After reading my blog he told his mother, "If Jennifer is walking, I can walk too," and then walked across the kitchen floor for the first time. That's what this walk was all about--being inspired by others to inspire others. Thank you, Dakota, for motivating me to motivate you. When we greeted each other at the end of the walk he said, "You did so great. Now we are not invisible anymore."

On the last day of the walk I joined hundreds of Marriage Equality USA advocates, California Assembly member Mark Leno, San Francisco County supervisor Bevan Dufty, and San Francisco police commissioner Theresa Sparks to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. I liked the diversity that was represented there. Several of my hosts from along the route came as well.

My children and some friends on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

As I reflect on the walk, it was very reassuring to see how much support I had. To quote gay playwright Tennessee Williams, "I have always been dependent on the kindness of strangers." Indeed this walk could never have happened if not for the generous people along the way who opened their homes and hearts and wallets to make it a reality. I left home with nowhere near the money it would take to complete this walk, but I had the faith that somehow the funds would come through, and they did--from donations large and small, from a bottle of water to hundreds of dollars. It gives me hope for the future.

I don't know how much impact my walk will have, but I do know I want the message of togetherness to go on. I hope I opened a few minds, but my mission isn't over and will not be over until grand gestures like this are unnecessary and every high school has a gay-straight alliance, everyone is free to marry the person of his or her choice, and prejudice against anyone is a distant memory. I know that's asking a lot, but if one soccer mom can walk 500 miles, we can achieve it. --As told to Walter G. Meyer

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

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Jennifer Schumaker