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One mom, 569
miles

One mom, 569
miles

962_schumaker

My plan to walk from San Diego to San Francisco evolved from a very simple thought: 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. It was in a bookstore that I first said, "Just remember, a lesbian spent money here today." I felt empowered. I started doing it more and more. Another time my car had broken down, and I was having a horrible day. The way I feel better is by doing something empowering, so I told the tow truck driver, "You helped out a lesbian today," and he replied, "Hey, it's cool--gay, lesbian, we're all people."

No one has ever said anything negative to me, but I'm sensitive to the fact that I am "familiar" in suburbia--what could be safer than a soccer mom? I call myself a soccer mom, though I've really had only one kid play soccer. There is swim team, Little League, gymnastics, theater, piano, and clarinet, however, and for a single mother of four kids, that's a lot.

Everyone assumes there are no gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people in suburban areas like mine, 30 miles north of San Diego, so I wear a button that says i'm gayer than i look. I'm aware that not everyone can come out so easily--not that it's ever really easy, even for me--but if I can be an out lesbian in conservative Republican-voting Escondido and still be a carpool mom, be backstage at junior theater, and help out at swim meets, it's clear there's a lot of untapped support out here.

I decided to walk 569 miles up the coast of

California to give even more people the opportunity to say "I'm supportive." I planned my journey to begin April 8 in Balboa Park in San Diego, and I plan to reach San Francisco by June 3. Gay California state assembly member Mark Leno, who introduced the gender-neutral marriage bill last year, has promised to meet me at the end of the walk. Although I'll have companions, including my kids, for parts of the walk, I'm mostly going alone--one woman trying to make a difference.

I see acceptance coming, but it's not happening fast enough for my little family or to alleviate the pain I see in my friends' lives. It's called the Walk for Togetherness because it's about a vision beyond the LGBT community--it can include anyone experiencing disenfranchisement. The walk is dedicated to my friend's son, Dakota, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair at times. Once, when he was 7, he said, "I'm the invisible man." When I finally figured out that I was a lesbian, I understood what he meant.

Escondido means "hidden" in Spanish. I see that as a great metaphor for how LGBT people can often seem hidden and invisible--as can our supporters. And invisibility is not OK with me! --As told to Walter G. Meyer

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

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Jennifer Schumaker