We posted last week about Jennifer Shumaker‘s one-woman journey to better the lives of gay people everywhere–hitting the pavement and walking from San Diego to San Francisco, meeting people one-by-one so she can try to convince them that love for the gays is a good thing. On her blog, she posted her phone number, and she encourages people to call. So we did.
Q: Okay. WHY are you walking up the state of California?
JS: I want to show that, in many ways, it is easier to walk 500 miles than to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in America. And I’m trying to create dialogue that simply recognizes that we’re all interconnected, gay and straight, or queer and straight, however you want to say it.
Too many labels, it’s hard to not get tongue-twisted.
You know, I’m a lesbian soccer mom, and I have all these friends who are very accepting of me, and yet they don’t speak to their children about what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. So the effect of them saying “Oh, I’m okay with you…” it’s not spreading fast enough. I thought if I went on this 500-mile walk, I could find some of these folks who are supportive, but aren’t necessarily vocal about it, and get them to start telling their own stories. (pause) That was a good sound bite, I’ll have to remember that one.
So you’ll just go out there and change people’s minds, one at a time.
Really I’m trying to reach the families. You know, we all come from straight families somehow. It’s a little oppoisite from networking with the gay community–I’m trying to network with the straight community, if you will, and get them to come out and say ‘I have a gay son, a gay daughter, I’m okay, I want them to have equal rights.’ And then if they say that, I challenge them to go vote in support of equal marriage rights.
Where are you right now?
I’m heading to Santa Barbara, which will be the 200-mile mark.
Do your feet hurt?
My feet hurt so bad.
They’re not so bad right now, but about nine miles into it, they are on fire.
You should get some good shoes.
I do have good shoes. They have rainbow laces.
I can’t believe some company wouldn’t want to donate shoes to you. How are you paying for this trip, anyway? It’s going to take months to finish.
Well I’m a Unitarian Univertsalist, and–
I was going to say you have to be one of those ‘U’ religions, like Unity or Unitarian or something.
Yeah, I’m a Unitarian Universalist. But some of my best friends are Unity.
You have ‘U-religion’ written all over you.
And at least half of the money I raised for this trip has come from non-gay dollars, from people in the church supporting what I’m trying to accomplish. And a lot of the families putting me up at my rest stops are in the Unitarian church.
Have you run into any problems?
I miss my kids something fierce.
Where are they?
They’re staying with their father for two months.
It’s very Erin Brockavitch of you, sacrificing time with your own kids to go fight for other families.
Yeah, I miss then, but they’re fine, my ex-husband and I have joint custody. It would have been really hard doing this without his help.
It’s a long story.
But other than that, it’s been going well, the people I go up to on the street have all been very accepting. There’s a risk in approaching people to talk about this issue, but when I explain what I’m doing they’ve all said ‘Live and let live.’ So when they say that I challenge them to vote for marriage equality, because they don’t necessarily make the jump.
That’s very true.
But I have gotten some nasty emails that have been really horrible.
Of course, but there will always be idiots, they don’t count.
I know, I ignore them. Although I did get one email where the guy properly used a semi-colon, so that was scary.
I’m not used to homophobes using proper grammar.