"Allies listen, and they believe what they hear," said
Jake in Virginia.
Countless stories came my way as I unicycled five weeks
and 1,000 miles Straight Into Gay America. Before the ride a gay college
student in Minnesota advised me,
Whatever you do, don't write
story. Gay literature
is full of those stories. I want to hear what everyday
life is like for other gay people.
I tried following this advice. But when my friend Jim
Bodeen read my first draft, he asked me, "Where are you in this story?" He
wanted my 1,000 mile road trip: He also wanted my own coming out
"Where am I?" I thought to myself. "Still hiding under
layers of good order and good intentions."
Jim caught me trying to be an equal rights advocate
without truly probing the connections to my own life. Once he asked about my
place in the story, I knew I needed to search for this answer. Thanks for the
A long string of people and events helped me grow toward
valuing equal rights. Pedaling through all fifty states and publishing One Wheel
– Many Spokes in 2004 gave me confidence for the physical part of unicycling
Straight Into Gay America. Five weeks of riding introduced me to hundreds of new
people. The major characters appear in these pages. I've tried my best to
represent our meetings well. When necessary, I have changed names. Mistakes and
shortcomings of this story are all my own.
Jennifer Ting and Tan Vo honored my ride with their
video camera and their own questions. They took months from their lives to
produce a documentary of this ride. Jen filmed the New York City Pride Parade,
walking miles through the 95-degree heat. Tan had her video inspected by a White
House guard after filming a security gate. They saw a lot.
Editors, printers, designers, typesetters. Thanks for
helping to make this book real—Jim Bodeen and Blue Begonia Press (www.bluebegoniapress.com), Anne
Clausen, Karl Clausen, Cynthia Gustavson, Anne Jackets, Dane Johnson, George
Harper, Paul Palumbo, Chris Savage, Jennifer Ting, Emily Van Kley. Special
thanks to Kent Gustavson and Blooming Twig Books (www.bloomingtwigbooks.com) for
their passionate care of Straight Into Gay America and producing the cover and
the interior for the print and e-book versions. Thanks for the financial support
that helped me take this tour, especially to Randi and Phil Reitan, who gave
their gift in honor of Mel White and Gary Nixon of Soulforce. Thanks also to Ken
Peterson, and to George and Bridget Winters.
Family. Thanks to my dad who teaches me to think as
deeply as I can. You'll discover in this story that we've come out on different
sides of the LGBT Equal Rights movement. Probing these differences became part
of discovering where I am in this story. This hasn't been easy. My brother
tells me, "I've always known that dad's love and mom's love for me is
unconditional. It's always been there for me and that's more important
than anything else." I feel the same way, thankful to know that underneath the
differences is our love.
This is my third long-distance unicycle tour, the first
one riding solo. On the first two tours, my wife Anne brought our kids KariAnna
and Kai along, providing my road support. For this Straight into Gay
America tour, Anne and the kids stayed home. Kai turned nine while I was on the
ride. KariAnna was eleven. On this tour I missed important days in their lives,
including Anne's and my 15th anniversary. I hope this ride proves worthwhile for
many, but I hope especially that it can serve my family.
Sometime in the next dozen years, we'll probably learn
if our children are attracted to those of the same sex or the opposite
gender, or even if they understand their gender identity differently from their
biological sex. I want the five weeks of this journey to assure them how much we
desire to love them for who they are, no matter what margin or center they find
to root their lives.
Unicycle Journey for Equal Rights.