Like most people during COVID, I took up something new. A life goal of mine has been to learn Spanish. An online class at Saddleback College had me pretty busy with assignments such as “Describe your neighborhood.” Here is what I wrote:
El vecindario tiene una cancha de tenis y está cerca de un parque nativo con senderos. Mi vecindario es diverso con varios parejas homosexuales y familias con mucho ninos.
For more than 17 years, my husband and I have had the honor of living among several gay neighbors and I expressed that as best I could to my Spanish classmates.
I am grateful that I am able to reach out to my friends, neighbors and family in the LGBTQ+ Community to help me write this article for Laguna Canyon Foundation.
We asked one question: “What is the role organizations like Laguna Canyon Foundation can play in increasing access to the outdoors to the LGBTQ+ community both for you and future generations?”
The stories shared are heart-warming and filled with hope.
One common theme in all the responses echoed what Carl Nassib, defensive end for the Oakland Raiders shared this week: “I’m a pretty private person so I’m really not doing this for attention … I actually hope that one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are just not necessary … but until then, I am going to do my part to cultivate a culture that is accepting and compassionate.”
In the interviews, a mom shared:
“As an individual who loves the outdoors and as part of an LGBTQ+ couple with young children, it is important for me to share the outdoors with my kids and foster a love for nature in them. It is also important to me that we surround ourselves with family, friends, and community groups that support families like mine, so my children feel safe and included, and not made to feel different for having two moms. I find myself searching for opportunities for my children to be around other families like ours, allowing them to see themselves in others and giving them comfort in knowing they are not the only ones.
“So much of their everyday lives consists of heteronormative families at school, parks, and even friend groups. Organizations like Laguna Canyon Foundation could help provide opportunities like the ones I search out, allowing my children to experience, play, and learn in the outdoors, alongside other families and friends like ours. By partnering with local LGBTQ+ groups Laguna Canyon Foundation could connect a whole generation of kids with LGBTQ+ parents and families (or possibly LGBTQ+ themselves) with the outdoors.”
A retired teacher shared:
“My generation is far removed from being OK to announce that we are gay. I have never been to a Pride festival of any kind. Hard to believe? I was afraid. Remember when California tried to pass law against homosexual teachers in the classroom? Well, that was when I was teaching.
“This is what I wish: For my nephew and his husband, I want them to be able to take their adopted twins (now 4 yrs old) into the outdoors without attracting second glances about their both being dads.”
A Laguna Beach resident shared:
“It seems that the younger members of the LGBTQ+ community have embraced the outdoors especially this past year during the pandemic. We have such a terrific and beautiful resource here in Laguna … and it would be great if Laguna Canyon Foundation offered a really good opportunity for members of the LGBTQ+ community to connect with each other especially since more traditional venues like bars are less available. I think there would definitely be interest amongst Laguna Beach residents.”
Our staff continues our work of inclusion, focusing on addressing micro-aggressions, and being keenly aware of passé language that should be retired.
This work has allowed us to connect with queer hiking guides, who we hope will lead some of our future guided hikes. In one of our interviews, as it turns out, there was less discussion about being gay and more about basket weaving as the Chumash did. My neighbor not only creates beautiful baskets, he teaches this skill to the Chumash people in Santa Barbara and we plan to have him share his knowledge with Laguna Canyon Foundation staff and constituents as we ramp up our activities in the Fall.
It has been a joyous experience listening and learning during these interviews. Thank you to our wonderful LGBTQ+ community who makes our lives rich and colorful. We are always here for you.