“Straight into Gay America”–five weeks, one thousand miles
Clausen, Lars. “Straight Into GAY America: My Unicycle Journey for Equal Rights”, Soulscrapers, 2007.
5 Weeks, 1000 Miles
Lars Clausen, a pastor and Guinness World Record holder is a believer in the rights of all. He unicycled over 1,000 miles to show the world that that we all deserve fair and impartial treatment. Now he has written down his adventures so we may all know about his journey. Here is a personal story of a personal trip by a Lutheran minister and it is just amazing. He rode his unicycle and advocated for humanity and he is a straight man who chose to show his feelings about the injustices the gay community faces on a daily basis. I first read about his book online and took a chance ad wrote to him and asked him to send me a copy so that I could report back to my readers—especially those in Arkansas where we so badly are in need of straight allies..
It is quite natural to question why a straight man and a member of the clergy would undertake such a project. Lars tells us that aside from loving to travel and his sense of adventure that his main reason is “vulnerability, or openness”. He explains that people who saw him were curious but because of his vulnerability they responded with amity and hospitality.
Because unicycles are slow, Lars rode at about ten miles per hour. He traveled on the safest roads and people gave him directions. If something were to happen, he was completely exposed and discovered that the culture of the United States is highly individualistic and tends to look at vulnerability as a weakness. This is what Lars says connects him to other people. The result of self-sufficiency and independence tends to be isolation and isolation leads to people to live in closed neighborhoods. Lars has learned the value of being vulnerable and he shows how it has led him to make connections to others.
As he traveled across America, Lars came into contact with all kinds of people and found surprising allies for GLBT people. Some were 100% straight; some were people one would never assume to be on our side. He interviewed the director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Project, Mark Shields, who told him that if “everyone came out, we’d quickly achieve equal rights”. And so he cycled, asking people’s opinions on gay rights. The safety he felt is something many of us have never felt. Youngsters today, for example, have no idea what the members of my generation felt when we were afraid to walk out proudly. Parents, in many cases, may abandon their gay children. Others have lost jobs and other positions. For us, vulnerability once meant danger rather than connection.
Lars says that equal rights is directly related the legal struggle for laws that are just. We can only have equal rights when we all feel safe and can be vulnerable and when there are no them and no us and when our living takes place in areas that are inclusive instead of exclusive. And we must be honest with ourselves and accept ourselves for who we are. One of the main problems that I have found in the gay community is the lack of self-acceptance. We want so much to be equal yet we do not want to accept ourselves and our differences. I, for one, celebrate my sexuality and lifestyle while may others hide theirs. I look at myself as a package—take it all or take none and if you choose not to take it because I am gay, then you are the one who loses. As arrogant as this may sound, it is the only way I can live an honest life. We must celebrate the honesty of ourselves and then we will truly be equal. I hold n esteemed position at the university where I teach and I am out and have had no trouble whatsoever. Likewise I am accepted wherever I go and I do not hide who or what I am. The walls between us and them are coming out. By being ourselves, we can make those walls fall down more quickly. Being open, as Lars says, is being vulnerable. Knowing how to deal with that vulnerability is what is important. When we can all be openly vulnerable, we can accept all people. As Lars tells us, we are as valuable to society as everyone else and by this; we can all feel kindness to each other. It does not take a unicycle to feel vulnerable. We all feel it but we do not deal with it to its best advantage. Reading this wonderful book will help you learn how to deal with the situations you may face. If not, “Straight into Gay America” is a great deal for whatever reason. I would venture to say that this is one of the most important books to come along in a long time and reading it has been an extremely satisfying experience.
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