An Open Invitation to LGBTQ
As a volunteer for Point Reyes National Seashore Associate, I was facilitating a photography weekend class at the park. It was Saturday night, and we were at the lighthouse. The lighthouse being lit at night was a special occasion. The size of the group was too large to all be in the lighthouse at one time. So, we split the group up. Half the class would go down to the lighthouse to photograph inside while the other half would wait at the top of the stairs. After an hour or so, we would switch. Somehow, I was the first facilitator at the top of the stairs. I like to think that I was gracious and volunteered (I’m not really sure that’s how it happened).
At Point Reyes National Seashore, it’s usually chilly at night. The ranger kindly lent me his oversized, green ranger coat. Since I was already wearing my official volunteer hat, I almost looked like I might know something. My job was to kindly redirect visitors who wanted to visit the lighthouse. While the lighthouse was frequently open to visitors during the day, being lit as night was not common. So, of course, some people visiting the platform at the top of the steps to the lighthouse would want to go down to the lighthouse.
Since it was the early shift, the sun was low on the horizon but visible on the horizon. Cheerful voices and camaraderie floated on the breeze. A group of 10 or 12 people were approaching. After they had surveyed the ocean and admired the view (it’s spectacular) they decided to brave the 313 steps down (and back up) from the lighthouse. Unfortunately, I had to stop them at the gate at the top of the steps. One guy asked about the photography class. He hadn’t heard about the field seminars before this moment. After I went on-and-on about the classes through PRNSA and how fun they were, I took a breath and asked him about his group. He mentioned that they were a Meetup.
I asked lots of questions since I was interested in doing meetups with this fun group. When I asked if I could be included in the next event, he asked if I had noticed that it was a LGBQT group? I hadn’t, so I apologized for intruding. He was surprised at my apology. He expected that I would change my mind once I heard they were LGBTQ. It didn’t change my mind. They were friendly, polite, interesting, and kind people - that’s what mattered. I think he was touched that I didn’t judge. He extended the invitation to me to join – he said that they were inclusive. He explained that his hesitation was that he didn’t want me to be surprised. I think I can understand a little of what he was feeling. We all want to be accepted. We all have traits that we hide from the world so we can fit in.
The great part about visiting a park - nature doesn’t care. Nature welcomes everyone the same. So, grab your reusable water bottle, a windbreaker or coat (depending on your climate), a hat, sunscreen, and a friend and go visit a national park.
The national parks are for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, gender, gender identification, immigration status, religion, and all those traits that make each of us unique. Parks are for all people!
Please consider this an open invitation to visit and support the national parks.
National parks, historical sites, and memorials are in each of the states and territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands). There is probably a park near you.
Please see this as an invitation to explore in-person or virtually.
Here’s a link to the National Park Service to assist with finding a park near you. https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
© Grace Bourke 2020