DeBoissiere-Swanson spent the last several weeks walking more than 500 miles from upstate New York to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the need for full women’s and LGBT rights.
DeBoissiere-Swanson, a California resident, set off from Seneca Falls, N.Y., July 19 and plans to arrive in D.C. Aug. 26, the 92nd anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment.
She walked about 15 miles per day, and her trip brought her through Philadelphia Aug. 16-17.
DeBoissiere-Swanson, an LGBT ally, has been spending nights at Episcopal churches throughout her journey and locally stayed at Church of the Advocate, where her mother-in-law was ordained in the 1970s. Katrina Welles Swanson, who died in 2006, was one of the “Philadelphia 11,” a group of women whose 1974 ordination caused divisive backlash in the Episcopal Church.
DeBoissiere-Swanson, who co-founded social-justice agency Katrina’s Dream with her husband, said she sees LGBT and women’s rights as intrinsically linked.
“I want to see women and the LGBTQ community get their rights,” she said. “Bias against women is so deeply ingrained in our society, and that often translates to bias against lesbians, bias against gays and bias against transgender people. When men come out, other men often shun them because they see them as being put in the role of women, a subjugated class, and the same for transgender people. Often when you come out, you lose your rights in the process.”
Her walk is meant to raise awareness about the work that still needs to be done for marginalized communities.
She began hiking to prepare but said her training was “extremely inadequate” for the effort she’s had to expend.
However, the emotional toll that that the walk has had on her has been more challenging than the physical demands.
“The toughest part so far has been seeing how gays are genuinely not welcomed in so many places,” she said. “People barely accept women’s rights. Even women and girls assume women have rights across the board, and then you have to go through the whole education process with them. And when you get to gay rights, you sometimes get the eye-roll and they ask, ‘Why do you have to bring these two together?’ That’s really painful for me. It’s been 30 or 40 years since the LGBTQ-rights movement and women’s rights movements have gone off on their own paths, but I think it’s a good time to try to bring them both back together.”
For more information about DeBoissiere-Swanson and Katrina’s Dream, visit www.katrinasdream.org.