Pride. Strength, Courage, and Diversity in the National Park Service in Alaska - Part 2

Uploaded by AlaskaNPS on 20.06.2012

Hi. My name is Emma Johnson. I’m a ranger here at Glacier Bay National Park. I do interpretation
and I’m a lesbian. I’ve been a ranger in Alaska for about five years now and I do
live here year round in the tiny community of Gustavus. I’m really lucky in that I’ve
only had good experiences being a lesbian in this area and working for the National
Park Service. My co-workers are supportive. My friends are supportive. This tiny community
is supportive. And I’ve always felt safe and comfortable being out here. National parks
sustain me. I work for the parks for a reason. I did have an office job and I came out here
because I always feel comfortable in these places. It can be challenging to live in a
tiny community in rural Alaska with not much of an LGBT population. But being able to
go outside, being able to replenish myself on the waters and on the woods of Glacier
Bay really helped me feel comfortable with who I am and what I’m doing. And I’m really
proud to work for this organization.
My name is Pat Sanders. I’m the lead interpretive ranger for Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve
and I’m stationed out of Eagle, Alaska.
Well, as cheesy as it may sound, I chose to work for the National Park Service because
I truly do believe in our mission and what we can, have, and will accomplish. What I
love most about my position is that I still have the luxury of impacting the lives of
the little old man sitting in Chicago that may never get to visit here, but I can share
with him the stories that we have. Or the 12-year-old child in a school. Or the visitor
that comes and actually visits the preserve. And I have a chance to impact those lives.
If you notice, I am wearing the National Park Service uniform. Nowhere on here do I have
a big banner that says I am a lesbian, though I am a lesbian. I find that diversity is a
non-issue in my position for the most part.
The challenging part is when someone notices that I have a wedding ring on. I have been
with my wife for 31 years. We were fortunate enough to be legally married in 2008. And though
it’s not recognized nationally yet, we are legally married in the State of California.
So that’s a challenge.
Well, I think the most interesting thing about that question is that it’s a microcosm of
any other city USA. Yes, we have PH.D’s. We have criminals. We have good people, bad people,
all sorts of people. But the most important thing, the most important aspect of any human’s
life in the community is to become part of that community. And to become part of that
community you have to put forth the effort to try to be part of the community. And to,
If you will, fit in. And my wife and I founded the local emergency medical services unit
here, some 30 years ago. And my wife was mayor of the town for 5 years. So I think fitting
in to the community by making the effort to be a part of the community.
If I had the honor to be the Director of the National Park Service I would be so proud
to continue to move forward in the direction that we’re now moving. I’m very thankful
for that. And I would strive to continue to move forward in hopes that we don’t have
to have a conversation like this. That we’re all equal. And that as Director of the National
Park Service, I would hope that I would strive to continue to move forward so that we are
all employees of the National Park Service and proud employees. And we would move forward
and we would all be equal.
My name is Sierra Willoughby, and I’m here in Denali National Park and Preserve, or a
lot of folks just call it Denali. And I’ve worked in many national parks. My first one
was in 2001 at Mount Rainier. I’ve also been at Glacier Bay, Yosemite, and Santa Monica
Mountains in the last 11 years.
I chose to work for the National Park Service because for as long as I can remember I’ve
been somebody who loves being outdoors and I’ve worked in nature parks. And it’s just
an amazing opportunity just to be out here. Just take a look around here, wow. All this tundra.
All these mountains to explore. It’s just a joy. It’s adventure. And to be here working
as a park ranger in the National Park Service, I get to share that joy with thousands of
visitors that visit their national parks.
Well, being an openly gay park ranger, it’s an honor and a privilege to be in these wild
areas that we call our national parks.
This is I see is kind of like medicine work where I see a lot of disconnect with people
and nature and people and culture, and the park service is about re-making those connections.
You know, rebuilding those connections. And my job as an interpretive Park Ranger. It’s
my job to help people find their connections or deeper meanings in these places.
Well, the most challenging thing about being an openly gay ranger here is the opportunities
for social outlets. You know, I’m 41 years old. I’ve mostly been single my entire life because
I’ve been in these wild remote areas, and traditionally a lot of other single gay men live
in urban areas.
National parks and other wild areas offer acceptance. You know, in a lot of places gay
and lesbian people or LGBT folks have experienced a lot of discrimination. And wild natural
places accept everybody for who they are. And it’s essential for folks to get out there
You know, back in Mount Rainier I met this lady that used to go up and down the trail every
weekend to heal from a degenerative disease. And it healed her. And so these places, they’re
not just wild lands that are just beautiful to look at, they’re healing sanctuaries
for people. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And that’s critical for
all folks. Especially LGBT folks that’ve had difficult lives.
The advantage for an LGBT person to be in the park service is, well, it’s an accepting environment now.
It always has been in the last eleven years I’ve been here, but particularly now. In
2009 we had a LGBT awareness month. And my roommate at Glacier Bay at the time baked
a cake in celebration of it. And now with current, President Obama openly supporting same-sex
marriage or openly supporting marriage equality, wow. It’s the federal government, and
in particular the National Park Service is a really good employer. When you do powerful
work like connecting people back to nature or connecting people back to a really important
story or cultural story in our nation’s heritage, it’s good to be able to draw upon
that power you have inside of you as a LGBT person.
In honor of our ancestors like Stephen Mather, Adolph Murie, and Charles Sheldon, who saw fit
to preserve these wild amazing places as national parks; and to also honor my ancestors like
Harry Hay and Harvey Milk who stood up for LGBT rights throughout the ages, I offer
this heart song.