My first interaction with Kathy Baldock, the founder and director of Canyonwalker Connections, was in 2012. She had shared information online about the newly formed Restored Hope Network and its new leader, Robert Gagnon. I had just completed some advocacy for California’s new law protecting minors from “reparative therapy” and was writing about this new and threatening group.
I fought them from behind my keyboard. Kathy, on the other hand was arguing with them live in the same room with them.
We both, it appeared to me, to be seasoned advocates doing our part in the battle for equality. It was not until I picked up Kathy’s new book, “Walking the Bridgeless Canyon,” that I realized we had come to our current missions from very different places.
By 1988, I had lost over forty friends to AIDS. I had spoken at a dozen memorials of very close friends. I was only thirty one years old.
In “Bridgeless Canyon,” Kathy shares where she was at that time: “My husband and I were walking into our home as the phone rang … I understood that one of his friends in New York City had died of the ‘gay cancer.’ My reaction was dispassionate… I distinctly recall formulating judgments. People who died from AIDS got it by having gay sex… the death was foreseeable and could and should have been avoided by not following lust-filled desires. I am not proud of my behavior.”
Kathy describes that her own life also did not fit her matter-of-fact conservative world view.
Beyond her expectations, she was soon facing unexpected betrayals and divorce. She told me, “My faith did not change, but life as it was supposed to be as a result of that faith, sure did.”
Kathy started to walk, both physically and spiritually as a result of this personal upheaval. It was on one of these walks that a life-altering relationship happened.
Kathy regularly passed a woman who walked in the opposite direction on the canyon trail. She was a woman who reflected a whole different life experience than the one Kathy knew. Kathy sensed the woman was a lesbian.
One day, Kathy heard herself call out to the other woman, “Can I turn around and walk with you?”
As they walked, Kathy was no longer in a place where she felt she needed to “save a soul,” she was in a place where she was willing to just be. The walk ended, but it became a regular ritual with the two women.
Through her new friend Netto, Kathy met more LGBT community members, allowing her to see the human faces over her dogmatic beliefs. It wasn’t until she heard a Netto’s heartfelt admission that Kathy’s previous misconceptions hit a crisis point from which they would never recover.
Article continues belowNetto admitted that she could not feel safe in the places where Kathy frequented, and with the people Kathy knew.
“Look Kathy, you don’t understand. In this society, I’m the lowest of the low. I am a Native American. I am a woman of color. I have a Hispanic last name. I am lesbian. Not even God loves me.”
The words “not even God loves me” shot through Kathy like a lightening bolt.
“My heart ached; I stopped on the trail stupefied, and cried.” She had broken through the powerful truth that happens when regressive Christian dogma meets an actual living breathing LGBT person — the dogma falls apart.