In Park Service’s Centennial, Gay Ranger Finds His Story

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Photo by John McDonald

For Gary Bremen, 2016 has been a special year. 

An interpretive ranger for the National Park Service, Bremen has participated in the agency’s centennial celebrations throughout the year. Working out of Biscayne National Park, Bremen leads boat tours, hikes and various other informational exercises into the natural world. 

But it took a gay bar in New York City to open a new chapter in his career.   

“I feel like the creation of Stonewall National Monument has given me permission to talk about things I never felt I could talk about or was afraid to talk about before,” Bremen said. 

Related: Park Service Releases LGBTQ History Study

The Park Service’s designation of Stonewall Inn as a National Monument was part of an overall effort to broaden the nation’s narrative. Incorporating stories from America’s minority communities adds to the country’s rich history. 

In announcing Stonewall’s designation, the White House issued the following statement: “From major legislative achievements to historic court victories to important policy changes, the President has fought to promote the equal rights of all Americans – no matter who they are or who they love.” 

Bremen marched –in uniform – in this summer’s pride parade in New York City. A few months later he would tell his coming out story at a program in Wilton Manors titled “Songs and Stories of Our National Parks.” 

“That was a career highlight for me,” Bremen said. 

Bremen’s coming out story delves into an 18-year relationship with his partner Roger and the couple’s journey into the Grand Canyon for self-discovery.  

“I began to look at the Canyon as a metaphor for my life,” Bremen said. 

In addition to Wilton Manors, “Songs and Stories of Our National Parks” was presented in Sarasota and Coral Gables. Bremen describes it as a “throwback program” with a campfire stories theme. 

“I was pretty nervous about telling my coming out story at Coral Gables High School because that is where I did my student teaching,” he said. “In fact, we did the program in the same classroom that I did my student teaching. I started to twitch as I walked in. I was nervous about telling my coming out story to kids who laughed and made fun of me when I was a kid. But it wasn’t that way this time, there was no laughs or snickers. It’s just normal for them now.” 

The program returns next week with South Florida singer/songwriter Grant Livingston joining Bremen for a performance at the Coral Gables Museum. Along with personal stories, Bremen offers tidbits about Biscayne National Park, one of three National Parks in Florida. 

“We get all kind of cool stuff that washes on shore here,” Bremen told SFGN during a recent visit to Elliott Key. “I have a collection of stuff from five continents.” 

Biscayne is a mostly marine park with four different ecosystems – mangrove forest, the bay, the keys and coral reefs – coexisting. Biscayne received its national park status in 1980 and a video, featuring Bremen, can be seen at the park’s Dante Fascell Visitor Center just a few miles east of Homestead. 

If You Go 

What: Songs and Stories of Our National Parks 

When: January 6, 2017, 6 to 10 p.m. 

Where: Coral Gables Museum, 285 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL, 33134 

More Info: 305-603-8067 or www.coralgablesmuseum.org 


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