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SILVER SPRING, Md. – For years, Americans have been intrigued with the possibility that half-ape, half-human creatures live in the vast uninhabited areas of our continent. The “Bigfoot” phenomenon has been the subject of or mentioned in numerous books and movies as well as throughout pop culture for generations.
While there is no scientific evidence to prove … or disprove … the existence of the Sasquatch, the search for such creatures goes on. Animal Planet has given its viewers the opportunity to watch a team of scientists on their quest in “Finding Bigfoot,” which just began its second season on air.
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News obtained an exclusive interview with Ranae Holland, who is one of four cast members, and is known as the skeptic of the group.
Holland, who is an out lesbian, said that her relationship with “Bigfoot” dates to her childhood.
“Growing up in South Dakota in the 1970s, I remember the ‘Bigfoot’ craze that existed at that time,” she said. “My father was fascinated with the phenomenon and our special quality time together was spent watching Bigfoot movies and exploring together.”
Holland said that later on, she became a biologist and when her father passed away in 2003, she stumbled across some of his “Bigfoot” paraphernalia.
“I had flashbacks to the special times I spent with my father and I really wanted to find Bigfoot,” Holland said.
Holland became involved with The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), which is said to be the only scientific research organization exploring the sasquatch mystery.
“I didn’t believe in Bigfoot, but I had those memories with my dad and I wanted to honor that,” said Holland, who was introduced to Animal Planet’s show through BFRO.
When asked why she thinks people have been so fascinated with the Bigfoot phenomenon over the years, Holland believes that it has to do with the human psyche.
“People are curious about the unknown, making the study of this become larger than life,” she said. “Besides, the scientific method is rooted in questioning the status quo.”
How she arrived at her beliefs about Sasquatch
While Holland remains a non-believer … or at least skeptical, she recounted some interesting experiences which caused her to question her own beliefs in the existence of Sasquatch.
“We were in a very remote area of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, sent in to areas that no human being would have any good reason to go to,” Holland recalled. “After finding about 30 samples, I saw a one-time flash of black fur. I was leading [the group] and when I came around the ridge line, I looked over my shoulder to make sure the team was OK, and along the opposite side of the river there was an opening in the canopy cover where I saw a flash of black fur pop through.
“Now, this just means that I saw a black animal running by,” said the skeptical Holland, who remains open-minded about the possibility of finding a Sasquatch.
Speaking out in favor of tolerance
“People need to be able to respectfully disagree about the concept and remember that it’s all about tolerance,” she said.
On the subject of tolerance, Holland said that she has not encountered much intolerance within the scientific community, recognizing that it does exist.
“I don’t find it necessary to discuss [being a lesbian] as I have matured and developed a competent sense of self,” said Holland, who noted that she tries not to concern herself with societal norms.
She did say, however, that people should be able to live openly and freely and not have to hide who they are. “We live in a society that still has an intolerant community and dragging people into the closet is reprehensible. LGBTQ rights are basic, civil rights,” she said.
Holland said she believes that women have more of an uphill battle within the scientific community, and that more people from marginalized communities need to come forward within the field.
“This shouldn’t even have to be a question, but because we are still fighting for these basic civil rights and acceptance, people need to come forward,” Holland said.
She offered advice for those who wish to enter into the field of biology or science, especially those in the LGBTQ or other marginalized communities:
“First and foremost know yourself, love yourself, and follow your passions. If your passion is conservation, the environment, physical sciences, or whatever it may be, find that person that you love and believe in and make them your mentor,” Holland suggested. “If you are LGBTQ, find a professional mentor, but also find a personal mentor. I recognize that I was surrounded by a community where I didn’t have to hide and this is recognition of the advocates that came before me.”
Bigfoot legend remains huge in pop culture
Although Holland’s interest in the Bigfoot craze stemmed for her father’s fascination with it in the 1970s, she thinks people are just as curious today as they were in 1977, when movies like “Sasquatch, The Legend of Bigfoot” were produced.
“[Pop culture] things come and go in waves. I think for myself, at the age that I was 30 years after my first introduction, it came full circle,” she said. “With the new technology that exists today people are still asking ‘why haven’t we found one yet?’”
Holland thinks that “Bigfoot” is an opportunity to reach out to children who are at the age where anything seems possible.
“All of my best memories from childhood are remembering seeing my dad’s eye get so big when he talked to me about all the things that were possible,” Holland said. “When our team goes to town hall meetings when we are out on the road, what keeps me going is seeing all of the fathers (and mothers) that come to the meetings with their young kids, wide-eyed, making that connection together. I get choked up sometimes seeing that.”