Alan Bounville walks into the light–from Seattle to D.C. on foot

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Alan Bounville

Alan Bounvilleinterview.

Alan Bounville has quickly become one of the most visible and on-the-edge queer activists on the front lines of today’s New York area equality struggle. His recent weeks-long campout on the sidewalk in front of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office followed by a serious hunger strike made headlines around the world. Alan is now on a cross-country walk for equality.

Out In Jersey: You will be walking from Seattle to D.C. during a 9- to 18-month period. What are the broad goals you hope to accomplish?

Alan Bounville: The overarching mission of the walk is to end gender discrimination in all its forms. All people are typed in our society based on how they look. And much of the violence hurled upon people is based on these images. I feel if we open up spaces where we can learn to be better reflectors of our own thoughts and feelings, we can begin to understand what is meant by a pluralistic society where all are treated equally both in law and socially. 
 

Alan Bounville in 2010 at a Kiss-in rally in New York City.

Alan Bounville in 2010 at a Kiss-in rally in New York City.

A biological woman should not make less than a biological man for the same work. A person who is transgender should be able to walk down every street in this country without a shred of fear. Men should not take each other’s lives when they feel threatened. A person’s skin color should be just that: a color. I, as a gay man, should be able to walk across this great land, carrying my rainbow flag, as I intend to do, and be greeted with nothing but support.
 
So, I am interested, while I walk, in talking with people, facilitating workshops and performing solo theater productions that help create this world where we–and I mean all of us–delve deeper, reflect more, and build community with those with whom we may not be communing at present based on what we’ve been conditioned to think about them.

Gender discrimination is based as well in this hypermasculine energy that leads to aggression and the worst acts we can imagine. But it also leads to a destructive type of competition. If we want to transform this world into a better place, we must know ourselves better and learn new ways to collaborate with others, or we are surely doomed.
 
Tell us about the workshops you will offer to interested groups along the way.

I have prepared five different workshops that can be facilitated independently or as a series. Everything I do is free. No one should have to pay for these kind of community-building experiences. However, since I live in this society, I do need a limited amount of funding to complete the whole journey. Every dollar counts, but it’s not about the money. I trust I will get as far as the community wants me to get.

The workshop lesson plans can be found at:   http://tinyurl.com/3stq6jb  

People can facilitate these workshops themselves as well. So, if people want to just use the material I’ve assembled, more power to them! It’s about everyone having access!

The workshop topics are Social Movement; Civil Disobedience/Direct Action; Dreamshop;Gender Identity/Expression; and Theatre of the Oppressed. The workshops use a multitude of community building and fun, interactive theater games. Having done workshops like this for several years, I’ve found them to be the best way to equalize everyone’s voice in a space and create safer spaces for participants to share, both with others and themselves truths and explorations.

You are working on a play, performances of which will take place on the journey. What is the play about and how are you constructing it?

While I walk, I will be performing my first solo play that I co-wrote with Russell Taylor, Chained to Freedom, which basically tells my story of transformation into an active fighter for LGBTQ justice and equality. I am about to begin rehearsals on my second solo play, Failing Forward (working title), which explores why people get involved in social movements. I interviewed several people with whom I’ve done direct action work, asking why they do this work, what drove them to it, what keeps them going, and so on. Their stories then inform me as I concurrently explore the same questions myself. The extracts from the interviews are verbatim, word for word, pause for pause, um for um, as I try to re-create on the stage these slices of people’s realities. In the end, I hope what is shared with the audience will move and empower them, and give us all a snapshot of just a touch of what is going on out there in the social movement world.
 
What do you anticipate will be the most difficult challenges on this trip?

That’s a funny question, because I keep thinking I’m going to get eaten by a bear, and I don’t mean a beefy hairy man! Other than that, I think the walking itself will take its toll. Loneliness for the vast stretches I will be walking along. Of course, carrying a rainbow flag makes me pause at times. The terrain and extreme temperatures, having enough food and water, getting the rest of my supplies donated/funded before I step off. But, in the end, I’m sure there will be a whole new host of challenges that will present themselves once the walk begins. And maybe, just maybe, the bears will leave me be.
 
Are you having to confront particular fears about possible dangers as you travel through some very conservative regions? Will you be attempting to attract local publicity along the way?

As stated earlier, sure, I pause when I think about carrying a rainbow flag on this 6,000-mile journey. But that’s the point: I am walking “into the light,” so to speak, of the transformed world in which I want to live. As for media outreach, I’ve been sending out press releases, have a fully functioning website (http://www.intothelightwalk.com/) and Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare accounts and will keep them as up to date as possible. One supporter has donated a smartphone, but I will need to either have funding to keep adding money prepaid fashion, or I will raise enough money over time to get a monthly plan, so I can be tweeting and updating the blog on the website and Facebook updates, etc. multiple times each day. If I do not raise the funds to do this, then I will update any time I am near a free WiFi hot spot. Everything now is dependent on how much the people value what I’m doing, both in essence of the walk itself and the services I’ll be providing through the trainings and theatre.
 
What can people do to support your effort?

They can donate any amount directly here: https://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/contribute/donate/4143. They can also look at the items listed on the budget and donate in-kind any of those items: http://phxconsultants.com/GenderExpress/?page_id=11 Note: the way the budget is presented, shows what my living expenses would be if I paid everything currently in my life: health insurance, student loans, etc. However, I am doing this walk no matter what I’ve raised – so I am resolved to use the funds I raise for basic survival needs like food and walking clothes/shoes. Anything above the basics is a bonus. And, actually getting basic needs met is a blessing. So, I will walk and see what people provide. The people will determine the value of what I offer and support this work as they will.
 
Bette Davis “always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Will you be following her example? Does your personal evaluation of mankind indicate that kindness from strangers can often be relied upon?

I take this a bit further and say I depend on the kindness of strangers, and old and new friends. And, so far, I have to concur with Ms. Davis. On April 1 I gave up my apartment to use the last bit of student loan money I had in my checking account to stretch out over this time between when I’m finishing my master’s and the day I start to walk. In this time of preparation, I’ve stayed in six different homes, as of next week it will be up to 7-9, depending on where I end up after this weekend. People have offered me food, donations to help pay for dental expenses that I just learned of, donations to the walk specifically are coming in–I’m keeping an update in the budget how much I’ve raised so people can see in real time how things are going–and people like yourself are interested in talking with me, which shares the mission further. People are mostly good, so we just need to trust more in our people power. If we do that, nothing can stop us!

Feel free to add in anything else you want to make a point of.

I would just like to share that this whole experience, like much of the action in which I’ve engaged to make this a better world, has been empowering and humbling at the same time. Each time I have a conversation with someone about this “stuff,” do an action for LGBTQ full civil rights, fight the failed economic system that has robbed so many of us in the past two years, hear of how I’ve inspired someone to be more active–each time, I am elated. We all have such enormous power to do good, and sometimes it’s the smallest thing that matters the most. And, only when we break through our walls of fear, can we turn around and see how paper-thin those walls really are.

For more information, visit the website (http://www.intothelightwalk.com/), or sign up for updates on Twitter and Facebook. The walk began on May 31, 2011.

 

Alan Bounvilleinterview.

Alan Bounville has quickly become one of the most visible and on-the-edge queer activists on the front lines of today’s New York area equality struggle. His recent weeks-long campout on the sidewalk in front of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office followed by a serious hunger strike made headlines around the world. Alan is now on a cross-country walk for equality.