This week in SGN History: 10 Years Ago

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SGN 6/03/2011
SGN 6/03/2011

Over 47 years, the Seattle Gay News has covered thousands of stories that still resonate today. This week we look back at Vol. 39, Issue 22, published on June 4, 2011.

This week we will focus on one story. It started right here in Seattle, and I was part of it. his 6,000-mile coast-to-coast walk in Seattle as my guest.

"I want to inspire an open conversation about full civil rights," Bounville said. "We need a dream. That builds energy in a movement."

During his epic walk, he wanted to focus on the issue of LGBTQ equality and tackling society's fear of those who don't fit neatly into the male/female binary. He hoped to bring attention to gender inequality by taking the issue out of insular Pride parades and bringing it into the streets.

"In an insulated environment, we're not tapping into the populace. Walk down the street with a rainbow flag and talk about your issues. We're out, but we need to be out more. We talk about Pride parades and marches, but the media gets to manipulate that by just showing a guy in a thong or a drag queen," he said. "Which is great," he laughed, "but the point is that the media gets to portray it however they like."

"We all have equal power to create our own action," he said. "We don't need to wait for other people to tell us what to do."

On his website, Bounville wrote, "A person's gender identity and gender expression should be decided not predetermined by expectations, but by each of us as individuals... Until that is the accepted norm, we will continue to live in an imbalanced world where people who are transgender are beaten, murdered, and refused jobs, where women are paid less than men for the same amount of work, where men aggress against each other, where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and all people are judged not on the quality of who they are as people but on how 'masculine' or 'feminine' they are perceived to be — and that's just the beginning."

During his walk — which Bounville speculated would last 9-18 months — he also intended to offer free workshops on gender expression and identity, social movements, and civil disobedience. "It is vital that people have the proper tools to recognize injustice and create their own actions that demand the changes they seek," said Bounville.

Ten percent of donations to Bounville's walk would go to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (, an organization that shares the goal of ending gender discrimination.

As his proposed route would take him deep into the South, the SGN asked if Bounville was prepared for any possible confrontations. "Obviously, yeah," he said. "You're walking across the country with a rainbow banner. But people have done [walks like] this before, for many different reasons, and been just fine. However..." he paused. "Well, people are mostly good," he said with a confident smile.

"It's gonna take a long time," Bounville said, "but I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other." As Alan's host, I had the opportunity to accompany him around the Hill. One of our first stops was the SGN offices (1605 12th Ave.), where we met up with SGN staff writer Nick Ardizzone. I then accompanied Bounville later to Lambert House, where he demonstrated the importance of art and activism with an AV presentation. Afterward, we accepted SGN Publisher George Bakan's invitation to food and drinks at Purr Cocktail Lounge. I recall that George was very impressed with Bounville's confidence and wished him well for his journey.

When morning came, Bounville packed up his cart filled with AV equipment and plastic tubs, including one with a rainbow with the words "Into the Light Walk." I promised him that I would publish a series on his journey on my blog, Outview. The following are some of the highlights of that 6,000-mile walk that indeed lasted for 18 months:

  • July 2011: Leaving the NW and heading Southwest

  • December 2011; February 2012: Deep in Texas

  • July-August 15, 2012: Reaching the Atlantic Ocean in Cocoa Beach, FL

  • September 2012: Savannah, Georgia

  • November 2012: Walking in Memphis, TN

  • January 2013: Cleveland, TN to Charlotte, NC

  • February 23, 2013: Arriving in Washington DC at the White House

    As his journey ended, Bounville wrote, "For nearly two years I've been invited as an equal into hundreds of homes across this great land. The walk ends at the People's House, where transgender, bisexual, queer, lesbian, two-spirit, intersex, and gay Americans are still not welcome as equals. The time for full equality is now."

    Update: I had a chance to chat with Bounville by phone this week. When asked about the first night after leaving my Capitol Hill apartment, he responded "I made it to the south of Seattle, and ...under an I-5 overpass, I set up my tent and stayed the night There was one other tent next to mine, and not knowing who this stranger was made my first night a restless one."

    When asked what was the scariest moment, he responded that it was the "hey, homo" story in Florida. From his blog post on July 11, 2012, titled " What you doing, homo?":

    A few minutes prior, the final measure of twilight had passed. I was now cloaked by darkness as I walked on Highway 19 about ten miles north of Inglis, FL. There was nothing out here. I was just about to set up my tent somewhere along the side of the road on this muggy July night in rural Florida when a man in a dark truck yelled these words at me. He couldn't have seen my rainbow 'Full Equality NOW!' signs, I thought. I was walking against traffic, as I've done since a police officer in central Texas stopped me to inform me that pedestrians are to walk so they can see what is coming toward them. Up to that point, I was walking with traffic at my back. 2,600 miles not knowing what was coming towards me! Well, I knew now what was approaching, and I didn't like it at all."

    Bounville, after the experience, had hoped to get his book published but has had a difficult time getting a publisher on board. When COVID hit, he found himself homeless, but also a new mission to feed the homeless in the Catskills of New York.

    He wanted to make sure we shared this message: "We need a nation of people to be helpers."

    Finally, when asked if he would ever go on this journey again, he responded with just "no".