Thank you to James Villanueva of Slaton, TX who wrote this great piece about the walk for Outwest Lubbock and The Slatonite, Slaton’s mainstream newspaper. Take a look at what James had to say about the walk.
While sitting in a cafe in Amarillo with my host Steven, we calculated that in the 2000+ miles I’ve walked so far, I have taken over 7 million steps for gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation equality. This realization made me think that either I truly am dedicated to this mission, or I’m just plain crazy! I hope the former is the case.
As soon as I finished walking over the Rocky Mountains, the cold came in full force. And it’s been a challenging couple of months since. I’m doing my best to find places inside at night since the night time temperatures in the plains are below freezing most nights at this time of the year. Fortunately, once I reached south eastern Colorado, I turned south and am now just north of Lubbock, Texas, and walking south as fast as I can! Enjoy the photos and captions below. And thank you to everyone who has helped this walk continue on its way!
I was picked up outside of Denver and brought up to Laramie, WY for the U of Wyoming's Ally Week. Here is a shot at Laramie's first Pink Prom.
Civil Disobedience Workshop I facilitated in Laramie, WY.
More from the Civil Disobedience Workshop in Laramie, WY.
On the U of Wyoming campus sits a bench in memory of Matthew Shepard.
The Matthew Shepard bench.
(l to r) My co-hosts Jeremy & Chuck and Kayla from Laramie. I don't think I got a photo with Aimee and Kevin, my other co-hosts.
Back in Denver I took Chuck and Kayla over to the Occupy Denver protest. I just can't get enough of Occupy!
More from Occupy Denver.
One of my hosts in Denver, Alice and I after the first big snow of the season - IN OCTOBER!!!
I passed this pay phone (one of few left I'm sure) on my way out of the Denver area.
I LOVE prairie dogs, or whatever these critters are called.
(l to r) Emily, Ken, Kenny and myself. They, along with Caitlin were also some of my Denver area hosts. Cat is best friends with Bonnie Rames, who was one of my hosts in Oregon! I love how the connections keep growing.
Passing a Halloween festival.
Halloween night I was able to get a cabin at the Yogi Bear Campground between Denver and Colorado Springs.
Under an overpass I saw these features. Are these nests for some kind of bird?
Chris and I. Chris and John (and their incredibly lovable dogs, Maddie and Max) were very supportive hosts from Couchsurfing.org. One of many kindnesses they showed me - Chris made me lunches for the days I walked in their area.
Colorado Springs Couch Surfing folks (l to r) Me, Kareena, Scott, Marc, Kareena and Nicole's Couch Surfing guest (I'm so sorry I forgot her name) and Nicole
One of my Colorado Springs hosts, Lisbet's television 'cover.' I love this message!
2nd Occupy protest I cot to visit - Colorado Springs. I walked right to it!
More from Occupy Colorado Springs.
This was incredibly moving for me - I got to visit with friends who live in Co. Springs that I knew when we all lived in Orlando (l to r) Me, Madison, Anna and Marcus. I miss you all already!
Lisbet and I as I was staying goodbye.
Lisbet's cool artsy car.
The message Lisbet painted on the side of her car.
Some funky looking cacti as I headed south out of Colorado Springs.
The longest mural in the world in Pueblo, CO. It's awesome! Thanks Johnmark for taking me down there!
Johnmark by the mural.
One of the oldest sections of the mural.
Once or twice a day I see trains full of coal ripped out of the Rocky Mountains and carted east. When are we going to switch to renewable energy? This sight is very sad to me.
Outside a store in downtown Pueblo.
Performing When People Lead in The Senate bar in downtown Pueblo - thanks to Jenny and Johnmark for setting this up!
The audience for When People Lead in Pueblo.
Mike and I after the show.
Me, Tennille and Dillon. Tennille and her fiance Angela hosted me and got me my 7th or was it 8th pair of shoes - I keep forgetting how many I've burned through. And Dillon walked with me for a day.
Dillon pushing the cart. I LOVE when people push the cart!
Angela asked me if there was anything special I wanted to eat. I told her I loved the Cajun Chicken Eggrolls at Cafe Tu Tu Tango. Voila - she made them! They were AWESOME!!!
Bye bye shoes Anne and Pam got me in Salt Lake City. I left them with Tennille and Angela after they got me the new pair.
I loved this sound wall outside Tennille's neighborhood.
Bye bye Rocky Mountains. Hello flat land.
Where all the magic happens - Chuck's Place in Avondale, CO.
Todd and Susan, some of my hosts in Avondale, watching me perform When People Lead in Todd and Ron's living room.
I met Roy Gleiter (second from r) on Hwy 50 outside of Pueblo. He has been walking with the HUGE cart behind us since he lost his home in Gulfport, MS after Hurricane Katrina. One of my hosts, Cameron McCoy is to my right, followed by some of Roy's supporters.
Cameron wrote his name on Roy's cart, something hundreds of people have done.
My name written on Roy's cart.
The area of Roy's cart where Cam and I signed.
Entering Flowler, CO.
The bank in Fowler. It looked cool. I learned that until the 90s, this town had laws against folks of Latin American descent allowed on the streets at night. RACISTS!
Entering Manzanola, CO.
Las Animas, CO - Yay! I'm under 4,000 feet above sea level!
Sign of a church I passed by.
The prairie at sunset.
More of the beautiful sunset.
Two-day-old goats I saw at the general store in Hasty, CO.
I met (I forgot her name! I'm so sorry!) and Rebecca in Hasty. They and Colleen from the general store helped get me settled in for the night behind the general store.
The -35 degree MASSIVE sleeping bag the folks in Hasty let me use for the night. It made the 20-something degrees outside the sleeping bag just disappear.
The dam down by the Arkansas River south of Hasty. The folks took me down there to check it out.
A long, flat dirt road.
I left my mark on the dirt road.
The only business in Prowers, CO - a seasonal yoga studio. Crazy! And too bad it wasn't open!
Deer on the prairie.
I can't get enough of the sun setting over the plains.
Night night world.
Gobblers Knob at night. It's a rest area with these cool rock formations. Hehe - a rest stop called Gobblers Knob. Yeah, I bet there's no connection there.
My host in Springfield, CO, Gloria Jean's adorable kitty, Ruby.
Gloria Jean and me.
In the distance, Two Buttes.
For Thanksgiving, Cameron from Avondale, CO came and got me so I could spend Thanksgiving with him and his family. Thanksgiving morning, they put me to work bailing hay. It was so much fun!
Here Cam is running the bailer. After he taught me, I took over.
The view of the bailer from inside the cab of the tractor.
Bunnies at Cam and John's in Avondale.
Dakota, the horse at Triple Acres Horse Rescue I rode the day we rode into town to get a drink at Chuck's Place.
Cam and John's dog, Luna asleep on my lap. I miss little Lunatic a lot!
Cam, Susan, Ethan and I went to Bishop's Castle for an afternoon. This place is crazy. Check out the story behind this place here - www.bishopcastle.org
View from the top of Bishop's Castle.
Looking up at the towers and crazy metal work from below.
Cam brought me back to outside of Springfield, CO where he picked me up. The next day I met Randy Boehmer, an Arizona man who has been traveling the country in a mule cart since 2008. Randy gave me $20, paying it forward as he said to me.
Me standing with Randy's mule and cart.
A photo I accidentally took of myself while walking.
The flat landscape.
Campo, CO after dark. Damn it! I climbed back above 4,000 ft above sea level. RRRRR.
Sign on the side of a semi trailer as I was leaving Campo. BTW - the folks in Campo were great! The BBQ place gave me free dinner both nights I was there and my hosts put me up in a spare home they have.
Walking into Boise City, OK I saw this store. It was a good omen, since Anne and Pam from Salt Lake City put me up in the motel in the town this night.
Passing over the Beaver River, which is dried up this time of year. I'm so immature some times.
My savior from Stratford, TX, Cece. Thank you Cece for helping me get through the harsh weather in this region.
One of the ministers at a Stratford church brought me back to the walk route one day.
WELCOME TO TEXAS! YEEHAW!
Another childlike moment. I wanted to see if I could write my name, in cursive in the snow...with my urine.
Just a photo of the top of the cart on a typical day. SOMEONE - CLEAN UP THIS MESS!
The plains get boring at times. So, I'm trying to find ways to keep myself occupied.
Melted snow = nasty mud on Equality Cart's wheels.
Welcome to Stratford, TX! Home of the weather dramatically changing every five minutes.
Anne and me (She was another wonderful host in Stratford, TX).
Cotton on the side of the road. It's everywhere because this is cotton country.
Shoes Tennille and Angela got me in Pueblo bite the dust.
More great Stratford hosts, Connie and Shannon.
Welcome to Cactus, TX.
The Great Cotton Pyramid at the cotton gin.
The huge 'bails' of cotton brought to the cotton gin. Trucks were zipping by me all day to deliver cotton to this place.
Hello from Dumas, TX!
Cameron McCoy from Avondale, CO informed me that Dumas is the home of the Ding Dong Daddy. Hehehehehehehe.
It's hard to see, but the tiny black dots are geese. They are flying over head every day now.
A cold, nasty, windy 27 mile day from Dumas to the Canadian River, where I slept for the night.
Wind power - the clean, renewable present to grow our future.
Sunset on another day - but still a handful of miles to go.
A poor deer lost its life tonight. I'm glad though it happened before I came upon it and the car that hit it.
An officer (one who stopped me earlier in the day) pulling the deer off of the road.
Where I slept before - under the bridge by the Canadian River. It got down to 34 degrees during the night.
While under the bridge, I met Morse. He's lived under the bridge for 8 1/2 years. He helped me set up my tent in a place safe from ATV traffic and told me stories about his colorful life.
One of the many Stanley Marsh inspired signs around Amarillo, TX. This one, right in someone's front yard.
Steven, my host in Amarillo and me. He walked me out of town after hosting me for two days of great fun.
A stoneworks company south of Amarillo. I'm in Texas for sure!
I have to say, this is a horrible name for a cemetery. I can see hospital conversations now, 'Grandma, it's OK. You're going to Dreamland!'
Gustavo, one of my hosts in Canyon, TX spent the day walking with me. We had lots of fun.
Gus vs The Tumbleweed.
Tumbleweed head fashions.
Gus and I make it Happy, Texas with smiles on our faces.
My Canyon hosts (l to r) Diana, Kyle, Gus, me and Andy celebrating my fake birthday. Gus made the servers sing happy b-day to me (my b-day is in Oct.). It was hysterical.
continuing south through Tulia, TX.
Another accidental photo that came out kind of cool.
Grain elevators can be seen in every town in these parts.
Edgar and me. Edgar has been a HUGE help getting from Kress to the Lubbock area. THANK YOU EDGAR!!!
A shop south of Plainview, TX. Here, I'm questioning what exactly IS a girl thing. It's time to expand beyond the gender binary that causes harm and violence towards people outside of this rigid structure.
Edgar and our host David. Edgar is playing with some of David's 'toys.'
Edgar rode in front of me one walking day. It was like our own country road equality march!
A closer look shows Edgar with a balloon for our parade. Wait, that's not a balloon. Keep your safety products with you at all times kids.
I want to say thank you to the thousands of people who have helped keep me walking. Whether you have provided me a piece of fruit on the side of the road, found me a place to sleep at night, fed me in your home, come to see one of the plays I perform while walking, been part of a workshop I’ve done while walking, given me donations of money and goods, given me words of support, followed this journey online – whatever you have provided, I want you to know I appreciate every act of generosity. Every time someone gives of themselves they become part of this walk. I can continue to walk walk only because of this help from new friends, old friends and strangers. Again – Thank YOU!
This post comes from Tamara Jeanne. She shared this story on the Into the Light Walk Facebook page and has agreed to allow me to post it here as well. Thank you Tamara for sharing!
By Tamara Jeanne
I’ve found that being able to have even brief conversations with people who are willing to at least listen to a short trans 101 discussion can have a profound impact on helping them to understand what trans people like myself have to go through to be true to ourselves and can be surprisingly very productive. When I decided to commit to transitioning on Dec 20th, 2007, I decided to be completely out, open and honest about my transition. At the time that was a very scary choice for me to make, it was a leap into the unknown for me. I had reached the point where it was ether transition or perish. In my journey to transition over the past 4 years, I have been amazed, blessed and rewarded in ways that I could never in my wildest dreams have ever imagined back when I started. All for just being out and open.
I live in South Dakota, a state that is rather conservative to say the least. Yet to my surprise, so far I have not had any real harassment beyond a few unintelligible shouted comments from a couple of cars passing by while entering a local LGBT bar back when I first started out.
My story is a bit atypical to that of so many of my trans sisters. While like many, I’ve been mostly unemployed since I came out and started my transition. I’ve been fired from at least one job because I’m trans and am fairly certain that I have not been hired for several jobs since as well. In July of 2008 I was severally injured while working at a part time job working as a stagehand at a out door concert. It took 6 months of healing and physical before they could even do the surgery to reattach the muscles in my right arm. Then another 6 months of PT to mostly recover. The accident also left me permanently disabled. After my unemployment and work comp ran out a little over 2 years ago, it has been a major struggle for me to be able to keep from becoming homeless. The past year has been the hardest, I came withing hours of being evicted from my trailer home (which is paid for in full) for nonpayment of lot rent. Thanks to the support of some very good and accepting friends, that didn’t happen.
While that maybe a bit of a sad story, becoming disabled has had a very real silver lining for me. I allowed me to start living full time and I has allowed me to start working to become an advocate and activist for trans equality here in my state. Currently I am the only trans here in my state who is. Surprisingly, it was my therapist who first began encouraging me to consider becoming an activist. She started introducing me around to other equality activists and things have kind of taken off from there.
The single most incredible thing that has happened to me because of being out and open happened to me on Feb 9th, 2010. Completely on a whim, I decided to accept an offer to attend the 2nd Annual South Dakota Equality Summit at the state capital. I only attended, because was able to get a free ride and didn’t have to pay for any food. (I was to broke at the time). That spur of the moment decision has had a profound and very literally has had life changing effects for me. After I got off the bus that had taken us to the state capital, a series of nearly unbelievable coincidences started happening to me. The first was that I ended up sitting next to a man who turned out to be a former democratic candidate for governor. I introduced myself to him as being a trans-woman right off. He commented that he was ignorant about trans people and I cracked a joke “Well at least there is a cure for that” which got a heart felt laugh from him. We’ve been friends ever since.
The day before the summit a bill that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the states non-discrimination law was shot down in committee over the inclusion of GI in the bill. The people from the states chapter of the Family Research Counsel used the potty panic argument to derail it. During the discussion, the idea of dropping GI from the next attempt at the bill was proposed. As the only trans person to participated, I made the argument that a SO only bill still would leave many LGB people without protection. The reason being, is that most anti-LGBT discrimination is based on people’s perceive of LGBTs gender expression. A SO only bill would only protect straight passing LGB people. It would do little or nothing to protect effeminate gay men or masculine lesbians. My arguments won out.
Now I had only attended this meeting just to see what it was all about and was not a scheduled speaker, but about half way through the itinerary is where my story about my participation in the summit took a truly amazing turn. At that point it had been planed to show a couple of short transgender 101 films to cover trans issues. However, for some reason they weren’t able to get any sound from the video projection system. On the spur of the moment, the director of Equality South Dakota asked if I would be willing to get up and give a trans 101 talk. I accepted. So without any preparation what so ever I got up and briefly talked about trans terminology and issues, followed with a description of my life’s experiences growing up transgender. By all reports I’ve had since, my talk was the highlight of the summit.
I have had my life changed and very likely saved as a direct result of that unplanned and impromptu talk. Since that talk, I have been asked to do public speaking on trans issues many times, including this past Feb at the South Dakota School of Medicine to 80+ premed students. But the single most amazing thing to happen to me because of attending the summit was that about a week after the meeting, I was contacted by an LGBT ally who had been there with an offer that completely stunned me. (I should mention that I am intersexed and while its not certain, there is a good chance that I have Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) as I exhibit many symptoms of that condition including sever sinus and respiratory problems. As a result of this, I need to have surgery every few years on my sinus’s to remove growths that keep coming back and completely block my sinuses. It had been over 10 years since I had last had this surgery as I had been without any health insurance for that time. As it had been so long since I last had proper medical care for this, my nose was becoming disfigured and I was suffering from a non-stop sinus infection. As I later found out that the condition was on the verge of becoming life threatening. I was at high risk of the infection eating its way through the thin layer of tissue and bone that separates the sinus cavity from the brain. If that barrier were to become breached and the brain to be infected, it would become 100% fatal.) The offer made by this person that stunned me was: First that they would pay for the desperately needed sinus surgery. Second, that they would help me with one of the costliest, but absolutely essential steps in transitioning, facial hair removal. Third, that I keep their identity anonymous. And fourth, that I pay their gift forward in some way. As I am unemployed, disabled and soon will be living on Social Security, it is unlikely that I will ever be able to help anyone out financially. However, because of the events I just described (as well as several others), I find myself in a rather unique position to be an advocate and activist for trans equality. And this is how I hope to pay my benefactor’s incredible gift forward. Since then, I have had several other things happen that will make this possible. Earlier this year the regional ACLU office contacted me to request a meeting with them. At that meeting they offered to sponsor me in the creation of a 501c3 to advocate for trans equality and also to help me with doing all the work needed to complete my legal transition. As a result, in July I completed my legal name change and am now hard at work on getting Trans-Action Dakota started. In August I was awarded a full scholarship to attend 3 days of much needed LGBT activist training with GetEqual. I have recently applied for a scholarship to help cover the cost to attend the Creating Change conference in hopes of getting more activist training. With a little bit more luck I hope to be going to it. It would give me not only much needed training, but also provide the opportunity to establish contacts with many other activists and many of the national LGBT organizations.
To sum up what has become a much longer post than I had intended, it is amazing what can happen as a result of being out, open and being willing to talk to anyone who is willing to listen about trans issues. I’m living proof.
Good luck with your continuing journey to help raise awareness of trans issues.
Moments of pure joy.
Fascinating people everywhere.
Stories abound from town to town.
Stories of lives lived, being lived, wanting to be lived.
Secrets shared, past pains exposed.
Validation and encouragement given and received.
Sense of accomplishment after performances or trainings.
Feeling like a failure.
The smell of onion trucks.
The smell of pine trees mixed with the smell of salt water.
The smell of dirt.
The smell of salty sweat.
The smell of not showering.
The smell of flatulence in a tent.
The smell of livestock. Crops being watered. 100 or 20 degrees.
The smell of the continental divide – crisp.
The feeling at the continental divide – can’t be explained…yet.
The persistent pain on the bottom of the left heel.
Each. New. Blister.
A different spot to sleep each night.
Learning that most everyone keeps the trash under the sink, out in the open or in a closet.
Feeling increasingly more at home anywhere.
The people who beep, sometimes seeming to scare, sometimes seeming to support.
The white males who seem so self-assured that white males are the most oppressed group.
The restaurant server or campground manager who freaks out over a cart with rainbow signs on the side.
Those who assert being gay is a ‘choice.’
Feeling unsafe when people assert being gay is a ‘choice.’
A racist Mormon.
Feeling alone. A lot.
Being alone. A lot.
Wanting to fall in love.
Afraid of love.
Enjoying intimacy on occasion.
Talking out loud to one self.
Calling Dad, sisters, all family – old and new.
Thinking about lost family and lost loves.
Thinking about family who are lost.
Dancing and singing, oh yes, dancing and signing while walking, when alone, when with others.
Music blaring on the IPod electrifying legs into a sprint.
Reading. A memoir, books on social movement theory, occupy, Occupy, OCCUPY!
Bursting into tears when changing time zones, realizing the toughest terrain is in the past, after looking another parent in the eyes who has lost their child due to hate.
Wondering what happens in the next hour, day, five years.