Alan Bounville is not an activist. Really. How do I know? He told me so. Really. And given that he isn’t an activist, he sure is a busy guy doing amazing things that most people attribute to activists.

I’d say he is sort of full of shit. He is very much an activist, but his point in not accepting that title, and the way he goes about doing what he does is truly amazing. More activists need to pay attention to him, and not be activists either. Alan models a way of getting engaged to create change that can work for many people, and as those many many people start being similarly engaged, everything is going to change. Full equality will be the result.

My interview with Alan Bounville is linked here, so you can get it straight from him, but I’m going to try and paraphrase a bit, and then tell you about Alan’s latest project called “Into the Light.”

Alan describes himself as a person who is engaged in creating change, rather than as an activist fighting for any specific cause. Being an activist, almost by the very nature of activism, means that you align with an organization and/or a cause. In other words, it is “extra-curricular” to your every day life, and part of thew work of activism is all about getting people to commit to doing this stuff which is above and beyond their everyday life. But someone like Alan, looks for actions to take as a part of their everyday life that will make a difference. These actions can be small and simple, or dramatic and profound, but they are done, not because an organization calls for them, but because you, as a person want to be engaged in creating change, and you recognize the value of acting, as an individual, to make change.

Activism, by its nature seems to include or depend upon organizational structure. We see this in many non-profits that some hold up as the agents to create equality. One of the largest, and frequent target for criticism, is the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Critics claim that so much money and effort go to simply keeping the organization functioning, rather than to create real equality. Being involved in several organizations, I wouldn’t say that organizational structure or involvement is a bad thing per se. But an approach like Alan’s cuts through that stuff and individuals get engaged very directly.

I’m not big on pitting these two approaches against each other. I think we need both rather than one or the other. In fact, I think that we may see that activists working within large organizations may be more successful as more individuals work as “not an activist” like Alan.

Over the past couple of years, as I have woken up and realized my voice is as meaningful as anyone’s in this fight for full civil rights, I’ve found myself many times confronting individuals and organizations within and without our movement. Upon my honest, yet sometimes abrasive sharings, I have found myself over and over shut out of spaces. What I mean is, I’ve challenged status quos all over the place. I’ve challenged my family after they voted against my equal rights in 2008. I’ve challenged groups like the National Organization for Marriage, various elected officials taking action against our civil rights and individuals and groups in our own movement who choose a competitive, censoring approach to social movement.

On a meta level, we are trying to build a social movement based on a ‘no, but’ process instead of a ‘yes, and’ philosophy. And if we really want our vision of a better world and a bigger and faster movement to become a reality, a major but relatively simple paradigm shift must take place.

This difference is not merely a semantic one however. Becoming focused on engagement (as a not an activist) rather than focusing on the outcome is a meaningful shift in perspective.

Alan’s current project is called “Into the Light.” It is described:

Into the Light – Beginning in May 2011, a group of walkers will embark upon a journey from the Pacific Northwest of the United States, walking 6,000 miles to Washington DC. The walkers will hold numerous candle light vigils along the trek at the specific places where people have been murdered or have taken their own lives due to gender expression/identity discrimination or bias. Providing gender expression/identity workshops and civil disobedience trainings along the way and theatrical performances inspiring people to walk into their own light and true potential, this 9-18 month journey will help raise up more voices in the effort for full social and legislative equality.

I think this is an awesome project and well worth supporting in many ways. Listen to the interview with Alan, as well as check out the website for Into the Light. Get engaged in the process that is making equality a reality, no matter what words you use to describe yourself.

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