Yesterday morning we headed to Nogales, a town on the U.S./Mexico border. I was very nervous about how it would go, because everything you see on the news about border towns talks about rampant crime and corruption. When we first arrived in Nogales, we stopped at a McDonalds, and my oh my was I uncomfortable. Everyone there stared us, to the point of almost gawking.. We immediately were reminded of our “buddy rule,” as we expected things to be quite unfriendly. All of the walkers made sure someone else went with them everywhere, even to the bathroom.
We started walking, and had 6 miles planned just for Nogales. What was in store for us in Nogales would break down every preconceived notion we had about the city.
Along the way, we stopped to meet with the Mayor of Nogales. We were so blown away by his reception and generosity. He spoke to us about the struggles and hate passed down by the capital, and we found common ground between our struggle and the struggle of the Mexican immigrants. The mayor asked us to send him information about non-discrimination policies in other towns so that he could bring the issue to his city council.
We were able to further increase the number of people we reached because our fellow walker, Emily, could translate and speak in Spanish to townspeople. We had conversations with numerous individuals, and even translated our chant into Spanish. It was so awesome to see all of the walkers walking through Nogales, demanding equality in both English and Spanish. Individuals yelled back words of encouragement, and it truly felt that we were all one, regardless of our culture or background.
One of the most beautiful moments of my life came when we reached the fence between the United States and Mexico. We were all standing there, taking in the moment, as we stood there looking at one of the most appalling American structures I’ve ever seen. I looked through the fence and saw a little girl, who was probably about three or four. She put her hand up on the fence like she was trying to reach out and touch me. I put my hand out as far as I could and said “Hola,” and she blew me a kiss and said she loved me in Spanish. Her mom turned to me and said “we are with you.” l stood there, looking at this little girl, holding back my tears. I looked at this disgusting fence that separates “us” from “them,” and thought about the struggles that Americans have created for these families—families that just want the same things that we do. They’re fighting the same exact fight for equality that we are. As I stood there, my passion for everything I do was solidified. I saw the pain and beauty in humanity, all in one moment, and I remembered why I fight for human rights and work in health care. I do not know that little girl’s name or anything about her, but I know that image will be with me for forever.
Today were are in Bisbee, and thus far, I LOVE it. I didn’t even know Bisbee was here, let alone one of the best towns in Arizona I’ve been to thus far. I’m definitely “forcing” my partner to come here for a weekend getaway. We just had a meeting with the Bisbee mayor and the director of the Chamber of Commerce, and it was the first time I stood up and stated that I was an openly transgender man. It was definitely a little difficult for me to put myself out there, but I felt that it was important to do so. Loved the meeting, love the town, and the newspaper even took a picture of my tattoo!
We’re off to Tombstone later.
I’ll write more later!