On a March day last year, Richard Noble decided it was high time to take a walk; after 15 months and 2,700 miles, he became the first man to walk across America with the rainbow pride flag.
His journey began in San Francisco, where he spent his first night sleeping in front of the Harvey Milk memorial. Fast-forward to June, when Noble arrived in Jacksonville — after being on the road for over a year — he was greeted at the finish line by the Rainbow House, along with over 100 other supporters to celebrate the accomplishment.
Noble and the rainbow pride flag left San Francisco with hopes of spreading what he calls “the dream.”
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Noble describes “the dream” as full equality and full rights for LGBTQ people everywhere. He made the walk with the American Equality Bill, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The scales of justice are out of whack,” he said. “Because of all of the hate crimes, and suicides, and discrimination, I decided to walk—not just by myself, but with this rainbow flag across America.”
Raising awareness was not the only thing that Noble achieved with his walk; he was also rewarded on an individual level. He describes the journey as “deeply spiritual,” and he recalls spending every morning dedicating his journey to God.
“Because I had to walk through this, I had to keep my mind open, to listening and appreciating the way others live their lives,” he said. “I started to become aware— even when I thought I had nothing, or very little—how much I really had.”
His journey allowed him to run with wild horses, take yoga classes, visit Native Americans, save a cat, go white water rafting and adopt Trinity — a dog in Texas that walked 700 miles with him.
However, the journey wasn’t always smooth sailing for the man named Poo’e’ta’gwena — meaning rainbow — by a Paiute tribe in Nevada.
Noble called his journey through the Nevada desert the loneliest days of his life, and because of his fear of being killed, he carried a .22 caliber pistol by his side.
“I coped with, at sometimes, debilitating fear — fear for my safety and my life,” said Noble, who was not without mechanisms to fight his fears. “I was able to, at those times chant Boy George’s ‘Karma Chameleon.’”
“It would break the cycle of worry and depression,” he said.
It seemed that whenever Noble would enter a dark place, there was a person around the corner to pick him up and help him along on his journey.
There was the transgender woman in Nevada, who took him to REI, bought and bagged 49 meals for him, and buried them in the Nevada desert for him to pick up as he walked through. There was the trucker in Utah who gave him a Jeep walking stroller to ease the load on his back.
There were the people he met on Grindr — a phone application normally reserved for hook ups — who gave him couches to sleep on and food to eat.
These are the people that Noble made the walk for, they are part of reason he was able to make such a walk, they are a part of the reason he was successful and they are why Noble has so much hope for the future. These people are examples of the change that Noble believes are sweeping through America.
“People are becoming aware, they’re tired of the pain,” he said. “I’m seeing that more and more, especially with young people, as I’ve walked across America.”
“That’s the dream.”