Conversations Across Borders

by The Beyond Bullying Project Blog


Jessica Fields
The Beyond Bullying
Project Team

I have been talking with
Ignacio Lozano-Verduzco and Izcoatl Rafael Xelhuantzi, colleagues in Mexico City who installed storytelling booths using Beyond Bullying as a model.

We’re writing a paper now about the booths in the US and Mexico—an exciting opportunity to think about how this method of thinking about schooling, youth, and LGBTQ sexuality and gender can travel across national contexts.

As our collaboration begins, similarities are evident: we share a commitment to sexual and gender justice, we recognize the importance of understanding sexuality and gender as they intersect with other categories of difference, and we have a deep respect for one another’s work. Differences are evident as well. Perhaps most obvious is the difference in languages: we rely on human and online translators to help us communicate complicated theoretical ideas.

But literal translation does only so much. Meaningful distinctions lie in our thinking about how to describe the sexualities that interest us. In Mexico City, Ignacio and Xel talk about “sexual diversity” where the US Beyond Bullying team has used the term “LGBTQ.” What we call “the booth” in US sites, Ignacio and Xel call “the cabin” in Mexico City. These differences are not only amusing; they point to different ideas about space, the storytelling experience, sexuality, and difference.

Maybe because we’re working across national and linguistic differences, Ignacio, Xel, and I have been very careful in our writing process. We edit each other cautiously, worried that we might accidentally delete an important idea, misunderstand someone else’s insight, or be misconstrued ourselves. This caution slows us down, and that can be frustrating. Ultimately, though, it points to something I value in my collegial relationships—care. I was aware this morning as I talked with Ignacio and Xel, our faces and voices finding each other through an online video call, that, while we collaborate, our countries are battling over a wall the new US president wants to build between our countries. I treasure the ways Beyond Bullying has brought me into conversation with these Mexican scholars, and I am grateful for our persistent efforts to connect, think, and care across differences and borders. There’s no protection for me and the people and ideas I love in any wall the government might build between us.