Hi, my name is Karen, and I’m gay and a Texan.
My first girlfriend taught me to notice who was around me before I touched her so that neither of us would be beaten or killed. I thought, ignorantly, that she was being silly. It was 2011 for goodness sake.
But I live in Texas, and Texas is not a friendly place to be gay, particularly if you’re gender ambiguous, which my girlfriend was. This point has recently been driven home. A lesbian couple was killed last Saturday and their bodies left by a dumpster. Two years ago a lesbian was killed and her girlfriend barely survived. There are other stories, but these are enough for me.
I keep hearing the lines from Andrea Gibson’s poem I Do: “People like you aren’t welcome here, people like you cannot work here, people like you cannot adopt.” And they’re all true. Here my home, this place where I was born and raised, this place that runs in my veins, and I am not welcome, I can be fired because of who I am, and I cannot adopt a child out of state custody. I also can’t get married.
And yet, I’m trying to reconcile this in my mind with the recent ruling overturning the ban on gay marriage. I’m trying to reconcile what it means to be a small town preacher talking about sexual orientation from the pulpit.
What is the place I love,
with its rolling hills, forests, vast spaces, beaches,
with its oil, big cities, art everywhere,
with its passion for independence and freedom,
with its stand-your-ground-laws,
with its hatred of me,
with its racism,
with these new cracks in its bigotry
that are making the bigoted corners fight harder, louder, harsher?
I think if I can live through these next few years, this place of mine is going to be a pretty good place for me and people like me. The tide is shifting in the right direction, but it’s knocking people over in the process. This morning my heart hurts for those people. This morning I’m thinking of you, Crystal Jackson and your five year old daughter, whose world was shredded. I’m thinking of you, Britney Cosby.