Thursday, April 28, 2011

I am writing from a place of dismay. It seems lately that I just can’t wrap my head around some of the things that are going on in the world, and it is prompting me to ask the question: How did we get here?

I was on a road trip to Marfa, Texas. In case you don’t know Marfa, it is a small west Texas town that carries a population of 2,121 and is about 7 hours from Austin. When I say west Texas, I mean west Texas. Like dust and cactus and desert and that dry heat that everyone talks about as not being as bad, but really heat is heat and the sweat produced in my knee pits found no favor in the distinction. But anyways… I was on a road trip to Marfa, and on this road trip there is a stretch of land. This stretch of land spans about 200 miles and within this stretch of land there are no gas stations. Did you get that? No gas stations. So if you run out of gas the banjo ditty from Deliverance becomes the soundtrack for your fear as your car rolls to a halt on the side of the road. But surely that would be something that the state of Texas would warn you about right? They would definitely have a sign posted, right? Apparently not.

Long story short, my sister and I nervously drove off the main highway with the gas light gleaming bright red in search of fuel. We ended up in an even smaller town 12 miles off the less than beaten, beaten path. Only one gas pump was working at the station and after several trips back and forth from the attendant to the pump trying to resolve why the fuel wasn’t flowing, I was getting annoyed. And it seemed I wasn’t the only one. Walking back to my car for the third time, I sat in the drivers seat and was promptly honked at repeatedly by the car behind mine. I looked back to see a woman bearing down on her horn. I quickly got out of the car as I saw that the nozzle was still in my tank. A man that was riding with the woman got out of the car. He slammed the door and walked swiftly toward me while yelling “ Why are you are raising hell for everyone around here?” Everything in my body went into overdrive. I nervously fumbled with the gas cap as he walked even closer, I flashed a nervous smile and giggle in his direction all the while every part of me was hoping I would be done closing my tank and walking towards the safety of my car before he got there. And luckily that’s what happened. I got in and drove off as fast as I could. As we drove further away my thoughts were racing.

What the hell just happened? I was just bullied into silence by a man, by fear. I had any and all feelings of safety ripped away from me because of a perception of my presentation. I am a lesbian. I am a woman. I dress in a less than “feminine” manner and I have a short haircut. In society’s eyes I am an outsider, and there, in that small west Texas town, I was an outsider and was treated as such. You see, for the first time in my life I feel the comfort of self-acceptance resonate in my bones. But my ability to revel in that is continually under attack, and this time it was a direct attack. How could this happen? How could this happen to me? How could this happen in my own state?

How did we get here? How did society get to a point where a person’s safety can be betrayed by their identities, whether self chosen or assumed? Why is it that Stephanie can’t use the bathroom in the Cosmo hotel without being banned for life and charged with trespassing? How does a trip to McDonalds end in being viscously attacked while onlookers choose to film rather than provide aid? Why is it that a bill limiting funding for LGBT resource centers based on the lack of traditional family values centers passes in Texas? Why is it now illegal in Tennessee to discuss any other sexual behavior other than heterosexuality in schools until the ninth grade?

Government officials are viewing the world through their privilege-lined lenses and actively passing legislation that is overtly discriminatory all the while patting themselves on the back for a job well done. The policies they are enacting are coming to the aid of the majority while marginalizing the minority, and I as a member of the minority on many different counts can’t be the only one left disgusted and dismayed. So I will ask it again, how did we get here?

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