Ever since I was little, I have been a blue-ribbon homosexual in a bright red state. As soon as I could stand, I wanted to dance. As soon as I could walk, I wanted to strut. And as soon as I saw Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, I knew that someday I wanted to kiss a boy on the mouth. But it wasn’t until the reality of being in Texas came into focus that I realized that my swishy, sparkly tendencies were going to be a problem.
That’s the thing about being born gay; you can’t exactly choose where you get to grow up. I was lucky enough to be born in America, but that is where my luck stopped. My family was from the sticks of east Texas, where there were more churches than libraries and Friday night football was a spiritual experience. But just like my sexuality, I wouldn’t change my Texas roots if I could. They're just as much of a part of me as anything else, and to deny them is to reject all of the things that I love about my childhood, my family, and my culture. But in our current political atmosphere, many LGBT Americans view Texas and any other red state as places that are devoid of any redeeming qualities, too far gone to be worth the trouble. To these LGBT folks who reside in blue utopias, I say shame on you for becoming complacent just because your neighborhood is safe.
The characteristics of any culture are not a zero-sum game. Instead, they are as richly layered as the people who are a part of it. I was born a Texan gay man, and many of the qualities and characteristics of my home state are as much a part of me as any conservative cowboy on the farm. After moving around the globe, I came to the realization that I do not have to abandon my roots just because a small part of what it means to be a Texan can be coupled with anti-LGBT leanings. I am a Texan and I am LGBT, so my living and breathing is proof that this isn’t always the norm, and there are many others just like me who deserve to call their state home.
I also have the means and ability to move if I wanted to. It’s a part of my privilege, which is also a part of the problem in our country. Those with privilege don’t have to concern themselves with the problems of those that don’t. This is exactly why everyone who has the privilege of moving away from their red hometowns should be encouraged to stay and make a difference, both for themselves and for the LGBT Americans who don’t have the privilege of fleeing to a blue paradise.
To suggest that LGBT Americans in red states should escape homophobia and transphobia by moving to blue states is to deny the immense progress we have made in LGBT rights. People’s minds can be changed and victories can be won in each state government, no matter how difficult it may seem. Twenty years ago, the state and federal rights that we now have were merely pipe dreams, but our community refused to let hate beat out hope. Today, we still need to be steadfast in our commitment to LGBT rights across the country, and that means staying put in our red states and demanding respect.
With the most anti-LGBT Cabinet ever forming, it is no time to become complacent in our journey to equality. Anyone who loves the big skies of Texas, the red mountains of Arizona, or the blue beaches of Florida should have every right to feel safe and included in their hometown culture.
So, you blue state babies, quit complaining about how you want to secede from the red states and throw your full support behind your LGBT brothers and sisters who are still trying to make a difference. Yee-haw.
TYLER CURRY lives in Austin and is the editor at large for Plus magazine. Follow him on Twitter @IAmTylerCurry.