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 my swishy, sparkly tendencies were going to be an issue.
The thing about being born queer is you can’t exactly choose where you get to grow up. I was fortunate 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 as much a part of me as anything else, and to deny them is to reject all of the things I loved about my childhood, my family, and my culture.
But in our current political atmosphere, many LGBTQ Americans view Texas and other red states as places that are devoid of any redeeming qualities, too far gone to be worth the trouble. To these LGBTQ folks who reside in blue utopias, I say shame on you for becoming complacent simply because your neighborhood is welcoming.
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 ranch. 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-LGBTQ leanings. I am a Texan and I am LGBTQ. I am proof that the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and there are many others like me who deserve to be able to call their birth state home.
I also have the means and ability to move if I want 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 without. 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 LGBTQ Americans who don’t have the option of fleeing to a blue paradise.
To suggest that LGBTQ Americans in red states should escape homophobia and transphobia by moving to blue states is to deny the immense progress we have made in LGBTQ rights. People’s minds can be changed, and often are by familiarity with what they’d originally feared. Victories can be won in every local and state government, no matter how difficult it may initially seem. Twenty years ago, the state and federal rights we now have were merely pipe dreams, but our community refused to let hate beat out hope.
Today, we are on the precipice of the most important presidential election in our lifetime. Given the realities of our Electoral College-based democracy, now, more than ever, we need our red state LGBTQ Americans to stay put and take their queerness to the ballot box. We have the power to influence our communities and an ability to effect actual change in the numbers game. Without us, the future of LGBTQ rights, even for the coastal elite, is in peril.
So, blue state babies, quit complaining about how you want to secede from the red states and throw your full support behind your LGBTQ brothers and sisters who are still trying to make a difference where they are.