Last fall, I began to hear rumors that there was a young transgender girl at my hometown elementary school and that an advocacy group from out of town was coming to show that “letting boys in the girls bathroom isn’t a part of our Texas values.” To be frank, I was terrified that my hometown, Dripping Springs, Texas, was going to cave to this group and be the next in a seemingly unending line of small towns across the country getting national attention for discriminating against young transgender people.
I was so scared, I wrote to all of the members of my school board on the bus to work, saying: “At the end of the day, this girl is already heading into a world that isn’t quite ready for her. It is your responsibility to at least continue to offer this girl baseline protections like the ability to use the bathroom in school. Her body shouldn’t be a political issue and a collection of adults bullying a child shouldn’t be what you, as a community leader, should stand for.”
I heard back, not only with a thoughtful email from my school board, but loudly from the members of my community that bullying young people because of their identity isn’t one of their Texas values. My hometown stood up to these people, the school held firm in their support of this young girl, and they pushed the group out of our town. I have never been more proud to be from Dripping Springs, Texas, in my life. It is humbling and emotional to me to see this kind of movement and progress in my hometown, a place that did not even offer a Gay-Straight Alliance upon my graduation in 2015.
What’s more is that this movement to rally the troops around LGBTQ people didn’t stop there. When the Texas legislature began its attack, first on transgender people and our ability to use the restroom throughout the state and lately the ability for people like me to adopt children or people like Mack Beggs (the impressive wrestling champ forced to wrestle girls because state policy hasn’t caught up to his trans athletic talent) to compete in school sports, my hometown was mobilizing every step of the way.
My mom would text me to say she was working with groups to set up meetings with decision makers about harmful policy or that she was signing my name on a postcard to our representatives urging them to vote no on SB 6 or to withdraw their support of HB 3859. She was meeting so many people willing to give their time and energy to protect not only children, but their grown up neighbors too.
It became clearer and clearer to me that despite the trouble I had in school with bullying and exclusion in the years prior and the hateful messages coming from the Texas legislature’s war on LGBTQ people, particularly transgender folks, Texans, even from smaller towns, were passionate about being on the right side of history. And I want nothing more than to be a part of it.
I didn’t use to think so, especially after I graduated from Dripping Springs High School, but I desperately want to come back to my home Lone Star State after graduation. I want to be surrounded by people who are passionate about being kind, about knowing their neighbors, and about making their voice heard.
However, I don’t know that I am willing to risk putting myself and my family in the position to be discriminated against or to face harm because of who I am or who my spouse is. I maybe want to go to grad school. If I don’t, I want to work in LGBTQ advocacy. I want to get married someday. To a woman. I want to have kids and coach little league and be a part of a PTA and experience all the things that the average American spouse and person gets to experience. The way that this legislative cycle is going and the hateful things that come out of the mouths of our representatives, I’m not sure I’ll have those opportunities if I come home.
I don’t think expecting to be safe from violence, to not get fired for who you are, what you look like, or who you’re with, and to have the same rights to parenthood and general life experiences as other people are “special rights.” I want to do amazing work and I want to do it at home; I want to make our state a better and more inclusive place. It seems like the average person is with me on this too.
Now, all we have to do is convince those elected to serve us that we matter, that the voices of our supporters and allies matter, and that Texas is best served by a community that values the rights of the different kinds of people within it.