Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Southern Hospitality

Y'all Are Gay?  How I Made It Out of Texas Alive - StacySaysIt - Stacy Snyder
The South.  Never had I really spent much time there, outside of coastal vacation spots.  Maybe, subconsciously I knew there wasn’t anything there for me.

Four years into living in Texas, residing in a north Dallas suburb with an above-average median income, an over-the-top approach toward lifestyle spending, deference to giving children whatever they want, and ignorance toward diversity, I was ready to get back to reality.  I didn’t want to “start working on it” or “get the ball rolling.”  I wanted to run like hell back to a city, a real metropolis with diversity and multi-cultural dynamics.  

My girlfriend, Katie, and I moved ourselves, our infant daughter, Isabelle, and golden retriever, Hoosier, from Chicago to the Dallas area in the early summer of 2004. No matter how I phrased it (partner, girlfriend, life-partner, lover, domestic partner, etc.) no one in Texas could understand our relationship.  

Nine times out of ten, southern folks would say, “Nice to meet you.  Now who is your husband?”  

After introducing her or telling them about my girlfriend, they’d smile, and then ask, “But who is your husband?”

Sometimes I’d get questioned two or three times for clarification, and then when they finally showed a morsel of understanding, they were speechless.  Occasionally we got people who never understood at all and ended up calling us sisters.  Then there’s the parent at our daughter’s school who always referred to me as “that other woman who says she’s Isabelle’s mom.”

Even though our friends and family from Chicago and San Francisco told us we were crazy and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, when we moved we were still shocked at the lack of understanding regarding our relationship from our new neighbors, co-workers, and the general public at large in Texas.  Both Katie and I had lived in various cities around the country (Indianapolis, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Portland) and had thought nothing of picking up and moving again, even though we each had spent more than a decade in Chicago.  I'm a Midwest girl from Indiana and Katie was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Our acquaintances warned us about discrimination, hate crimes, good ol’ boys, and other roadblocks holding up our success in the red state, but we truly were not worried in the least bit.  

After all, it’s part of the United States, right?  Texas isn’t a third world country or a dictatorship…..it was just another state….just another state of its own that we quickly found out operated like its own country (or continent for that matter) and actually had a huge following of residents who whole-heartedly were prepared to secede from the union of the United States!

I had moments of feeling comfortable in my surroundings in Texas, but they were pretty far and few between.  The original transition to Dallas brought about the desire to sample the local scenery, from mechanical bull-riding at the famous Gilley’s, to concerts and two-stepping at Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth.  Texas and The South in general, would throw me these little nuggets of exclusivity every so often that I cherished.  I wouldn’t trade in those experiences for anything:  to wear a cowboy hat with your swimsuit, to jack your hair up sky-high and paint yourself for the back row just to go to the grocery store, or to pair cowboy boots with your cute little dress.  It felt a little like fitting in, but only cosmetically, as you’d still have to drive home on the George Bush Turnpike and pass the anti-gay marriage signs posted in your neighbor’s yard at election time.

----excerpted from my yet-to-be-published memoir Y'all Are Gay? How I Made It Out of Texas Alive, which chronicles all the crazy, ass-backward people and things my family and I encountered in our five year residency in a northern Dallas suburb.  The real story, though, pokes fun at my own ridiculous ideas of what the world is and how I fit into it.

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