Texas Forever

You’re ruined by the places you leave. Forever. As a Texan who left for Illinois, and then for California, then New York, and now Canada, the hope of Democrats and others on the left is not as surprising as you might expect. This is a dumb post to process a lot of political feelings about Texas.

I was born in El Paso two parents from two families who have voted left for pretty much forever. My grandma, my mom, and my sister all voted for Beto this year. And it’s something of an accident, maybe — my mom’s side of the family is ex-military from central Minnesota, not exactly a hotbed of liberal voters, and more distant members on that side of the family vote Evangelical Republican. My biological father’s side of the family is descendent from witches, a mix of Spanish and Mexican. I’ve known that Republicans were jerks since I really grasped anything about identity and politics. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, from Las Cruces, NM, to Corpus Christi, to Houston, to Midland. When I moved to one of the most conservative counties in Texas, where my classmates didn’t read books, where people honest-to-god believed in school vouchers, where the city was actively dismantling bussing as a way of mitigating a century of segregation, I dropped all features of my Texas English that I could find. I lost my “y’all” and fought for Spanish pronunciations. If this was Texas then I wasn’t Texan.

Texas is complicated. Anyone who’s looked at a map can tell you that. It encompasses 5 states, maybe 6, all of which have a different character, and a dark history of racism and oppression. Explaining to people the diversity of Texas bores them. But it’s there. The election shows it. You can see, feel the different regions in Texas.

In 2005, I went on a tour with my parents to check out colleges. At my dream school, I had an on-campus interview with a guy who was shocked to learn that the cities in Texas voted Democrat. I was so excited about the prospect of leaving Texas, to go somewhere liberal and urban and progressive. And being the rebellious kid we all are at 16, I was angry and frustrated by parents of my classmates telling me I’d love the school and city that I ultimately went to — the University of Texas.

Austin is a city of contradictions. It’s a confusing city because there are so many conservative folks who move there for work. Tons of people in politics. Even there, oil dominates. Let’s not forget all the engineers who make bank, mostly white men, 71% of whom vote Republican. Even people who identify as liberals in Austin are a special flavor of liberal, still believing fervently in capitalism with strong libertarian tendencies. I didn’t know this when I moved to Austin — the so-called People’s Republic — because nobody told me otherwise. I wanted to hate it because I didn’t want people telling me I’d love it just because I was liberal.

In retrospect I took for granted how much being in Austin would remind me of all of the things Texas could be. A state whose population is increasingly brown and black with a complicated history of destruction, what with its six flags and all, could overcome its past and move forward. I wanted so desperately to see the first and second grade lessons that emphasized that even my classmates who looked different from me were worth just as much come true.

Texas broke my heart in 2012. Watching Wendy Davis filibuster to protect abortion rights fucked me up for weeks. Texas didn’t break my heart tonight. We’re sending Latinas to Congress! Lloyd Doggett still has his seat. Austin is growing — because of Californication, sorry locals — and margins in surrounding districts are feeling it. Gerrymandering be damned. And so, y’all, even though Beto lost, the size of the margin is worth celebrating. Wendy lost by 20 points. I’m still shaking, I’m still angry. But I can’t wait to see what else we can do.