QTPOC Are Working Hard for Change in Texas. Our Lives Are Not Punchlines for Clicks
When Hurricane Harvey came to Texas in 2017 it caused tremendous pain and substantial damage. The natural disaster remains etched into the memories of people living in Texas. Homes were destroyed and lives were at risk, especially for people living on the margins of society. Even today, communities are still recovering and they will be for some time.
While the disaster was happening, I remember the myriad of jokes, memes, and bad hot takes from non-Texan Queer mutuals, academics, and influencers. They were attempting to use this moment for rather selfish reasons under the shield of humor. The jokes were not lost on me; I get it, Texas as the Red state — white, colonized, deserving of contempt. It is important to remember that many Queer and Trans people of color; the working class, Indigenous communities, the homeless, people with disabilities, and those at the intersection of marginalized identities were all affected by Hurricane Harvey.
When that insensitive commentary was critiqued, the response was that it was meant for the “other” Texas. The discourse on social media during Hurricane Harvey and shortly after revealed the latent classism, racism, and elitism that now needs to be brought out and complicated. The sweeping narrative of Texans as backwards and deserving of tragedy is callous and ignorant. This was a critical moment that revealed the slippage in attitudes towards queer and marginalized communities in Texas that requires attention and introspection.
I have the right to feel hurt and angry. This is a very awkward position to be in. I am not defending the state of Texas, but the nuance of QTPOC life. What I hope to achieve is to leave with a lesson that goes beyond the message of “Don’t forget, queer people live here too!” or the cliché story of “Despite adversity, the queers persisted.” Instead, I want to offer a short story on the complexities and negotiations of living as a queer person of color in the state of Texas.
It wasn’t until later in my life that I learned San Antonio has a vibrant queer night scene. Even if I had known earlier, I doubt my teenage self would have mustered the courage to find a good lie to tell my parents about why I wanted to spend my time in those spaces. But I explored queerness in more subtle ways. In my freshman year of high school in San Antonio, I met an amazing person who introduced me to Yaoi. It was not my queer awakening, but it was dangerously close to it. Despite a close group of friends — whose queer and Trans identities manifested later — the only person I knew to be out was the tough tia who lived with her “friend” in Chicago and was openly lesbian. And by openly, I mean the family doesn't actively talk about it and she was always on thin ice. But she had “the look,” a resistance that I came to respect.
Latinx family history is both intimate and deeply rooted in politics. Machismo and homophobia work together both loudly and without sound. Constructed as sores and tears, the family tree does its best to remove its queer branches. I have three lesbian tias living in Saltillo, yet there is an accepted unwillingness to acknowledge their existence. Maybe no one else remembers, but I think of them far more than the other family members from Mexico that my parents swear I met as a child.
My paternal grandfather, who I assume lives on a ranch far away, was both respected and feared — a true machista. It’s whispered that he was a domestic abuser, so much so that one of my uncles took the last name of his wife instead of carrying on his legacy. The person who could not accept that egregious break in tradition was my paternal grandma, his mother. My maternal grandma has four daughters and one son who married his barber. I have two brothers and two sisters; one sister came out a year later after I did. Together, our queerness cannot be ignored. This short glimpse into my own family history illustrates the complexities of breaks in tradition, resistance, and the bindings of homophobia and oppression.
Like living in the state of Texas, there are diverse and powerful queer communities. Powerful because we must resist these oppressive structures. Sometimes it is an overwhelming and constant struggle that takes its toll, but we must remember there is more to a people than their struggles. I can only speak for my life living as a queer person of color and its full of searing complexities, beautiful potential, and full of life. Through it all, we make our way and we transform the spaces we enter.
For me, this has meant pursuing policy changes that will make LGBTQ+ life better and more sustainable in Texas. A conversation I had with my Representative at the Texas Capitol in Austin best encapsulates the sentiment in a powerful way.
“And what do you hope to gain from working at the Capital?” She asked.
“Well… we do need more gay representation and rights” I responded in a joking manner referring to myself.
She laughed and nodded approvingly, but I was absolutely serious. This exchange happened a few weeks before the creation of the LGBTQ Caucus in Texas was created and I am proud to have been there to witness it. Normative institutional critiques welcomed, it was a crucial step for queer representation in Texas and it was transgressive. Of course, there’s far more work to be done — but I challenge you all not to forget: we’re here. We’re working hard for change. And we refuse to let our lives become a punchline for clicks. My QTPOC family is making a way out of no way, and our experiences will not be forgotten or patronized.
About the author
Luke Hernandez @lukio_andrews_hernan is from San Antonio, Texas and is an aspiring Queer poet. Currently, he is majoring in Mexican American and Latinx Studies with a certificate in LGBTQ Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Always passionate on uplifting queer poc communities, Luke works at the Gender and Sexuality Center at U.T Austin and is proud of all the amazing work the center has done. Luke is a McNair scholar and has done research on sexual and gender representation in online video games and plans to pursue a doctorate degree in Media Studies.
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