…lived in a red state. Or, I suppose, a conservative state is more accurate. I don’t think that Edinburgh, Scotland identifies as ‘red’ or ‘blue’.
But now here I am in Boise, ID. Bigger than Claremont, smaller than New York. The mountains are brown and I suppose it’s hillier than I anticipated, and hotter, too, perhaps more humid. It didn’t seem beautiful to me. Not enough green grass, or not enough interesting architecture, or not enough colorful flowers. But the sky is bigger than I’ve ever seen it; it stretches miles beyond the next building and I think I know what they mean when they say ‘as far as the eye can see’. The sky is overwhelming in the same way that the skyscrapers are overwhelming. Both make me feel small.
What is beautiful about Boise is the river at sunset. The gnats distract a bit from the surroundings, but on the narrow walking bridge surrounded by dark green trees and stones and water . . . it’s insulated, more comfortable. For me, anyway.
A friend of mine once asked why Obama’s statements regarding the importance of LGBT equality weren’t good enough to consider him an ally of the LGBT community; I pointed out that believing in equality wasn’t the same as acting for equality. But Obama’s made progress, my friend said, he supports same-sex marriage and everything! And at this point, it’s only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legal everywhere, so what are we even stressing about?
I am stressing about the fact that I am a queer woman in a place where I do not know whether my safety will be at risk if I try to be anything but celibate while I’m here. Or if I want to talk about my previous relationships. Or if I want to celebrate Pride, as I have the last two/three years. Or, honestly, if I just want to exist as I have been able to exist in New York and DC and Claremont and Edinburgh.
Walking down the street at night, I am nervous every time a person-I-read-as-male talks to me. It isn’t often, and I’m with other people who seem friendly and ally enough. But what if it comes up? What if he is hitting on me? Every interaction feels as though it could turn from okay to horrible in a matter of seconds. A girl who has lived here her whole life tells me that the only trouble one can get into in Boise is a bar fight, and even then the police tend to be sitting outside in case something goes wrong.
I don’t know how to ask her if she thinks the police will protect someone being beaten because they’re queer. Or because they look different. I didn’t bring any dresses with me to Idaho.
I don’t know if these are all stereotypes that have been ingrained in me by the narrative of queer youth in conservative areas. And young people, I know, tend to be more liberal than their parents and grandparents. Boise Pride will happen on Saturday. There is a website, albeit a poor one, with limited information. But I am guessing that there will be something more authentic about this pride parade, in a state where same sex marriage is illegal and there are no clear rights for people on the basis of sexual orientation.
Is New York Pride even political anymore? It is a celebration, certainly, but who marches in the parade? Churches and banks, my mom noticed. Churches and banks. The religious trying to open their arms when their comrades have brutally shut their doors, and the capitalists, monetizing our attempts to overcome our oppression.
They could fire me for being gay. They could take away my housing. Violence against me would not be considered a hate crime. In New York, I am lucky enough to not have to worry about these things. Even now, I am working on a college campus; it is more likely than not that the people I work with will be accepting and open. But I can’t get rid of this feeling like I’m in danger, like every step I can take without someone figuring me out is a success.
To be honest, it’s quite a change from Feminist Camp.