Queer Texas Rep. Mary Gonzalez Is Hope and Action and The Coolest Politician Ever

I’m going to apologize in advance for not being able to write an unbiased political piece. It’s hard to separate my feelings from the facts and faces I come across, especially when they strike me as deeply as Texas House Rep. Mary Gonzalez. There are people that feel like family and simultaneously embody the type of woman you admire and want to be like. Mary is one of these women, for me at least, and I’m thankful and excited that she’s chosen a career in politics. I do feel a responsibility to not just wax poetic about how great she or anyone else is without reason. The decision to believe in someone and connect to their political ideology isn’t something that should ever happen without serious reflection and investigation. It’s so easy to not do any of those things. It’s much easier to look at the checked boxes on Mary Gonzalez’s life profile and just think she should be the candidate that runs for leader of the free world. Check it out.

Mary Gonzalez:

Female
Queer
Latina
Democrat
Very Cute = Ohmahgawds, she’s just like me! She must be perfect in every way!

I’m training myself to step away from those assumptions. It’s way more important to discover what motivates someone to act. Especially when their actions affect a large group of people. So in the spirit of queer politics and truth spelunking, I contacted Rep. Mary Gonzalez and we had ourselves a good old fashioned Skype interview. And like all good things, I get to share the goods with all of you.

 

7 Reasons Texas Rep. Mary Gonzalez is the New Face of Good Queer Politics

*note: for the purposes of this piece, “queer politics” is defined as a political ideology based on transparency, a connection to people and policy making that is based on the actual needs of the constituents, aka politics without douche bag based bullshit.

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Siete – “Radical Queer Feminist” + “Pansexual Femme Latina” = Swooning over Mary.

Gabby: Ok, I felt really bad about labeling you as a “lesbian” when that’s not at all how you identify. I was so so glad you joined our comment thread to show love and give us the proper terms. So let’s talk about pansexuality and labels and things, girl.

Mary: I came out initially as bisexual and I knew I had to challenge this ‘Tila Tequila’ model of what that entailed. Me being out has always been part of this political process, like constantly trying to promote social justice, and when I started dating some transfolk they would challenge me and call me out on unintentionally reinforcing a gender binary. By saying bisexual instead of pansexual, I was promoting a binary model of sexuality and not representing the full spectrum of who I am and the people I loved. So, I’ve always just been searching for the right language to respect my reality and those that share this world with me.

Gabby: Jeebus, I love the way you talk.

Mary: (laughing) It’s the language that is important and it’s been really difficult for mainstream media to understand. They have no basis for the words I/we choose like “queer” or “pansexual.” They’re not going to use that language which is why it’s so important that we do.

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Seis – Family Values

Our Sykpe session didn’t take place with Mary sitting behind some grandiose oak desk with an American flag backdrop and a picture of Margaret Thatcher on her desk. There were no aides running in and out asking her to sign this or that. The President was not waiting on the other line. Although, Obama if you’re reading this, you really need to step your game up — none of that fancy shit. This interview happened from my bedroom and Mary’s mom’s living room.

(Note: top sign of a keeper chick — she loves her momma. Ahem.) During the interview, one of Mary’s little sister’s darted into the room and kinda waved at me all while Mary was discussing the concept of liberation politics. Upon realizing we had an audience, Mary didn’t flip out and chuck the kid out of the room. She was super gentle and awesome and asked her sister if we could have a few more minutes. Being the oldest of eleven children has certainly imbued Mary with patience, diplomacy and empathy to those in need and to just people in general. This might seem like a silly note or maybe a moment of unecessary gushing, but the way people treat their family, in my opinion, is super crucial to their ability to treat people with respect and/or not being a complete sociopathic D.

Mary and me doing the damn thang.

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Cinco – Broke and Still Busting Her Ass to Change the World

As a Texas House Representative, Mary and all the other reps make only $7,200 a year. (Not including the per diem $128 a day rate for the days when the legislature happens to be in session.) The year before her campaign, she was teaching and earning a PhD, making $17,000 with $10,000 of that going towards tuition. Yeah, look at those numbers. Business people and etiquette people feel like numbers are inappropriate to discuss but no, fuck that, this is real life. This is Mary’s real life and she had a campaign to fund and a family to help support. So. Yeah.

Mary: I was living in a semi-struggle and still teaching. Part of what I liked to tell my students, at the time, was that this country tells its young people ‘Go to school, get a job and you’ll make money’. I hate that discourse. For me it’s like, yes, go to school if you want and then just find your own way to change the world. That may mean you have to make personal sacrifices. We never ask young people what they are willing to sacrifice to make the world better and that’s one of the biggest problems in this country.

Word.

Sidenote: Mary’s campaign almost crumbled due to lack of funds. When discussing this with someone also running for a particular office, Mary was told: Well, just use your trust fund to loan your campaign the money.

Side eye

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Cuatro – Depression Happens to the Best of Us

I playfully asked Mary if I could be the person who chronicles her time in the White House — you know, for like when she runs for president, wins everything and then we’re both power queer BFFs in my fantasy future world. But I didn’t get the laugh I wanted or the response I expected.

Mary: You know, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I mean sure, I’d love it if it was you chronicling me but I don’t see that for my future. It’s a struggle because part of me knows that I need to have political aspirations that are higher than this office but… can I be totally transparent? At the end of this campaign, I went through this huge depression. It was just so hard and it was the worst experience ever and so I just don’t know how much I could personally give. I worry how much I could give to all this important work without losing myself, especially at the Presidential level. The real goal is for others to come forward and do the work they deem necessary and important. There are others like me, like you and they just need to keep coming forward so we can do this work as a collective.

Gabby: Yes, girl, yes. How did you get through it?

Mary: I read and did a lot of writing, found myself in a lot of coffee shops, just trying to process everything.

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Tres – The Gay is the Thing Until It’s Not

If all you watched was the local news or maybe CNN or FOX or something equally as terrible, it might seem like the only newsworthy topics regarding the LGBTQ community are as follows:

1) Who hates us now
2) Where we can get married
3) Bullying Ruins/Ends Lives

This is not to make light of the damage done to the body and soul via constant harassment, nor is it to devalue the importance placed on marriage equality or the work done by those who believe in it. This is only my comment on the limited scope of GLBTQ news presentation, which also underscores the multiple values in our diverse community.

Mary’s politics include these issues but also delve into deeper waters. Her current campaign is focused on strengthening the infrastructure-based needs of her constituents. Before everything else, her top priorities are providing and improving basic water utility structures, securing funding for better education and the continued development of the East side of El Paso, among other things. I think the combination of all of these specific issues is what makes for good queer politics. So I asked Mary what she thought.

Gabby: Would you say you’re queering politics?

Mary: I’ve actually never said that and I think it’s pretty radical. But I think it’s pretty accurate to what I’m trying to do. It’s going to GLBTQ functions and talking about race, and people who are differently abled and their needs and talking about all of these specific things (water, energy etc) and even talking about my issues with depression. These are all things that don’t get talked about in a really transparent way and I think that’s so important to being in the queer world: honesty and transparency, because that’s where we find our liberation.

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Dos – Come Out. Come Out. Wherever you are.

Mary came out at the age of 21 while pledging for Kappa Delta Chi chapter at the University of Texas at Austin. Oh and now she’s their National President. First, though, whenever anyone mentions sororities, I think of this:

I know, I know, that’s me being judgemental and crap. Whatever, when I think of the ever necessary “queer safe space,” sorority isn’t the first word that comes to mind.

Gabby: So when I think of sororities I think of very white, hyper-hetero, alpha femme, not queer friendly spaces. Maybe that’s my bias…please, tell me, the what and why of you pledging.

Mary: I joined my sorority in undergrad because I was a director for 34 Latino organizations. There were 12 Latinos fraternities and sororities and I was having a hard time connecting with them. I felt like I had to join an organization to connect with them, with this part of my community. I’m not gonna lie, it was really difficult in the beginning. I was a huge activist at the time and my activist friends felt like I was selling out.

Gabby: Whoa. How rude.

Mary: Yeah, right? You know with Latina sororities, they are powerful. They mobilize. They organize. They develop consciousness. I think about the women in my circles who, without the Latina sorority, might not be connected to their/our Latina identity and have a space to discuss our issues. It’s our job for those of us who have a critical consciousness to go into these spaces and infuse them to move beyond these heteronormative ideas of Latina identity. So I get in there and work on trans-inclusion policies, promoting social justice components, and you just see the shift in radicalness. We can choose not to engage with these parts of our communities, but they’re going to exist. We can either transform them to be progressive or we can allow them to assimilate into traditional mainstream Greek life.

Gabby: Snap. Snap.

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Numero Uno – Humility

Gabby: What can we do to help you? What can Autostraddle readers do to help?

Mary: I can’t even ask for any help for me, really. I’m chair of the board of directors for allgo, Texas’ QPOC organization, and we’ve been going through some funding struggles. I normally would be out there raising money for allgo, but I just can’t do what I would normally do because I’m trying so hard to do this and be House rep. So maybe your readers would be interested in helping allgo.

Bonus: Mary reads books. Don’t you love it when chicks read books and send you quotes? I do. Here is one of her favorite quotes:

“You say my name is ambivalence? Think of me as Shiva, a many-armed and legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in gay world, the man’s world, the women’s, one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist, and the occult worlds. A sort of spider woman hanging by one thin strand of web. Who, me, confused? Ambivalent? Not so. Only your labels split me.”- Gloria Anzaldua

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Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for Autostraddle.com while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabrielle has written 72 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. Thumb up 6

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    Wow, I don’t know much about American politics and how big/important a House Representative is, but I’m impressed that Autostraddle got an interview with an elected politician!

    I’m even more impressed by Mary Gonzalez, though – by all the amazing things she’s done at such a young age, and all the things she keeps fighting for. There are far too few people like her in this world, but I’m hopeful that her fire will light a spark in many people’s hearts and inspire them to better themselves and our society. I know it inspired me.

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      So there’s the national House of Representatives, and then each state has its own House of Representatives (or similar parliament-type deal) that do most of the governing for the state. The representatives are voted in based in districts, which vary in size but generally are like a couple smallish cities or so. According to wikipedia, the Texas House has 150 representatives, one for each district. Hopefully that should give you some idea!

      And yes, she is so impressive and kind of exactly who I want to be in the future.

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      You beat me to it =) That kind of made me wince a bit, too, only because I’ve heard that argument too many times.

      It’s fantastic that Mary identifies as pansexual, but identifying as bisexual does not imply binary-only recognized genders.

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      i don’t know what to think half the time about any of our isms or -alitys. but i do enjoy reading what everyone else thinks/feels about the subjects that help define us.

      i feel like mary’s words came from the people in her trans community and i don’t think they meant any harm. i think our language structure, as queer identified people or insert how you identify here people, is constantly changing, along with the reasoning behind those changes. always in motion. always checking and retracing and adjusting our steps.

      which is fucking good.

      the words we use right now will seem fucked up, archaic and senseless in twenty years even though we’ve come up with the best reasons to use them but that doesn’t mean we should ever stop re-defining ourselves, our lives and how we want to be addressed.

      thank you for the link. i thank all of you for just saying what you feel in these comments. know that whenever i post something, i’m always checking and seeing what I can learn from all of you.

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        dinorawr & Paper0Flowers corrections stand whether or not Gonzalez intended harm.

        The fact is “saying bisexual [promotes] a binary model of sexuality” is a widespread biphobic myth that we all have a responsibility to shut down, especially in queer spaces. Gonzalez has caused harm and you have dismissed that.

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    Love this interview! It’s so great to hear about politics that I normally wouldn’t be aware of, and Marry seems like she’s amazing! I also love how she talked about being in a sorority–I’m in one, too, and I’ve found it’s hard to balance being in “Greek life” (with all the stereotypes and realities that entails) and having an identity that isn’t traditionally associated with “going Greek”. Reading about Mary’s experience was really reassuring and inspiring!

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    An amazing interview with an amazing woman.

    Also, this may be one of my favorite quotes of all time now: “We never ask young people what they are willing to sacrifice to make the world better and that’s one of the biggest problems in this country.”

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    This is so amazing, I’m sharing it with whoever I can. The topics you brought up with her are some that I think are not talked about enough, especially regarding sororities. This one hits home for me, and I’m always hoping there are strong sorority women engaging their fellow members and bringing up (sometimes tough) topics like LGBT issues and race. There is a lot of discussion to be had here and a lot of work to be done. Go Mary go!

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    whoa, this is awesome. i’m curious–how did she get out the vote to get elected? i have a hard time understanding how she would present herself in a non-threatening enough way to obtain votes. i lovelovelove her honesty and transparency, and i would so hope that our politics can go the way she is approaching things. but it doesn’t seem to. so what did she do that worked??

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