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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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