I live about 15 minutes from downtown San Antonio. Going downtown is an easy drive that I undertake multiple times a week. I usually stick to hip neighborhoods because literally driving in the downtown area is tricky. I am a beast at finding fun things to do. (Just ask Tiff: I found a cool, inexpensive play to see in Baltimore in a matter of hours and I don't even live there.)
I am certain I am biased towards cities because I am queer. Ever since I came out, I yearned for the neon lights of New York and the power lesbians of Los Angeles. Every show I watched, every book I read, every magazine I flipped through reminded me that I was MISSING OUT BIG TIME. It seemed that all LGBT people lived in a few fabulous cities. They had the most political clout, funnest places to meet up, most extensive resources and best overall experience. I couldn't wait to bust out of San Antonio and enter the major leagues of queerness. Only then would my sexuality stop being such a hulking "issue."
Little did I know I would get rejected from 7 colleges and end up at Duke University, my North Carolina wild card. I love Duke University and the community I have. Though Durham is a pint-sized city that most Dukies fear, it is a major hub for queer women. Do I want to stay in Durham? Probably not. I think Washington D.C. would be better suited to my career goals. But I want to leave my future location unresolved. I'll go wherever my life leads me, whether it's Portland, Boston, Berlin, Beijing or Augusta, Georgia.
Many of my relatives live in the country. They don't understand why anyone would live in a city. Whenever I express my distaste for the country, my parents remark sternly that some people prefer it. They want to be able to fish any time. They want wide open spaces to themselves. They want to see the stars. Maybe it would be nice to have natural beauty to go to when the bars close. Throughout my life many people have reminded me that you can truly feel alive in a small town. My city chauvinism is astounding and will be difficult to undo.
I know I would be incredibly lonely if I lived far away from civilization. Yet I often stay home and read a book rather than go out. I don't take advantage of all the amenities my city has to offer. How useful in an awesome alternative theater when I don't feel like making the drive? Or, more often, when my friends can't afford to buy tickets? How fabulous is a metropolis when you don't have any meaningful relationships? When you're sick from the pollution?
I'm trying to dissect what I want from a city. Do I want access to every type of restaurant imaginable? Yes! Do I want to meet diverse groups of people? Certainly. Do I want to experience cutting-edge art and design? Of course. Do I want access to a large public library? Don't get it twisted! I definitely do! When I get in my "pro-city" mentality I can't see much of anything else. I don't realize that I experience more cutting edge art and design through the internet than in person. While San Antonio is a major city in its own right something about it feels limiting. It may be huge geographically but it's not fulfilling in other, subtler ways. This is less about San Antonio and more about me. Until I find the city that feels like home I will keep searching.
Which is why I half-decided to stay in San Antonio this summer. Most of my family lives in Central Texas. Though I fantasied about moving up North in high school, I know that leaving my family will be a slow and painful process. I have friends who need me right now who won't take kindly to me running away from them. I have half-entered the real world and feel like I need to realistically assess who I am and where I'm going. If I can't do meaningful academic research in San Antonio, why would I assume that I would do it in Boston? If can't meet new people in San Antonio, why would I meet them in New York? If I can't find fun shit to do in San Antonio, why would the fun shit fall on my lap in Chicago? If I can't handle being called a "dyke" in San Antonio, why would I handle it with perfect poise when I'm in Portland? Of course I'll discriminated against in all of these cities. Of course I will encounter homophobia. Sometimes I get to thinking the grass is the perfect shade of neon green everywhere but San Antonio.
I stayed in this city as a challenge. I mistakenly believed that if I left San Antonio I would be able to achieve my dreams. I feel profound satisfaction that San Antonio seems riper with possibilities because it means I have acquired better eyes and better tools. I am fortunate to be from such a culturally complex city and near my family. Whether you are in New York City or the middle of nowhere this summer, I encourage you to take advantage of your location. I know what it's like to find your home stale and limiting. Keep searching. And if all else fails, there's always the internet. I am so excited for the people going to South Africa, England, China, Kenya, Ecuador, Vietnam, Tibet, Germany and everywhere else in the world this summer. I can't wait when I too will be able to say I am going to [insert awesome country here] to do [awesome thing.] For someone like me who is so internationally minded (I have a world map on my fucking wall!) staying in my hometown for the summer sounded completely counterintuitive. That's also why it makes perfect sense.
Back to the LGBT message: I firmly believe that no part of America should be left behind in the quest for gay rights. While I can't blame anyone for flocking to a "gay mecca" the migration of LGBT people to certain cities just serves to make the less desirable places even less desirable. If it wasn't for natural beauty, family connections and moving for jobs I fear that some places would lose all their LGBT citizens. I know I'm a hypocrite because I have have an escape plan in my back pocket. Who knows, maybe I won't have to use it.