In a conversation with one of my oldest and dearest friends, “Justin” (name changed for personal reasons), I’m not surprised to hear his words:
My deepest feelings of “home” are attached to two places I felt supported and secure – and had a sense of freedom: the ghost ranch in New Mexico from ages seven to twelve and New York much later from 1995-2009, where I spent seven and a half years back and forth. There, I felt I could explore who I am and people I was around were supportive. I could be selfish and live for me. I could have whatever bad hairstyle I wanted.
The places I identify with “home” are New York and Hempstead – even though the second was not the city. Our home was in a subdivision inside of town and it represented social problems: racism, sexism. If there was an “ism”, it was there, but that’s where I grew up.
The most important aspect of New York was that I could have a skirt on, wear a weird hairstyle or a nose ring and I could go anywhere. I didn’t feel threatened. People didn’t judge you based on your appearance (that was probably not always true, but it felt that way).
The only reason to call Houston home is that it’s where I sleep. I don’t feel a cultural connection. Given my life circumstances right now, I don’t feel supported and secure even though people are supporting me. The arts scene here is not as exciting as it was in New York. It sounds snotty, but there it was so easy to wake up and there and have at your fingertips things to do. But here, there aren’t many options. In New York, everyone feeds the fire and frenzy there and it doesn’t happen here.
I’d feel more at “home” here if there were more people involved in the arts, if there was complete support of the arts. Right now, here, you could spend a day and not run into people who are in the arts. It’s a small community in a big city. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were smaller towns that feel more artistic.
I do feel that it’s safer here than it was at one time to be gay. I can hold hands and kiss anyone. I see that changing. And all those are such non-issues for me now. I feel more comfortable than my boyfriend, RR, does. There aren’t the same limitations there used to be. I don’t feel I’ll be beaten up.—“Justin”
This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project that is funded in part by the Mid-America Arts Alliance’s Artistic Innovations grant.