From SF Gay Bubble to Conservative College Station, TX: How One Gay Woman Found Her Core of Queers.

by Ann Gillard

A while ago, I moved from Detroit to a lot of other places and eventually ended up in San Francisco. I just basically thought it was a bubble of gay. Everywhere I went, it felt gay. There were rainbow flags everywhere. All the people that I interacted with personally were very open and accepting of gay. It was just a big gay bubble. 

And one day I’m sitting at my laptop and my email pings, it’s my advisor, and he is telling me, “Hey, there is this doctoral program at Texas A&M University that you would get to study youth development. If you’re interested, go to this conference and talk to the people there and see if you want to apply.”

So I closed that email and I looked out the window at the foggy Pacific Ocean over there on the side, and I thought, “Do I want to do this? What else am I doing in my life right now?” So I applied and I got accepted. I met some people who were there and I really liked them. But people might ask like, Oh, you must have done a lot of research on Texas A&M before you went there, right? No, I didn’t. 

So I arrive on campus. It’s my very first day in Texas, I have to go get my student ID, and so I have to go walk across the campus and find this place with a student ID. But I walk outside the building and it is just incredibly hot. There’s the heat shimmering off the sidewalk. I can barely see even with my sunglasses on because it’s just so bright, and I start looking around because all of a sudden I see these people wearing these brown shirts, and I’m like, What is this?

So they’re wearing these brown shirts, these brown leather knee-high boots with spurs on them. They’re wearing these pointy little hats. So I’m looking around at these brown shirts and realizing I am not in San Francisco, although to be fair, the outfits that they had on with their jodhpurs and the boots could have been at Folsom Street Fair. There might have been something like that, but I didn’t think that that’s where I was. 

If I had gone from that bubble of gay in San Francisco, this was the opposite. There was no gay feeling at all in College Station. I didn’t see anyone around me that I felt like I could have a human connection with. 

So I was walking across the campus looking down because it was too bright to look up, and I see somebody starting to walk in my direction. I kind of peek and look up a little bit, and I’m like, Who’s that coming towards me? And it’s this woman with green hair and an alternative haircut. She’s got piercings on her face, on her eyebrow and on her nose, and I stop squinting and I start to really look up at her, and she kind of is walking in a way that is the walk for a lot of lesbians. We start to come to each other and we look at each other and we give each other the nod, that little half a smile, not a full smile, but just, Hey, I see you.

We look at each other and we give each other the nod, that little half a smile, not a full smile, but just, "Hey, I see you."

And she passed me and I passed her, kept on walking. I noticed that my stomach unclenched. I took a breath. I just felt better. I straightened up my shoulders a little bit and I kept walking, but I no longer felt so disoriented, recognizing that there were people besides these brown shirts – who I later found out were part of this military group of students called the Core of Cadets, which is very specific to Texas A&M. 

I realized that this woman I’d passed, that there might be more like her, there might be more people that I could connect with. You know, I just… I just had this sense of relief of being seen and seeing others like me. 

After that, I was able to find some more gay people and some more queer people, and some very, very accepting people. And so I was able to create my own bubble. I was able to create my own core of gays 

I don’t think I ever saw that woman again. but she came at exactly the right moment in my life and in my time in College Station at Texas A&M to almost like a fairy godmother. She just kind of swooped in and crossed my path literally and gave me that nod, and then moved on. And that’s exactly what we needed from each other in that moment, and I’m grateful that she existed at that time. 

Look up, look around you, find your own gay bubble and whatever that looks like for you, try to be open to whoever might cross your path, because they might just give you that little jolt of queerness that you didn’t even know that you needed.

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