You May All Go to Hell

By

And I will go to Texas.

By MEGAN SIMS

I have a confession. I did not watch the Super Bowl this year. In fact, I’ve never meaningfully watched a Super Bowl in my life. In high school at my grandparent’s house, I would sit in their bedroom doing homework rather than watching football. I have before taken pride in not knowing who’s playing.

I sound like a classic intellectual when I speak about sports. I usually defend myself with a half-baked statement about how I don’t hate baseball. But the truth is, I do not reject football for its baseness (though it exists) nor for the political implications of it (of which there are many that merit critique). My aversion to football stems from a certain fear of association.

When I came to Harvard, I made it a goal to seem as un-Texan as possible. I never dressed much like people from Dallas, and I liked the cold. I’d spent years checking with friends from other parts of the country to ensure I didn’t have an accent, and I cringed every time I heard the word “y’all.” I felt a strange pride when my freshman roommate told me she thought I was from Pennsylvania.

These conscious acts of de-Texanization felt like a way for me to reinvent myself. I came into preparing to live as an out queer person, as radical and political. Texan did not seem to fit with that as an identity, so I tried simply to take it off and forget it was there save for its purpose as the butt of an occasional joke. I started adding my middle name to my byline wherever possible so the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who shares my first and last wouldn’t show up on Google. Although I spend a lot of time thinking about identity creation and the Texan zeitgeist, I always saw myself as removed from it.

Our current political climate, however, has made distancing and depoliticizing identity more complicated. The Super Bowl was held in Texas, a historically red state whose Lieutenant Governor tweeted “a man reaps what he sows” the morning after the mass shooting targeting LGBTQ+ Latinx people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. In such a place of tension, advertisers used Super Bowl commercials to preach a message of tolerance and diversity to millions of viewers. Yet these messages are still through ads, filtered through the system, which is ultimately responsible for many of the dangers faced by marginalized people in America today.

Since leaving home I think a lot about Texas. I watch the rest of the country look on, awestruck, as Texas strips away abortion rights and protection for LGBTQ+ individuals. I’ve never been surprised. I know what it’s like, what it’s always been like. Richard Spencer went to high school three minutes from the house I grew up in. I was born two years before he graduated. I have to wonder if he would have hated me as much then as he does now.

I cannot separate these realities from my identity. I recently read Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera. The prologue explores the story of Texas independence I grew up on from the other side and attempts to shatter the self-aggrandizement involved in the Texan story, a story built on the backs of slaves, of Mexicans, of countless black, brown, queer, and immigrant bodies that never earned a place in my fourth grade celebration of Texas Independence day.

I am a Texan. When I learned where the Super Bowl would be held I made a joke about traffic because I know those roads, know how slow it is coming back on the highway from a game. I’ve grown less afraid of using y’all as a gender-neutral way to address a group. This choice was not conscious. The word simply lost its power to scare me. I am no longer as afraid to reconcile my origins with my sense of self.

Megan Sims ([email protected]) is queer Texan Jew and still learning to take pride in all of those identities and their intersections.