“If there’s one big takeaway I want people to remember, it’s that Texas is less toxic than most of the United States,” William Booher says.
For a Native Texan being a fiscal conservative and social libertarian is in my cultural DNA. Keeping the government out of my pocket, out of my bedroom, and off my property line is all I ever knew growing up. As the various factions of the Gay Liberation or Rights movement which celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Stonewall in 1994 were battling for their basic human rights and people were debating if gay people were actually human, most Texans I knew did not understand why it was anyone’s business and certainly not the government’s role to legislate our brothers and sisters sex lives. Texas has always leaned to the ‘you stay out of my business and I will stay out of your business’ attitude. Our state still has a strong frontier mindset.
At Yale in the mid-1990’s there were gay groups, gay groups of color, gay straight alliances, but like many things during that smorgasbord of experiences I never thought much beyond “this is awesome… this is a whole new world (someone que the song). It was such a colorful fishbowl… mesmerizing.
It was not until I was a Summer analyst at Goldman Sachs it became apparent I was living in a bubble and not a fishbowl. As I discovered the Wall/Broad Street lunch haunts I noticed that a set of traders and bankers would all eat lunch away from the typical places on William street behind the building…they actually would go down to Water Street to an outdoor waterfall park. Although these guys were older than me, I recognized them from gay Yale, gay Harvard, or the Chelsea gay scene… they were always kind to me in our fishbowl. I was excited when the first casual Friday came and I had my first Wall Street paycheck. I bought a Gucci top and a pair of purple Versace pants and as I left my Upper Westside sublet and by chance one of the Traders stopped me at the subway stop near my house and said “What the Hell are you thinking? You can be gay dude, but not ‘out and about’” my bubble burst as I went back to my walk-up and put on my khakis and button down.
Over the rest of the summer I noticed a series of homophobic conversations and comments coming not only from the straight senior people, but my fellow gays. And just like that I found myself employing a very important principle… you can be out, but just not about. For our generation it was career ending on all levels… gay, straight, republican, democrat, liberal, conservative alike. From then on I went back to “My life was my life… never make it their business.”
Over the years I learned a series of diversionary techniques when questions of personal life or weekend exploits came up… they could talk about strip bars and trips to Atlantic city with hookers… I talked about dinner with friends and my community garden. As I became a senior leader I proactively shared my life experiences with my gay and lesbian mentees… ending with the fact that my fellow senior leaders and our bosses are those same people and that people who were proud and loud homophobes not just 10 years ago. I just don’t think people can change such fervent positions in such a short time…they learn how to shut their mouths and hide their truth.
So here I am 20 years later running for a public office in Texas as a Republican and asking myself the very basic question: Are they ready? Has society fundamentally changed? I want to say yes, but I get the sinking feeling of being told to go home and change. And not from the same set of society!
Over the last four years I have been involved with the Republican Party of Texas. I have had the privilege of being a precinct chair, acting communications committee chair, lead volunteer for the Greg Abbot for Governor Campaign, the Dan Patrick for Lt. Governor campaign, Senator Ted Cruz campaign, a regional White House Fellow for President Trump, supporter of Ron DeSantis of Florida, I have block walked one-on-one with white straight CEO’s and CFO’s from the some of the largest Houston area companies… all the time being forward with my sexuality and I have only felt accepted and encouraged. So it is not the Republican electorate that I am concerned about.
I am concerned about the intolerance of true diversity in the liberal, progressive and/or Democratic party for anything they find antithetical to the narrative they advance. My experience has been questioned, my authenticity has been questioned, my connection to gay and black issues has been questioned because I am who I am politically. And dare say I have been attacked. It’s as if those who penned the term intersectionality fail to recognize the archetype of it. As a southern, Black, gay, fiscal conservative, social libertarian, with an Ivy league degree, and global outlook I am intersectional… and simply put I am here to redraw the lines of politics.
Our community advocates for diversity and have pioneered that fight in greater society for 50 years, but are we ready for diversity within our community? The diversity that inevitably comes along with a larger role in society. Is there room for both an Aaron Shock, a Pete Buttigieg… and for that matter a William Booher in the politics of LGBT America and America at Large?
Let me know your thoughts.