Betty: Ok, I’m Betty, and I am 63…live in Central Texas.
Dora: And I am Dora, and I am 47, and live in Central Texas.
Betty: Well all our friends say it’s, it’s backwoods. Or it’s…what do they call it when they come out here?
Betty: Yeah. They say it’s…but we don’t think of it like that at all. It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, it’s away from the city noise and you can just kinda relax and…
Dora: You can sit on the porch and have your coffee in the morning and watch the birds and the horses and the cows, and sometime there’re even deer, you know down at the pond…it’s…it’s God’s Country (tears up)
[How do you identify?]
Dora: It depends on who we talk to.
Betty: Or who we’re around
Dora: Mmhm, cause, it’s a, it’s a conservative area. And, so we, in a lot of ways we don’t, we just identify as a couple, we don’t, you know, put any other labels on that.
Betty: Yeah we don’t carry any banners, and we don’t carry any kind of signs, that just pull us out, or recognize us out of a group on purpose. You know, we just are ourselves.
Dora: Mmhm, what you see is what you get, type thing
Dora: I grew up in a small German community in Central Texas, and my father was a farmer and my mother was a schoolteacher, and, it was, it was a good life. They taught us how to work hard and be proud of what you had.
Betty: And I grew up along the coast, so therefore, we did all the fishing and all the water sports, water skiing and just, anything that involved boats, fish, seafood. (laughter) Anything like that, then that’s where we were. [And what did your parents do?] Actually they, there was a chemical plant down there, and that’s where they worked.
Dora: I have a older brother and a older sister
Betty: And I have a couple a sisters
[When did you first know you were gay? ]
Dora: For me, I would say I didn’t know what it was called, but probably in elementary school. (Betty laughs). I knew I had crushes on the little girls, but my best friend, I had, there was a black boy and a Hispanic boy and myself, and we were like the three amigos. And the teachers knew where one was the other one was, and, but, always had crushes on the little girls…I just didn’t know what it was.
Betty: I was in high school. Cause I was very sport oriented, so I was basically, I, I could see all the other girls and the coaches and this and that, and I knew what was going on, but, I just didn’t know that, um, I should be a part of that. But…anyway, I was! So…and totally enjoyed it! (laughter)
Dora: She’s bad!
Dora: I came out to my family when I was sixteen. So all of my family knows, and most, pretty much all of our friends, most anyone who’s worked with me at work for any extended period of time knows. Because, you know like, like Betty said, we don’t do the banners and advertise but if people ask questions and they’re asking a question in a way of, about my life that’s not derogatory or mean or anything, because, they wanna know…maybe they have a child that might be going through things, or maybe they are or whatever…I’ll be happy to sit down with them and talk. So, just, I’m out to most people, but very protective though, you know of…I don’t advertise.
[I should have said in the beginning if there’s any questions you don’t want to answer you don’t have to.]
Betty: This is probably one I should stay clear of.
[What was your coming out experience like?]
Dora: Oooph…uh…rough! Very rough.
Dora: Very unaccepted. You know my mother being a schoolteacher and I happened to go to the same school she taught at, and, it just, it wasn’t well received. It was…you know I was forced to go to a psychologist, you know to change me. And after about the third time the psychologist said, “There’s nothing wrong with you. I wanna visit with your parents, and so when are you coming next?” And I said, “Well you just said nothing’s wrong with me so I don’t need to come back.” So I didn’t. But, it was very rough. [And that was all when you were a teenager?] Mmhmm. Very hard, because I just always felt like I never lived up to expectations and you know my lifestyle was condemned and could never bring anyone that I loved to the house. It just was, it was hard. A couple of people in school knew. Not very many. I hid that, cause I was also in athletics and the coach was very homophobic, and made it known. So, it was, it was not a pretty thing. The only thing that saved me was that I was a good athlete. If I’d a been one that wasn’t very good, she woulda probably kicked me off the team and different things like that.
[Do you think that living in small town made it harder to come out than it would have been if you’d lived in a city?]
Dora: I think so. I think if I’d a been in a bigger city, it would have, I probably would have had more resources. And possibly even my parents woulda had more resources, to help them with things, and they probably would have been exposed to it more, before I came out to them. Yeah, I think so, probably woulda been different, living in Houston or even Austin, or D.C. or wherever. Yeah.
[What do you think is the largest struggle facing LGBTQ folks in the U.S. today? And then do you think it’s the same or different for rural LGBTQ folks?]
Dora: I think prolly the biggest issue, now, is with the current topics of just equality. Whether it’s through being able to marry and have that be recognized, and have all the perks that heterosexual couples get, whether it’s taxes or… I was telling someone, a friend of mine the other day that didn’t realize if something were to happen to me and I’m in ICU in the hospital, Betty has no right to come in there! Unless she’s my power of attorney for healthcare. Legally she, they don’t have to let her in the room! And people don’t realize they take little small things like that for granted, and that, that to me is a big issue. That’s something that we all face. And, just in smaller rural areas, you’re gonna have people who are more…well…maybe not? Well, in some ways you’ll have people that are more conservative and may not be exposed to gay people, and they may be more prejudiced, but yet, you know where we are we have some people that I’ve been shocked that have been very receptive. And…
Dora: Accepting. So I think it’s all in the, it’s all in the person. And it’s also, we don’t shove anything down anyone’s throat. So you get to know us for us and then maybe you find out that we’re together, and people are like “Oh, well, no big deal, we know them.” So they get to know you as a person first and not, you’re not labeled.
Betty: Yeah, cause I think if we were labeled first, I think like the neighbors and stuff would totally…reject us and just kind of ban us and shun us and whatever, but since we don’t go around advertising it or, flauntin it so to speak, like she said we just…
Dora: Yeah, and instead we get calls: Can you come over and help me with such and such? Or can you…I sprained my ankle will you come help me with this? Or…take me to the doctor. And, if they didn’t like you as a person, they wouldn’t call and ask, cause these are older people.
R: How do you feel about being gay and country?
Betty: I love it.
Betty: Cause you, you don’t have to worry about the…Ohhhh, how would you put it where you have to dress up and you have to be all….
Dora: Right, it’s ok to be in boots and jeans and a hat, and you know, riding a horse
Betty: Prim and proper
Dora: Right, right. My mother called the other day “What’d you do this weekend?” Oh, we cut some more trees down, and…
Dora: Firewood, for firewood we take to her, or for us or whatever. It’s ok to get dirty and um it’s a good excuse I guess. (laugh)
[How does your rural community/small town treat you in terms of you being gay?]
Dora: Well it’s a don’t ask don’t tell situation, that’s for sure, but, we have been very well received, and everyone’s just been incredible.
Betty: I think where we get our haircut, I’m pretty sure that woman knows. Like Dora says, it’s a don’t ask don’t tell type a thing, but I’m pretty sure she’s not clueless.
Dora: And our, our 86 year old neighbor asked, how long we’ve been together.
Betty: So… they’re accepting. But, it didn’t start out like that. Like Dora said they got to know us first as individuals, and then it just evolved that we’re ok, and we’re not gonna bite anybody…or what we are is not gonna rub off (Laughter). Right! They’re not gonna catch it, exactly!
Dora: Although we’ve been told their daughters are envious, because they have to deal with their husbands and they don’t like that (laughter)
[You said you’ve lived here about 3 years?] Betty: mmhmm, always been in the country though, right? Always…just at this particular place. [Before you moved here you were also out in the country?] Oh yeah, it was even bigger, and more property, and just more stuff, that that you know that you do…more rural stuff than this. This is almost city to us.
Dora: But it’s funny when we have friends over we try to get em home before dark because we’re so far out.
[So they don’t get lost?]
Betty: Yeah, or deer, we’ve got deer and hogs that come out and cross the highway.
Dora: We have about 15 acres and live in a log house, and, it’s nice. There’s a pond, and like I said you can sit on the back porch.
Betty: Stocked with catfish.
Dora: Yes, so we go fishing. And watch the animals, and watch the birds I love feeding the birds, and watch the horses run and play.
[How many horses do you have?]
Dora: Five. Some we train and some we ride.
[You want to talk about the rodeos at all?]
Betty: Well, we started out with just going to watch because we thought that would be a comfortable place to go, and just where we could just sit, and enjoy each other’s company, where we could at least touch. And…just be at ease. [And so that was at the Texas Gay Rodeo?] Mmhmm. And so we started out just watching, and then once we went and watched it looked like it was a lot of fun so we thought we’d enter.
Dora: Yeah, we said, we can do this!
Betty: Yeah! So we started entering, just one event is all we did. We just started small, and, just so happened Dora was really good at this event, and she ended up being like in the world finals! So, anyway yeah! So it was pretty cool, so we were excited, and so we just kept going back and going back. We would travel, we’d pick certain states to go to…Colorado, Oklahoma, and course here in Texas, and it was another one…Louisiana? Or, I can’t remember, anyway. And then we figured then the next year we would avoid those states and try different states and go to different ones.
Dora: Yeah, cause our goal is to go to Calgary.
Betty: Yes, we wanna go there, so bad.
Dora: Cause it’s like a week or two week long music festival, rodeo…
Betty: It’s a big deal.
Dora: Yeah, that’s our goal, we may shoot for that next year.
Betty: And the people are so friendly! I mean they just came up and are so accepting of new members, and not just from Texas, I mean, our best friends were from Tennessee.
Betty: and Canada! Yeah. And so every rodeo, we kinda looked for each other and this and that and you know, sat with each other, and cheered each other on and this and that. So it was a very good venue for camaraderie and just getting to know a little bit more about the different areas.
Dora: It was nice.
[And when did you start doing that?]
Dora: Two years ago?
Betty: No, longer than that, I think, wasn’t it?
Dora: Three, yeah three. We did it a couple, and we didn’t do hardly any this past year, so, we hope to pick it back up again.
[So you met people through the gay rodeo you could go and visit?]
[And so, you’d take horses with you?]
Betty: We didn’t, but you could, a lot of them did, but that’s a very big expense, and it was more than…
Dora: Yeah we didn’t have that much time to take off and so we either drove or flew. It takes awhile to haul animals
[Did you both grow up riding horses?]
Betty: Yes, I did. I’ve been on a horse, or had horses, all my life.
Dora: I had one growing up, but Betty was on ‘em more than I was.
[And did you always keep horses ever since?]
Betty: Mmhm, I don’t think I’ve ever been without, at least one, so.
[How did you guys meet?]
Betty: Actually it was at a party, just a random church party, and…just talking and visiting about the horses and stuff. And just wanted to, Dora wanted to come over and see the horses, because she was interested in purchasing and buying a horse and she didn’t really know what she wanted or what kind or whatever. So I told her I could, I could help her, or show her some stuff, or… So we just, saw that we had mutual interest in the horses basically, and that just grew, and voila.
[And how long ago was that?]
Dora: five years
Betty: yeah, five years.
[When do you feel the most proud to be gay?]
Betty: That’s a good question.
[Or do you]
Dora: Yeah…one time years ago I did a march on Washington for aids research. When George Bush was in office… George Bush Senior and, I was very proud then, because it was a large group of people and we were doing that for a good cause. And then, also when there are people who are gay that are out and they do things to help other people. You know, I’ve been watching the lead up to the Olympics and how Billie Jean King is working with them, and the things that Ellen DeGeneres does, you know gives things away to people to help them through hard times. And, even though they don’t know me, it’s a certain pride there. Because it’s not just some stereotypical person and they’re…they’re this bad person that’s always labeled as a pedophile or whatever. That, it makes me proud when people are out and they stand up and do the right thing.
Betty: Good Answer.
[What she said, right?] (Laughter)
[When do feel most proud to be country?]
Betty: Oh, all the time.
Dora: Oh yeah.
Betty: All the time.
Dora: Country when country wasn’t cool.
Betty: Yeah. Yes.
Dora: That’s right.
Betty: It doesn’t bother us at all, we go to ball games, we go to wherever, and we’re just in boots and jeans, hats whatever, it doesn’t matter.
[When are you happiest?]
Betty: Hmm…that’s a good question.
Dora: Wow, that is a good one!
Dora: Um….…… I think when we’re working with the horses, together. And we’re helping each other and things, things are clicking…not only for us…but for the horse.
Dora: It’s, it’s realizing the lesson!
Dora: That makes me feel good and real happy, because we do enjoy doing things together and, it’s not a fight to do something together.
Betty: Or, yeah, or a hassle, or a whatever. We look forward to doing things together, so. Whatever it could be, whether it’s working with the horses or goin you know…
Dora: Goin grocery shoppin even. Whatever it is! We just enjoy being together. It’s nice. Hadn’t had that before.
[This one you don’t have to answer…so I’ve interviewed a lot of younger people, and…]
Dora: That was good.
[And, one of my friends said I should ask people if they want kids or a family, and if they think that would be harder to do in a rural area than in a city. But, you don’t have to answer that if it feels too…]
Betty: It could be, it could be, no, that’s ok. The rural part, really can be a benefit in some ways because, you can teach a child so many things
Dora: Work ethic
Betty: Work ethic, yep, and just responsibility and just being accountable for animals or whatever. And you’ve got certain chores they’ve got to do and this and that. But then also if they’re involved in things, then it can be a headache because then you’ve got to drive so far to get em to their ballgames, or dance recitals, or their piano lessons, or whatever, so it can be difficult that way.
Dora: Right, and, in my case, I have a 15 year old son, and my ex and I had him together, and it got to where she lived in town, in a city, and, it got to where it wasn’t as fun here for him, because you come here and on the weekends, you have things to do, and it’s not video games, and it’s not running the streets with your friends or whatever, so it got to a point where he didn’t want to come.
Betty: And there’s no concrete, so there’s no skateboarding, there’s no bicycle riding there’s no street.
Dora: Right, it’s a different…it’s a different culture! But, I think in the long run it’s a good one because it does teach… if you have an animal that is totally dependent on you taking care of them, it teaches you responsibility, and it’s a good thing I think. But, like she said, if they’ve got something in town or something, then, it’s harder. It’s harder on the parents and in some cases harder on the kid. But, I wouldn’t have traded my upbringing for the world. I mean we lived outside of town and I think that’s why I like cartoons now because I didn’t get to watch em much as a kid. We were in the fields and you worked on the weekends, and you had chores after school, and in the summer, you were definitely in the fields all day. Or doing whatever, but it taught you how to work and take care of the things you had. You didn’t take things for granted as much. We did corn and grain sorghum and wheat, not a lot of cotton, Dad didn’t like to mess with cotton. But we did a lot of other things like that.
[What do you think, I don’t know if you have, but if you had tried to raise a kid together in a rural area here, do you think that would have worked?]
Dora: I think so if we had done it together, because, we’re both disciplinarians.
Betty: We’re on the same page.
Dora: We are definitely on the same page with what to do.
[And how bout for the community’s reception of your family, or the kids experience?]
Dora: Oh I think that probably would a been hard here.
Betty: Yeah that’d been a little tough here, yeah.
Dora: Right here, I…
Betty: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, yep I think so.
[Do you feel safe in the country as a couple?]
Betty: Oh, I do.
Dora: Oh yeah
Betty: Yeah, we…
Dora: We’re concealed handgun carriers (laughter) yeah, but that’s got nothin to do with being gay and feeling safe or unsafe, that’s just, I don’t care…but, yeah I don’t feel like because we’re gay someone’s gonna come and do something, no more than anyone else.
Betty: And we’re definitely both, very independent people, I mean we can do a lot of things individually, where you don’t depend on me, I don’t depend on you, so therefore, if something were to come up or happen or something, it wouldn’t have to be that I’ve got to ask you what to do or how to handle it, and vice versa. We’d just handle it.
Dora: Right, we’d just deal with it
Betty: Deal with it.
Dora: But on big things, it’s well let’s talk about it, but otherwise it’s let’s deal with it.
[You may not think about this anymore much, but how do you find people to date in a rural area? How do you meet people?]
Betty: You don’t.
Dora: You don’t.
Betty: You don’t!
Dora: You don’t. Unless you luck out like we did and happen to attend a get together. We have met people through, the town near us has a group that’s involved in some senior Olympics. So we’ve met some people through that, doin’ activities…otherwise, I don’t think you do.
Betty: Yeah, it’s almost nonexistent, I mean I don’t know. I don’t even know how people do it nowadays, cause, it’s tough! Unless you’re in a big city.
Dora: Mmhmm, mmhm, definitely. And then, we saw on the internet and heard from some friends that there’s a place like in Houston that does socials for Lesbians Over Age Fifty, like one Saturday a month or something, and so that’s a opportunity for people to maybe meet, or mingle. I don’t know if it would be meeting, I guess it could be to meet someone to be with, but…
Betty: Word of mouth, cause those that are there at the social can say, I’ve got a friend here that needs or would like to go out to eat or the movies or whatever, and then something could develop there.
Dora: But yeah, it’d be hard to meet, unless you’re young.
[It’s hard if you’re young too.] (Laughter)
Betty: I was gonna say, I don’t know how the young ones do it either!
[Everyone I’ve interviewed says, I don’t know how, if anyone knows tell me!]
Betty: Yeah, nonexistent as far as I know.
Dora: Yeah, it’d have to be a friend through a friend, or, that’s why a lot of times you’re sittin with a group of people and everybody’s been with just about everybody that’s sittin in the room! (Laughter)
[Do you know other gay people who’ve lived in this area, or other rural places you’ve lived in?]
Betty: Oh yeah
[So either currently, or people who lived here before you even?]
[How about did you know of people when you were younger, when you were kids?]
Betty: No. hm-m.
Dora: No. I can, lookin back…my grandmother was involved with a small private college and she had a friend that was a English Professor, and just looking back at that and some of the things that my grandmother would say, now I think that that professor was gay. But, it was definitely unheard of.
Dora: Back then, yeah. Or people would say, “Oh that old spinster woman, she hadn’t ever been married.” Or, “Oh yeah, there he is, he’s 60 and still lives with his mama.” Things were said like that, so, you wondered, but back then, it was never ever discussed. But now, we know quite a few people. But it’s hard to meet people because people are very leery and they don’t wanna, they don’t wanna come out to you for fear that you may say something to the wrong person. So, it’s um, it takes a lot to warm up to folks.
Betty: And we’ve noticed, whenever you meet friends or whatever, then usually they try, like if they live in the city and they want to get out of the city and come to the country or the outskirts of the country they wanna know where you are so you can have like a little community of gay people. So you can all be together in a little bunch! That’s happened several times.
Dora: Yeah, yeah we’ve…people are like, “Oh well we know of this many acres and we could live here, and y’all could move there and then we could put so and so there and have a little commune.”
Betty: Yeah, so we, that’s happened.
Betty: In the rural areas
Dora: Yeah, and we just look around and go, “oh no, I could not live that close to other people!” (all laugh) So, we like, we like where we are.
[Did you ever feel pressure to move to a city?]
Betty: Not for being gay, but maybe because of the job, not the opportunities necessarily, but just for the sheer daily in and out… driving. Cause it maybe 60 miles in to town to your job, and then that’s an hour drivin to the job, an hour home! Just for, just strictly that, but then when you start weighing everything and having to give up your animals, then you go, “No, don’t think so.” So.
Dora: I lived in a big city for a little bit, but, I didn’t like it. Too many people. Needed to get out.
Betty: Traffic drives me up the wall! Traffic, just, that does me in, right there. Even if I’m going in circles, I would rather do that then be sitting in traffic. That’s what gets me. If I have to stop because the traffic is stopped then I’m just like blowing my mind, so. It won’t work.
[Do you feel like you have things in common with gay people in cities, or it’s a different world?]
Dora: I would say a different world.
Betty: And I think we have a lot in common with them.
Betty: Yeah! I don’t know why I say that, but I do.
Dora: I think what’s different is, just the way, just the way we operate as far as, the things we have to do here, to take care of the animals and different things. And, if we, run out of milk, it’s not the easiest thing, just, “Oh lets run down to the corner!” You know, it, you have to plan, and I think in that case we are different. But as far as the everyday issues and relationship issues or that sort of thing, I think we all have things in common. But again, like we mentioned, meeting people, being able to go places that are accepting. They definitely have a leg up there. So Betty how do you feel like we have things in common?
Betty: I’m trying to think! I’m trying to think. Cause I, I really don’t, other than they just don’t maybe understand as far as…but I think they do understand. Like whenever we go in and we say we’ve got to go home, we got to feed the animals, or we gotta do that…they’re very understanding so they know that. And they accept that.
Dora: They understand it, but I don’t think they can truly comprehend…
Betty: Well, most of em have grandchildren or children, and that’s the same thing! I mean they gotta feed em and they gotta give em water!
Dora: That’s true
Betty: Yeah, you know so they got some responsibility there, so, they do. It’s just that you know, it’s just. I don’t know.
Dora: Well I just think the biggest difference is we have to plan more. The groceries, ok there’s gonna be bad weather, we have to plan more for the roads, run the pipes, run the faucets so the pipes don’t freeze, wrap the pipes…people in town they don’t have to worry with that.
Betty: No, they take it for granted, they’ve got city water they don’t have a well, they’ve got…
Dora: City sewers.
Betty: Yeah, they don’t have septic tanks, so they don’t have to deal with that. But, they’ve got other issues that they have to deal with that we don’t.
Dora: That’s true. Traffic.
Betty: Yeah, and their homeowner things that they can’t plant this if they don’t check with somebody.
Dora: That’s true.
Betty: Or they can’t build this if they don’t get a permit. So I think it’s, it’s pretty much…they’ve got issues we’ve got issues. So it balances out, it’s just different ones.
[Who are your heroes?]
Betty: John Wayne! (long laughter)…Go ahead.
Dora: Oh my goodness gracious…ohhh…heroes?
Betty: You talk about Billie Jean all the time.
Dora: Yeah, I think Billie Jean King is great. She stands up and, although she was closeted and lied herself when really asked what was going on…back, what, 70s? She’s still with that woman, that they accused her of having the affair with and she denied it. But anybody that stands up for what’s right. You know they always say if I don’t speak up for you, then who’s gonna speak up for me? And so anybody that has the guts to do that is a hero to me.
[Did you want to talk about your church at all?]
Betty: I don’t see that we could…Nah.
Dora: No, we’re good. But we, we are definitely church people. We go, go to church every Sunday and we’re very involved with that.
[Is there anything you would want to say to other LGBTQ people living in the country?]
Dora: Don’t be ashamed a who you are. You can’t. You gotta…stand up for yourself, and just be proud of who you are, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. We have too many people that are committing suicide…because they can’t accept who they are. They feel like they’re a failure. (emotional) You can’t do that.
Betty: I guess that’s it!
Anything I should have asked you that I didn’t, or that you’d want to know about other people’s lives?
Betty: No that’s good, you’ve got some really good questions!
Dora: Yeah. It would be neat to have some kind of network. Yeah, to be able to say, “Hey you know, I’ve got this issue here, anybody else out there in rural America dealing with this?” It would be neat to have some kind of a network where you could do that.
Betty: Yeah that’s kinda what we got from the rodeo group. It was a lot of bonding and talking there.
Dora: But I mean where you could like type in on the internet, and ask folks things, little tidbits! “Hey I’m looking for a place to come vacation.” You need the truth about things, cause sometimes on the internet, you don’t want to believe, or it’s hard to believe what they say. They say they’re gay friendly and it’s like, yeah right. You know? That’d be cool. Some kinda little network.
Interviewed in their kitchen in Central Texas on January 28, 2014. “Betty” and “Dora” asked to be referred to by these pseudonyms and asked that no identifying photos be included for the sake of privacy.