My name is David Rodriguez. I’m 26 years old, and I live in Bastrop, TX. It’s a small town that is…growing. Um.. it’s starting to have everything that a big town has, but still with a small town feel. And that’s what the town is like. Where I live actually though, I live on a 10-acre farm, and, we have lots of animals. And it’s really pretty. Um…It’s really really pretty. There’s like a grassland that we have…we have a prairie kind of thing, for our fields where the animals graze. And then we have the house. And then I live in a little camper on the property. Um…and my little camper is really tiny.
I live with two other people. They are not country queers, they are heterosexual. Um, but they have accepted me with open arms in their house. And, we have a work exchange program set up where I have a certain amount of hours that I have to work a week. I have to work 4 hours a week, and that’s my rent for staying there. And then we have utility share. And I pay a portion of what the utility bill is, a set amount every month. And then, we’re pretty autonomous other than that. Kind of like a roommate situation. It’s been really awesome because we’ve been able to communicate and it’s really stretched our communication skills and enhanced them. Because we’re definitely two different generations in one house. And so it can be kind of stressful. And so we work through those and talk through that and have discussions about those things.
We have animals, we have three donkeys. Two of them are actually rescues that have been on the farm since October or Nov is when they came. We actually picked them up at an auction barn. they were dumped on the side of the road. And so we have the donkeys, 2 of them, well we have three. One of them is a permanent resident, the others are two rescues. And we have 4 horses. And then we have gardens. And we’re doing permaculture kind of, some permaculture kind of stuff on the property. Like raised beds and those kinds of things. And that’s pretty much all that we have. It’s more of like a working homestead kind of thing not so much like a farm where we take things to market. It’s more of a residential homestead kind of thing with 10 acres. And so it’s kind of just the dynamic of the farm. It’s more for family support kind of thing. There are, [also]…we have turkeys and chickens and goats. And we have two geese. We had ducks, we have pigs, uh…..guineas, llamas. We have quite a bit of animals on our farm.
Rachel: How do you identify?
David: Identify as a male. And um as a gay male. A gay male…who identifies as a person of color. A Hispanic gay male, so…
I grew up in a small town. It’s near a small town. Um…Population of 10,000 people. And it’s called Wharton TX. It’s very, um, agriculturally oriented. When I was growing up, it was all about rice and corn and cotton. Our county produced…it’s been said that our county produces more rice than the entire nation of China. But that’s changed, because of the water crisis in TX. So now there isn’t any more rice farming where I lived. So, the industry is almost completely done. So, when I grew up it was a very agriculturally oriented county. It still is. And it is part of the 13 county area of Houston, the Houston metropolis, um, so it’s far enough away from the city that you don’t have the impacts, butstill close enough that you could on a daily basis if you wanted.
Well, I grew up in a very, like, Tejano-like home here in TX. You know, my family has been in TX longer than TX has been a state. Um so, it’s been…it was different growing up, because we still had, like, a Hispanic, like, upbringing but not so much of an impact, or not so much of an identifier of being from Mexico, but being Tejano. So like, that’s a big part of my growing up and childhood. And so, my childhood there was very different, my mother and father split up when I was younger. And so, then it just became my mother and I, and my younger siblings. And my mother and I, uh, she was 18 when she had me, and so we kind of grew up together. It was real interesting. And now my mother is my best friend in the entire world. Um so, it has been fun, and having a younger mom is great because, I mean, you can experience everything together and we’re very open and honest with each other about things. Used to not be that way but now we are, and have gotten a lot closer. So um, I guess my childhood I just remember growing up in the country, cause we had a place out of town. We had two acres. And, you know, just like a house that we lived on for a long time. And we had goats then, I had goats when I was younger, I raised goats and I raised livestock for FFA and for county fairs. Did that whole thing. Um…
R: Were they milk goats?
D: No, I didn’t raise milk goats, we raised boar goats. And, so, was part of FFA, raised animals for the fair, sold them every year at auction. Um, and was very much part of that. Like, enjoyed it, loved it, wanted that. Raised a hog, raised hogs, raised show pigs for two years I think, and then raised a heifer for one. And that was interesting and fun. Never had raised something so large. But that was like my first experiences with like, agriculture, and like, the understanding of it and getting in. It was very corporate Ag, but ya know, still nonetheless, it was still part of the culture. I grew up in a small town, but then I went to school in and even smaller town where it was only 500 people. And uh, I think my graduating class was like 68 people. So, it was small. And, everyone new everyone. Um, so it was great, it was great growing up that way. And I was part of the debate team in high school, and so I got to travel around a lot of parts of the state and do things. And not only did I travel around the state then I went to college for speech and debate and got to travel around the country with speech. So, it was fun, it was interesting.
I have a brother and a sister who are full brothers and sisters, and then I have a half sister, who is 4, and then I have a…3 other brothers. So, there’s a total of 6. I am one of 7. So, I’m the oldest of 7. [My mom] was a single mom, and then she re-married my senior year. Or no, my freshman year in college, but got with her husband my senior year in high school. And he was very religious. Total…very far right conservative Christian. And then, his wife left him for another woman. And, so he was really resentful towards gays in general.
I think I knew I was gay when I hit puberty, noticing that I wasn’t attracted to girls at all. Like, it wasn’t anything that I was attracted to. I wanted to be…I wanted to have a boyfriend or a husband. Like, I never thought of having a wife. EVER. That has never ever been a thing that I wanted. So yeah, around puberty.
R: And so, then, what was your coming out experience like? Did you come out all at once? When did you come out? How did it go?
D: Well, I have two different ways, like, in high school it was pretty much known and I just…there was some bullying and I just kind of started to own it and accept it and realized, hey yeah, I’m gay and I’m not going to hide it any more. Um so, I was open in high school but it was a small town that I lived in and so no one ever wanted to say anything to my mother about it. So I was open in public but not in private. Which is very different dynamic for some people. And then one day my mom asked me if I was gay. It was on Halloween of, like, 2005. She asked me if I was gay. And I had promised myself that I would always be honest if she asked me. If she had the nerve to ask me the question, I had the nerve to answer honestly. And so she asked me, and at first she said “Are you gay?” and I was like, “Um, yes, I’m always happy.” And then she was like, “That’s not the question I’m asking you.” And, um, the next question was,“Are you a homosex—do you like having sex with men?” And my answer was, like, “Yes, I do.” And she told me I had 60 seconds to get my shoes on and get out of the house. And, um…
R: How old were you?
D: I was seventeen at the time. And, um, she said you have 60 seconds to get out of the house, and if you don’t I’m going to hit you with this baseball bat, and she went and got a baseball bat. So, there wasn’t any option of staying at home. So I left. And walked, and I have never felt freer than I did that very moment that I walked out of that house and felt completely free and honest with myself. Um, and I made a promise to myself that day walking to the gas station that I would never hide who I am for anyone ever again. And I’ve stayed true to that…like I don’t…I’m very honest and open to about who I am and what I do and what I believe in. And um, my mother and I had a horrible relationship after that, like, for six months we hated each other and were just argumentative with each other and fighting all the time. And I didn’t live with her anymore, and was living with whoever I could live with, that kind of thing. Almost didn’t graduate high school and finally graduated. And, um, got all that stuff done, got done with school, got out of there. And then went to college. And left. And that was…it was pretty rough times, that year was pretty rough, dealing with all that. And, uh, my mom has finally come around. And now it’s not even an issue, at all.
I just hopped around houses, stayed with my uncle sometimes. Or my grandparents. Or other people. My dad’s. Just kind of hopped around.
R: So…how long…like…what was the process like of your mom coming around? Did she just do it on her own? Did you have a lot of tense arguments? How did that happen?
D: She just kind of started coming along on her own I think. Started realizing that the things that were being taught at church weren’t necessarily what she agreed with or how she felt. Um…and it’s real funny, like, recently I asked her about that and how she felt that day, did she hate me. Did she have hate in her heart or was it anger? And uh she said it was neither of them, it was disappointment. And, uh…it was the first time that I’ve ever asked her how she felt about it. Um…And to hear that it was disappointment and it wasn’t anger and it wasn’t hate, it was just driven by religious fanatics that said she needed to do whatever she had to do to get her son out of there…to protect her other children. And, so, it was growing and like, her realizing that I’m still the same person, it just doesn’t matter anymore. And, too, she’s just relaxed a lot in life and realized that she doesn’t have to take things so hard, and so personal.
R: So, how about like in high school? Like you said that people kind of knew…did you get…
D: I got bullied at the very beginning. But people liked me. And so it wasn’t hard to come out really. People just kind of knew. And then I wasn’t bullied very much. Still there’s those occasional jocks that would call me a faggot or a queer, whatever, um, but I owned it. I didn’t deny it. But I wasn’t, like, some teenagers who are very, like, emo looking, like, the weird people. I wasn’t like that, I just, I mean…I raised animals, I was in 4H, I was in FFA and was involved in all these things in school. Um, so, it wasn’t anything like that at all. And being in a small town, like, it was awesome that they weren’t…I mean I figured…I knew people that it was worse for. But for whatever reason it wasn’t like that for me.
R: And, so that’s sort of leads kind of to another one of my questions which is: Do you think that being in a small town, being in the country, do you think it made it, like, a harder space to come out in…to just to be, like a queer young person than it would have been than if you would have lived in a city?
D: I think more so with my family it probably would have been easier. With my mom maybe because she would have been exposed to other things. Um, but she had grown up all her life there in the same town that we were in.
This is an excerpt of David’s interview which was recored in Laura Freeman’s backyard, in Austin, TX on June 22, 2014. Thanks to Riley Cockrell for the transcription!