My name is Mattie Matthei. I’m 46 years old and I live in Alpine, TX.
Well Alpine statistics are that it’s about 7,000 population. It’s a college town, so it has a small regional college, which has an impact on the texture of the community in that it is a little more cultured than just the middle of nowhere…In one regard. In another regard it is still the middle of nowhere because we’re out in the high desert, this is the Chihuahan desert, so we’re a mile above sea level. So we’re basically in the mountainous region of Texas and most people don’t realize that Texas has mountains, but anyway that makes it a really…it’s a lovely climate. It’s easy to be outside year round which is a big draw for me, in the mountains and nature. The population out here is so sparse that it’s something ridiculous like one person per every 2 square miles, or something, don’t quote me on that, but it’s really sparse. So you can drive for hours and not pass another vehicle, and it’s high desert, so it’s mostly a cactus kind of environment that you associate with high desert. And we’re on the river. I’m a hundred miles from the Mexican border and the whole area is along the Rio Grande, so it’s also very heavily influenced by Mexico. Alpine a little less so than farther south, the closer to the border you get the higher the influence.
R: How do you identify?
Mattie: Oh, queer! I came out when I was…officially came out when I was 13 although I knew much younger. I can remember my first crush when I was about four or five years old on my mom’s office mate, who is still a family friend, and it was a lot of fun to tell her when I was a full fledged adult that she was my first crush and she and my mom, they’re in their 70s so it was that generation. She was very flattered that I was crushed out on her when I was a toddler.
So, my mom is…well, I had two moms…so that made it a little bit easier, although I didn’t grow up with two moms. I grew up with a single mom. My mom met my – who I refer to as my other mother – when I was about 16, and then I moved out. And Shirley moved in. And my mom and Shirley have been together, were together for 30 years. Shirley passed away last summer, which was really really hard because she really was my other parent. In that odd sort of way that we make our families now. I also had a step brother who passed away, Shirley’s son, he passed away from AIDS in 89, in LA. I was in San Francisco at the time he was in LA. So Mom and Shirley have been my family for many many years. They’re also…we never used the term bi-racial…but…Shirley was Black, my Mom was White. Shirley was from Birmingham, Alabama. My mother was from Delta City, Mississippi. So, old Southern, everything is just as Southern as it gets in my family. So that’s pretty much how I grew up in a really matriarchaly dominated society. I’m sure there’s a better way to say that.
R: So, I guess, now living rurally…are there places where you’re out and places where you’re not out? Or have you ever sort of had to do that balance…have you ever felt like you’ve had to try to hide it more in certain places? And how do you figure that out?]
M: It’s funny. I wonder how much of that is…the way that we function in public society, how much of that is going to be generational, it will be interesting to see how things play out. Because, I never announce myself to anyone, I’ve never had to announce myself. “Hi, I’m Mattie, I’m gay.” or “Hi, I’m Mattie, I’m not as gay as I seem!” I don’t, It’s not like that. But, I do, I most definitely, what is it? I edit by omission. And I know that, anyone here that knows me, you know, that I’ve sat down and had coffee with, the story will come out eventually. “Oh well, I moved here after I broke up with my girlfriend in Austin.” and it comes out that way. But as far as if I’m just talking to someone on the street that’s a casual friend in passing, I’m pretty reserved about it. But, I question again, how much of that is just a sense of my own privacy and its nobody else’s business, and how much of that is a generational rooted protection, or just caution. Cause you know, in spite of growing up in a pretty liberal comfortable experience, I still got chased by people yelling faggot at me…I’ve been chased down the street more than once by people who wanted to hurt me, for being queer, in Austin, in Massachusetts. I’ve had bottles thrown at me and guns pointed at me and all kinds of stuff…and just for being queer. Just for coming out of the gay bar at the wrong time. So that, that never really leaves you. And, it’s changing.
Interviewed on June 24, 2014 in the Historic Ritchey Hotel in Alpine, TX which Mattie owns and is fixing up in her free time. Full transcription and audio clip coming soon!