Why Equality Texarkana is Important to Me

Blake ButlerPersonal Stories

Growing up in the bible belt and dealing with your sexual orientation was a very strange and rocky process getting me to understand the reasoning behind my sexuality. I was always told that being gay was wrong, an abomination against god and if you were gay then you were going to hell.

Imagine going through middle school and high school and never feeling safe to be true to yourself, hearing from your peers and even your teachers that gay people needed to be put in their place for demanding to be treated equally like everyone else. I endured relentless bullying at the hands of kids who felt that they had already figured out who I was before I even knew who I was. It put me in a place where I was afraid to speak out, afraid to go to school at the possibility of being in the same room of my bullies and tanked my G.PA. my freshman year of high school because of the endless bullying I endured.

Like a lot of LGBT teens, I have thought about the possibility of suicide. After having a realistic and terrifying nightmare about a reality where I did commit suicide, I changed my perspective on where I was. It was an ongoing daily battle just to find a reason to keep me alive and moving forward. I took psychology courses in high school which educated me more on the fact, that my sexuality was not a choice and helped me feel better about myself. I learned that I wanted to be in a profession where I could help LGBT people in helping them overcome their problems with discrimination, guide them where to go when they have been victim to abuse and kicked out of their homes.

It is because of the experiences I endured during my high-school years that convinced me to go into social work and help others overcome their struggles, and not have to go through the painful experiences alone and have guidance in their life decisions. I was thrilled when Texarkana had voted in a nondiscrimination ordinance in January of 2016, I felt that even in Texarkana people could value LGBT people as equals. After the passage of M130, it was met with opposition from a campaign using fearmongering tactics as a ploy to demonize transgender people, as well as dehumanizing gay people. They called for a special election in late June to repeal the ordinance that protected LGBT people.

The Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando acted as a catalyst in making my voice heard in protecting M130 as well as making sure that people are aware of the discrimination and assault that LGBT people are subjected to just for being who they are. I was reminded that there was compassion in that tragedy, where people were helping each other, but as well as the fact of the evident vile and despicable act of using the Pulse nightclub shooting as an advertisement on the same day of the shooting to strip away the rights of LGBT people in Texarkana.

I was enraged that people in Texarkana would do that. The repeal of the ordinance passed, and I was in a place where I was familiar with, where I did not feel safe, this time in my own community for how the citizens felt on this issue. Which is why when I had heard about Equality Texarkana, I saw this group as an opportunity to help those who do face hate and discrimination, provide services for those who need them for the people who may not survive on their own if their loved ones disown them.

I was able to handle the attacks I endured in school because I found the strength inside of myself to see that I was right and my bullies were wrong. I can handle the stress of people trying to use my sexuality against me, but for others, some cannot handle that stress and they may be on the edge of suicide and someone’s cruel remarks about them could have been the motivation for them to commit suicide. We need to provide services for LGBT people so that they can feel safe in their own community, until a day where these kind of services are no longer necessary, I want Equality Texarkana to be the pioneer of protecting LGBT people in the Texarkana area.