On a windy weekday afternoon in June 2019, I found myself sharing a beer with a friend in the backyard of RIPCORD, a gay bar in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. It was my first time here. But it wasn’t the bar like it would be on a Saturday night. Other than a few people smoking at nearby tables, talking lazily about the weather, the courtyard was empty – though that didn’t calm my nerves. I felt both out of place and eager to be there, even though I would never have gone alone. The friend had insisted on taking me out, and I was grateful to him for his insistence. He was teaching me a lesson about the importance of building community — a lesson particularly relevant to today’s debates about trans kids and sports.
I had lived in Montrose for three years. In 2016, I moved to a ground floor apartment in the neighborhood and started my PhD at the University of Houston. When I arrived in Houston, I hadn’t yet come out non-binary, even though I knew in my heart that I was trans. Most people assumed that I was cisgender, meaning that my sex matched what I was assigned at birth, and, not yet ready to come out, I didn’t. I have never disabused anyone of this presumption. I would often walk past queer bars, wishing I had the courage to enter.