This past May, Mary González won the Democratic primary in El Paso, Texas. Without a Republican challenger, this makes her her district’s next state representative. This is pivotal not just because she is a young, woman of color, a progressive candidate and doesn’t come from established money or politics. It’s historic because she is the first out pansexual legislator in the U.S.
In today’s political climate where one of the main political parties still touts the line that marriage is strictly between a man and a woman, this is pretty damn revolutionary. I got the chance to talk with Mary to discuss her plans for El Paso, her fears about coming out, and more.
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Mary González.
Anna Sterling: Tell me about your journey into politics.
Mary González: I grew up watching Meet the Press instead of watching cartoons. I came to Austin with hopes to work at the Capitol and one day run for office. I became disenchanted with the Capitol and left politics for awhile to work in education. I fell in love with academia and the university as a space to transform lives. I didn’t consider going back into politics until one day, my professor walked into one of my classes when I was in my PhD program. My professor walks in looking really sad and says it’s the end of public school as we know it. He explained everything happening at the Capitol in regards to school finance, accountability in standardized testing and in regards to curriculum. I always told my students if we want social change to happen we have to personally be agents of social change. I wanted to live that philosophy. I left my dream job to run for office.
AS: What are some of your goals this term in office? What changes do you want to see in El Paso?
MG: First, it’s bringing awareness to the situation of my district. There’s 290 colonias in El Paso county. There are 200 of them in my district. Colonias are unincorporated makeshift communities. They don’t have access to water, roads infrastructure and, sometimes, even electricity. These are basic necessities. That’s a top priority for me. My district is also really poor so I want to find ways to break the cycle of poverty and mostly at the level of education.
AS: What moved you to openly identify as pansexual at this point in your career? What were some of your fears?
MG: From day one of my political career, I’ve always identified as queer or LGBT. I just never narrowed it down to what that meant in reality. The news media picked up “LGBT” and started saying lesbian, lesbian, lesbian. In solidarity with my lesbian friends, I didn’t want to feel like I was misrepresenting myself. At that point, I felt it was an important time to raise awareness that just because you identify as LGBT, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lesbian. It can mean a variety of different things. First, I was saying I’m pansexual, which most people haven’t heard before, especially in Texas. Second, I identified as pansexual because there are more than two genders. People get scared when you say that. And not only are there more than two genders, but I am attracted and have loved people who have identified within a third gender space. That was a very scary thing for me to say. One of the reasons I came out was to inspire and empower people, especially young folk, about the political process. I see people recognizing now the reality of sexual diversity in politics.
AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
MG: When I was little I loved X-Men and I loved Storm. I thought she was beautiful and I thought that she was strong, smart and just a hardass. I loved it.
I love Dolores Huerta. I think she is just a fireball of energy that transforms people and the world. I feel sometimes that I get exhausted and I’m 28. But then, I think about her and she’s been doing this for decades, fighting every single day. She gives me energy. I think if Dolores Huerta can do it, I can do it.
AS: You’re going to a desert island and get to take one food, one drink, and one feminist. What do you pick?
MG: One food would be tacos. I’m obsessed with tacos and jalapenos. I was that girl that carried around jalapenos in my purse at all times. One drink, coffee. I have to have coffee everyday or I won’t know what to do with my life. One feminist would be Gloria Anzaldua.