Home Is Where the Heart Is
And in the big ol' Heart of Texas: You are HERE
Every year for the past five years, Julie Nelson, a local Austin real estate agent with Keller Williams, has lugged a huge map to her booth at the Austin Pride Festival along with two boxes of half-inch dots: blue for the boys and yellow for the ladies. It all started with a question: "My clients would always ask me, 'Where is the Austin gayborhood?' and I never really had an area to tell them, because in Austin we are pretty much everywhere," says Nelson.
Searching for a way to display this concept and eager to have a hook to draw folks into her Pride booth, the Where We Live map was born. "This is not scientific, it's just about interactive fun," Nelson offers. "People get excited when they see that other gay people live in their neighborhood when they thought they were the only ones. And, of course, everyone wants to be represented." Soon the first map was full, so a bigger one was purchased, and with the addition of red dots for bi representation and green ones for trans, the current map took life.
At about 3 feet by 3½ feet and vibrant with blues, yellows, reds, and a few greens, the Where We Live map is quite a sight to behold. While the dots pepper the map like scattershot through a target, there are a few emerging clusters: "78704 is pretty clustered, of course, as are Delwood north of Mueller and the Crestview/Allandale neighborhood," but "we really are everywhere. And this just has to be a very small percentage of the GLBT community in Austin," Nelson adds.
Pride is not the only time this map makes it rounds. "I also take it to some AGLCC events, as well as some legal real estate classes I teach. Straight people are sometimes surprised by it, because we aren't always noticeably gay. It's about validation." Perhaps the most striking thing about the map really is in the fact that people are surprised by it at all. Nelson says: "I always tell my clients, 'It's a block by block experience here, and it is your responsibility to let people get to know you.' That is how you bust down walls, and that makes all the difference in the world."