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Co-Founders of Pride Center West Texas reflect on finding a home in Odessa

Bryan and Clint Wilson moved to Odessa in 2020 with one goal in mind, to start a center that offered a safe space for LGBTQ youth and adults in the Permian Basin. 

By Mitch Borden

In 2020, Bryan and Clint Wilson moved to Odessa from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. to start a community center for LGBTQ people in the Permian Basin. The couple set out to create a space where everyone can feel safe and accepted. 

Two years later, Pride Center West Texas has become a gathering place where LGBTQ health and wellness is prioritized — a space where local teens can hang out with their friends and parents can talk about and learn how to support their children.

Bryan, who’s originally from Odessa, and Clint Wilson sat down with Marfa Public Radio to talk about what it was like to move to a deeply conservative area to set up Pride Center West Texas.

Listen to their interview above or read a transcript of the interview below.

Bryan Wilson: "Being leaders of Pride Center West Texas, we are constantly faced with what it looks like to be somebody who is born into an area of the country where they are daily fed messages that they are not safe among another laundry list of expletives and just try to figure out what to do about that."

Clint Wilson: "I truly believe that just existing as a part of the LGBTQ+ community is an act of defiance, especially in the current climate that we that we see. It's a very complex feeling and experience of coming to a place where there will be a lot more judgement and pushback and questions."

BW: "We are the Wilsons. I am Bryan."

CW: "I am Clint."

BW & CW: "We are the co-founders of Pride Center West Texas."

BW: "We had friends sit us down when we said we were moving to West Texas in 2020 to start a LGBTQ+ community center. We had multiple friends sit and say, 'We don't want you to go there you are going to possibly be harmed. We're worried about you experiencing violence, like you're not just going out there to live, you're going out there to try to create change and put yourself in the public eye.'

And we're just constantly pleasantly surprised. I mean, my husband and I live in a very out way, obviously, and we have never had somebody come up to us and say something negative. Everybody was worried that we were going to be you know, poking the bear. That we would show up and remind folks that we exist as gay and trans folk in West Texas would just upset the bigoted conservatives. And that's not what happened.

What it did is it allowed a light to shine on how many people are here desperate to say, 'We understand that some people are just born gay, we understand that some people are just trans, who cares. In fact, if anything, we want to celebrate that we're all different and that God has made this beautifully diverse world.'

So that's our community. We found a church that celebrates all people regardless of how they're born. And for that to be one of the places that I feel, if not the place that I feel the safest holding my husband's hand, worshiping God on Sunday mornings. You know, having my uncle's funeral and being able to cry on the shoulder of my husband and receive a gentle kiss.

It's mind blowing to me that I didn't find that in Miami. I didn't find that in Boston or Nashville. I found that church in Odessa, Texas. That's crazy."

CW: "I want to make a slight shift. And something that you said a moment ago, like people will talk to us about like, you know, poking the bear, we did poke a bear. It wasn't the bear that anybody expected.

I keep thinking of mother who started our parents of gender diverse children group, that is a mama bear. And she was poked when we got out here and and again, it gave her the support and the strength to be an ally for her child.

Those are our mama bears, and we were constantly referred to and they are fierce advocates. That is the bear that we ended up poking that I don't think that we were expecting or ready for and it has been such a blessing."

BW: "It is truly a testament to how you don't have to live your life as a gay or a trans person in rural America, waiting for a day that you can get out of that place. If you can find other people, a small group of people who are willing to accept the risk, you can make a change.

It's not easy, and it's not without great fear. But you can do it."

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.