I Can't Stay In Texas Anymore
Seeking: a decent place to live.
The first time my husband seriously suggested that we needed to leave the United States, we got into a very big fight.
It was almost two years ago, the night of the first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and my Discourse Blog colleagues had just shot the shit for a couple of hours on Twitch while watching our then-president and our current president exchange barbs.
I remember very little about that debate, or our livestream, though Wikipedia tells me that it was the night of Trump’s infamous “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by." What I can remember is my utter rejection of my husband’s idea. What? No! I can’t leave the country — I can barely leave Texas! My parents are here, his parents are here. The people we love, who will help us with any kids we might have, are here. Is it just going to be us against the world? My work is here. Am I suddenly going to become a political blogger in a whole different country like it’s nothing? Am I supposed to be Discourse Blog’s Canadian correspondent? Will somebody give a woman a moment!!!
When I reflect on that argument, I remember that things were a little different back then. First, we weren’t married yet. Not that that mattered aside from in the hypothetical immigration visa kind of way — we had already known that we wanted to marry each other, but in a pandemic, when I felt like we were missing out on our late 20s, and all that time to be young and childless, the idea of making our relationship legally “official” so seemed so, so far away.
And second, the idea of leaving not just the U.S., but Texas — not just moving away, as people do, but actively choosing to leave Texas, and the South; having the choice to leave and acting on that choice — felt cowardly. Not for other people, surely — the circumstances of others who’ve fled Texas, and this country, weren’t out of fear, but for survival. But the same just did not, could not, apply to me, for a number of reasons.
I don’t have it bad enough to leave, I thought. I don’t need to leave in order to survive. And more importantly, I believed, my presence in Texas mattered. It matters that we stand our ground and organize and try to bring attention to and advocate for the bullshit that we experience as Texans. Our voices matter here, and how could I abandon a state where we deserve so much more than what we get? If I left, I felt like I would be doing the thing that we often see from liberals with racist, classist views of Texas and the South say — that there’s no option but to condemn the land and leave all who inhabit it to deservedly suffer the decisions of leaders they had no hand in electing.
Looking back, the thought that my existence is so vital to the future of marginalized Texans is kind of embarrassing. How self-important! I’m not saying that writing about the crimes being committed against the people of this place is meaningless—if it was, I wouldn’t do it—but it’s not like I’m on the barricades every single day.
Discourse Blog is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
If I sound small and defeated, it’s because I feel that way. The thought of leaving this state, and maybe this country, resonates in a way that it didn’t before. The past two years have challenged me more than I ever anticipated, and I’m less and less convinced that there is anything worth sticking around here for, family aside.
We suffered a lot as an immunocompromised household during the pandemic. By the time Biden was president, I had reconsidered my vehement denial that relocation might be necessary. And as we made plans — not to move, but to be prepared in the event we ever wanted to — my priorities about what I want for myself and our family came into focus.
In February of last year, we suffered the Texas freeze. We signed a new lease in March. Christian got really, really sick that summer. We still got married four months later. All the while, the pandemic raged on, and federal and state governments and the CDC prioritized the economy and politics over people, and sold this make-believe idea that if we just pretend the pandemic doesn’t exist, then it won’t, and said it wasn’t a big deal that disabled people were dying from COVID. All the while, the GOP spun up a right-wing backlash to Black Lives Matter, going after public school history lessons on racism and library books with Black protagonists and gay teachers and transgender students. And then Uvalde happened. I quietly left journalism in my full-time work, narrowly avoiding being laid off again by two weeks. I’m now doing comms in public health, and lol, if I thought I was intimately aware of the government’s failures of the pandemic before!!
And then Roe v. Wade was overturned. It wasn’t the straw that broke my back — especially because abortion was already difficult to get here — but the straw that validated what I had felt for a year or so. We cannot stay in Texas. We might not leave the U.S., but we can’t stay here.
My fear has pivoted from raising children in a state that’s hostile to them, to birthing children in a state that’s hostile to me. If I experience pregnancy complications, which I’m more likely to because I’m fat, I want it to be somewhere I can get immediate care, not in a state where I’ll have to be closer to death before doctors can intervene.
As far as where we should move, I have no clue. A friend asked me this while we were on a trip several weeks ago and I had a hard time answering. A state where abortion is protected is ideal, but that rules out a majority of the country. I couldn’t live in Chicago — it’s too goddamn cold!! — and by association, Illinois. I will also make the same assumption of Minnesota (sorry, Rafi). There’s New Mexico, which is too deserted. Christian has family in Canada, California, and New Hampshire. However, all are too expensive, and New Hampshire is too white (in the way that only rural-ish, liberal-ish towns can be). But I suppose beggars can’t be choosers. Dear readers, if you have a city or town in mind that marks some of these boxes, even if it’s not all of them, please share it in the comments below.