On "Moving Elsewhere" from Somone Who Did
With the special session going on in Texas, and the thousands of women, men, and gender-non-conforming persons who have a uterus, and their partners, friends, and loved ones standing up for the right to have an abortion, many in Blue States are wondering “Why don’t they just move?”
I grew up in a blue-dog city in Pennsylvania, outside of this was rural Pennsylvania. While Pennsylvania went for Obama the last two elections, internally, much of PA is conservative. My city had an abortion clinic for a handful of months before it was driven out of town. The closest clinic was two hours away. Recently Tom Corbett has been trying to out-do Scott Walker, one-up Rick Perry, and is rolling back women’s rights, slashing public education budgets, waging war against labor, and doing all he can to redraw PA districts and rig a GOP win in 2016.
After he won elections, these massive budget cuts in education meant my spouse could not afford to go to a local PASSHE (PA State System of Higher Education) for his Masters of Education, and was uncertain he would be able to get a job at the local school district afterward. He was employed in several capacities with the local school district at the time, but hoped to have a full time teaching position. Soon, deeper cuts meant his contracted positions were cut. He was unemployed, I was just out of school, and over-qualified or under-qualified for everything, and unable to find any employment.
So we fled. We moved to a solidly blue state.
But it was so incredibly tough. We had small savings, enough to pay to move what was truly important, and we though, a few months rent. To put it in perspective: when we thought we would be living in Blue Dog Land, we looked at duplexes, two bedrooms, two baths, a little bit of a shared yard, about 1,000 sqft, and they were nice apartments. The really expensive ones we looked at were $550/month. We calculated groceries to be about $100 a month, and bills/utilities (including internet and phone) around $200. We would need a combined income of $1000 a month to live comfortably. We had student debt, so we would add on a few hundred more a month, but I don’t feel like telling you how much I spent, or he spent on educations. The living wage for two adults in this city is a combined income of $27,040. Yes, jobs in Blue Dog Land don’t pay as much as jobs in Big City East Coast, but the cost of living is much less, too. Comparatively, the living wage where we are living now is $41,600, almost double.
So while we thought we had plenty to survive on while looking for jobs In Blue State Bordering a Big City, we didn’t. We found a nice apartment that was really awful to get to for $1,200/month, mostly because of how awful it was to get to.
I crashed on a friends couch for two weeks while going to interviews, and my spouse stayed in Blue Dog Land for those two weeks finishing up his contract. We thought if I found a job first, now knowing how much the cost of living was, it might be easier.
It wasn’t. I found a job right away doing something I love. It took him a lot longer, and it was very difficult. We moved 7 hours away from both of our home towns, from both of our families, from both of our support systems. We only had each other. And when we were mad at each other, we had no one. I took a second job while he was still looking for his first, and that meant I had to take the subway very late at night, and then walk some very sketchy roads for a mile around midnight, as the busses stopped running. I was resentful, and wanted to move back in with his parents at times while making this trip.
We made it, yes, we are happy, and living in a wonderful location with our cats and an amazing roommate.
But we have an incredible amount of privilege, and made a lot of sacrifices not everyone is able to make, nor should be required to make to obtain basic human rights. We are both white, and college educated. We had a small savings account to live off of while struggling. We gave up our community, we gave up seeing our families with any regularity, we gave up our home town, we gave up our sense of belonging, we gave up treasured places. We cannot visit often, and our parents cannot visit us often. Luckily our parents are healthy, and do not need us at home to take care of them. We are currently both able-bodied and able to work, and do not need financial help from our parents.
But for some people, leaving their home and moving to a state that is more friendly to their rights is not an option. Finding a new job can be impossible, elder-care makes leaving impossible, the thought of removing your children from their best friends breaks your heart, you don’t have the money to move, ect. And you shouldn’t have to leave your roots, your community, because some assholes in your legislature want to control your body. Your rights should not be dependent on your location.
And I feel guilty as hell. I feel cowardly at times, as I see women’s health centers across PA brace for the TRAP laws. I get angry as hell as I see the school districts cut arts, and do away with field trips. And I turned my back on the women and men fighting those battles; because it was too hard.
I get to sit back, knowing if I divorced my spouse, I, being queer and pan, could easily, in Maryland, marry anyone else with whom I might fall in love. I can walk into a women’s health center, ask for birth control not have an eye be bat. If I needed an abortion, I would not be subjected to a mandatory lecture, and I could get one same day. I don’t have to fight for my rights here.
That should be the case no matter where one lives. When I lived in “flyover country” I was no less of a queer woman who might need abortion services and workers rights protections. And those who live in Texas are no less deserving of their rights. “Just moving” isn’t an option for many people. It reeks of privilege when you tell the progressives in Red States to “just move.” It reeks of privilege when you tell those who don’t identify politically with a party, or cause, to just move when something real and pressing to their lives comes to the legislature, and they protest, that maybe they should just move. They might not have the means, and they might not want to move. So stop saying it, and start supporting them. You shouldn’t have to give up your roots to gain your rights.