Not too long ago I lived in the Puget Sound Region. My wife and I bought our first house in Bremerton, WA intending to make that our community for the foreseeable future. After 13 of my own moves, some after I got married, I didn’t want to move again. But the wintertime depression was crushing, killing, unsustainable. No amount of running or pharmacology or use of natural supports was going to be enough to endure them, much less than thrive in them.
My wife, myself, and one toddler decided to leave liberal Western Washington to try our hand at living cheaply, in the sun, surrounded by a white Christian nationalist supermajority county in central Arizona. More than one of our friends objected to the idea. But the Seattle area was done with us so we fled for the sun anyway.
We visited Arizona frequently before and during the pandemic. We researched it as a geographical solution to our vitamin D deficiencies. We had family in Prescott, found that housing was affordable and decided to move. We fled Seattle with a truck, a 13 foot trailer with all our positions, and a small car housing our three cats.
After a short time lodging at my aunt and uncle’s, we bought a house in nearby Chino Valley, a small city in Central Arizona about a mile high with ideal weather and lots of trails for me to run on. There were beautiful sunsets nearly daily, mostly golden haze and sometimes majestic and towering clouds full of fury and color during the summer monsoon.
Soon we were to find that Yavapai county also a hosted a lot of guns, the headquarters of the Proud Boys, monthly Confederate flag-selling flea markets, and lots and lots of Christian colonial pride. When BLM marched, men in camo and AK-47's lined the streets of Prescott to protect white people from being unfairly replaced by not white, not straight, not-cis-gendered types. The images from the Black Lives Matter march have never left me. The confederate flag flea market, for as long as we lived in Chino/Prescott were a monthly reminder of the depth and width of hate in our small towns and countryside.
Not too long after settling in Prescott our daughter informed us we'd misgendered her, and without wavering corrected us then and consistently afterward when my wife and I slipped in our pronouns. This, the reader might surmise is the crux of this short story.
Deep in the pandemic her gender identity was celebrated in a sea of hate. My daughter also began showing neurodivergent traits at the same time she encountered copy cat hate from the 20 or so other 4 year old 'friends' at daycare. “You’re not a girl!” or “Girls can only marry boys! etcetera. We got letters threatening "disenrollment" from our daughter’s day care. We were ghosted by y aunt and uncle whom we’d lived with and received much support from. Coincidently this ghosting happened about the time our Facebook began to celebrate our daughter’s diversity. Probably too many rainbows in our social media feeds. We suddenly experienced no invites, no communication, while on while on my aunt’s Facebook we watched all kinds of parties and get togethers happening. The message, though unspoken, was not subtle. From an entirely accommodating experience to silent hate. I am today convinced that the am to OG of code-switching lies in the foundations of racism, now easily applied for the convenient expulsion of the not vanilla sexual identity.
This ghosting was a wind at our backs as we prepared to move south. Again. This time to Tucson. We found actual waiting lists to good doctors and well provisioned schools. These simply didn’t exist in unfriendly Prescott. We drove most neighborhoods, explored the nooks and crannies and found pride communities in many different neighborhoods.
I've had my own struggles along the way too. Now in Tucson I have grown more comfortable with my identity as neurodivergent even as I'm less certain what my own sexual identity is. I’m the father of a trans-kid reparenting my own sexuality and ADD. In contrast I have contemplated my empty shell of cis-gendered white privilege, stripped of culture, color, descriptions, geography, identity, fun and exploration. In erasing the culture of others and exploiting what little remained, I'm left with a hodgepodge of nothing. Male sexuality is about as exciting as plain oatmeal.
I'm blessed to have a best friend who's family is also protecting and advocating for a daughter facing some of the same challenges. In the Seattle area, my friend’s daughter has faced explicit discrimination in the schools and a profound lack of resources for gender affirming care and mental health care. We share those struggles and it's nice to have someone to support and to be supported by in caring for a trans kid who also happens to be your best friend.
Knowing more of my daughter’s story has been difficult. Much of our energy in the last couple years has been trying to meet the needs of a neurodivergent (sensory disorder) child. Her emotional development has been a-synchronous. She did her “terrible twos” when she was 5 and 9 years old. As an infant and toddler she was perfectly behaved, she listened and obeyed all of our ‘no’s. Without the emotional development most kids do when younger, my daughter essentially came out during a period of pushing boundaries like a two year old. It took 3 moves to find our final home in Tucson. Symptoms consistent with Oppositional Defiance Disorder emerged before and after each move. My wife and I are now hard at work trying to engage in community that looks like our daughter, with many parents like us. Stories of sudden expulsion from legal society occur on the daily in Arizona. We share those stories with many others. My daughter wonders why she can’t play football, why girls' baseballs look bigger, why sports are segregated, why looking like a girl involves wearing what she perceives as tight clothing. My daughter’s sensory issues and preferences hate form fitting anything, a one piece swimsuit or leotard in exception to the rule.
So there we have it, my incomplete story full of imperfections with few conclusions. I'm throwing it out there in the spirit of 'leaning into danger'. I want disrupt my norm, protect those I love, and expand the sphere of love and celebration of gender identity. 'Be where you are', I have heard, and it just so happens that's all I'm capable of for now. I’m grateful to leave a city where the supermajority is committed to expelling anything deemed ‘other’. To a majority of humans in the world, Prescott says, F*&^ Off”.
For me, the same AK-47’s that were pointed at BLM marcher’s are also aimed at anyone that celebrate Pride. The structures of racism rule and inform the hate of anyone ‘other’ than the cis-white. There is no middle ground. The flag really is shorthand for me. And mine must be something that looks like this: