Recent Republican victories in Florida have led many of us to consider moving out of the Sunshine State.
One who did something about it is gay business owner Jake Myers, who wrote about his exodus in “Don’t say Florida! Why I chose to move my LGBTQ business away from the Sunshine State,” which appeared on querty.com. (https://www.queerty.com/dont-say-florida-chose-move-lgbtq-business-away-sunshine-state-20221120). In 2020, Myers and his husband moved from California to Wilton Manors, where they started a business, LGBTQ Therapy Space, “which helps match LGBTQ clients with great LGBTQ therapists in their state who understand their authentic selves and help bring out their best lives. While I knew all along that the culture of therapy in Florida wasn’t quite the same as in California, I felt like the need for affirmative professionals would be great.”
Then came Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis and the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which swept away any illusions Myers had about Florida. “I knew that our new home wasn’t exactly shaping up to be the most welcoming and like-minded state for a therapy business, despite all this, my feeling was if the government is trying to put us back in the closet again, then where else is a business like this needed more? I began to ask myself an important question, ‘What does it say about me and my business that I’m allowing myself to be governed and surrounded by people who don’t think like me, and don’t have the same values as me?’ These conflicting feelings, plus a host of other things we missed about California, led us to make the decision to return. Some might call the move to Florida a ‘failure,’ but I call it a learning opportunity, and a chance to really hone in on what’s important and be grateful for people and institutions that value equality.”
Is Myers right? I have lived in Florida since 1964 and through the lives of its minorities have improved during the last six decades the political climate has not changed much. Politically, Florida has gone from solidly Democrat and conservative to solidly Republican and conservative, save for a transition period during the nineties. Though in many ways a wonderful place to live, Florida always had terrible leaders and, apparently, terrible voters. I am one of the lucky ones: I live in a blue city within a blue county, with a dynamic LGBT community within driving distance. This is not the case for my queer brothers and sisters who live deep in the heart of red Florida. And with DeSantis and his obedient GOP Legislature firmly in charge, things might get worse.
Still, there is much to enjoy about living in the Sunshine State, where most of my friends and loved ones live. Every year many LGBT people visit Florida as tourists, like what they see, and decide to move here permanently. Unlike Myers and his husband, most of those people stay, despite our toxic politics. There might come a time when things get so bad that I might have to leave. Until then, I stay here.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.