Growing up in rural Virginia in the early 1980s, I had a difficult time adjusting to my community, as many of my neighbors were xenophobic and racist. I had hoped my hometown would eventually evolve to become more tolerant and progressive, but after waiting for so many years, I gave up. I thought it would forever be a conservative wasteland and decided to leave.

In 1992, I traveled through Florida to visit a friend in Miami. I was impressed with the diverse communities and culture I found—at least in the central and southern portions—and knew immediately that Florida would be a better fit for me. The people seemed welcoming, and at the time, the state was completely under Democratic control. Eventually I moved here, and lived happily ever after.

Except I didn’t. Turns out, I should have stayed in Virginia.

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