Hank Plante's piece on a possible "gay brain drain" is getting a lot of reposts and discussion in social media. He's basically arguing that there could be a flight of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from states that ban same-sex marriage to those that embrace marriage equality.
I know people who lived in Tennessee who left because of our discriminatory laws. We probably all have anecdotal evidence. And Plante gives some evidence for the possible brain drain in his piece, but nothing conclusive. There's no real population study or any real statistics to back up his question or his hypothesis about brain drain. So we're really left in the realm of speculation. And as long as we're doing guesswork, I'll offer some thoughts of my own.
1. It's a free country. If folks want to move and can move, we should wish them all the best in their new lives. People have to live their own lives where they believe they can make the best of it. But...
2. There's no perfect state. Even states like New York that give same-sex couples the freedom to marry can experience outbreaks of anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender violence.
3. The overturning of DOMA may actually slow the brain drain. What I hear about more than folks moving are the stories of Tennessee couples vacationing in other states where they can get married and then returning to Tennessee. They now know that, no matter what Tennessee does, their marriage will be recognized by the federal government and they can access key benefits that they couldn't before.
4. Flight doesn't take into account gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children and people who come out later in life. Even if all the adult GLBTs left Tennessee, there are more of us born every day to grow up here in the anti-marriage equality states and many who came out much later in life.
5. Not everyone can move and not everyone wants to move. If your job is here or a sick or aging relative, it may not be possible for you to move. If you own a business, you may not want to jump ship and have to develop a whole new client list in another state. Or if you have innumerable ties to a place, you probably won't base your decision solely on that state's laws. We're multi-dimensional human beings and we make big decisions after weighing several factors like everyone else.
6. Some of us are going to stand and fight right here in Tennessee and other Southern states. Plante asks, "But are smart gay and lesbian workers going to wait for their states to
come around, or are they going to take their lives into their own hands?"
Smart gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people along with our allies are taking our lives into our own hands every day in Tennessee by living our lives openly, fighting negative legislation, working for better policies in our cities and counties, working against bullying, rallying for change, shaping a public message of equality in the media, being good neighbors, educating people about HIV/AIDS, loving our partners and bringing up our children, and running a business.
We're not waiting, Mr. Plante. We're living our lives and we're making a Tennessee that is more equitable, just, and free.