How a nonbinary Pokemon and a Republican governor reminded me it's time to flee Virginia

We were driving around our home about a week ago when I heard my son say pretty calmly to my wife that the Pokemon he spotted in his collection was nonbinary.

"Wait, what did he say?" I asked my wife while laughing at a woke 9-year-old apparently respecting gender identity.

My wife informed me that he realized this new Pokemon, which he caught playing "Pokemon Go" on his iPad, is nonbinary because there is no gender listed.

"Ah, OK that makes sense," I replied.

Then we just carried on with our day.

A realization about where I live

Later, I had a weird moment of realization that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his anti-LGBTQ supporters want very much for children and their families to never be burdened with having those conversations. Attacking LGBTQ people isn’t a glitch in the Republican Party. It’s a feature. It’s one of several governing policies the new breed of Republicans is openly imposing across the country.

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It just reinforces the idea that where you live matters more than it used to. Politicians, especially Trump Republicans, are forcing their way of life on the rest of us through legislation. And their way goes beyond core conservative positions like being strong on immigration or lowering taxes and finding places to shrink government and minimizing regulation. Going after LGBTQ issues hits directly at the identity of many Americans.

It's going to get worse if Republicans take Congress in November and the White House in 2024.

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Why? I don't know, probably to curry for votes. I honestly don't care. What I do know is that I won't have my son take part in a GOP-run education system with a governor who appears to be just getting started. Friends remind me that Virginia is a one-term state for governors. While that does bring me comfort, a ton of damage can be done in one term. And I've never been one to take chances with things I care about. I realize that likely means moving to a Democratic haven, likely on the West Coast. Good. I miss Mexican food.

But I have to be honest and admit moving would mean leaving a state we otherwise have grown to love and a school district that has been so supportive of our autistic son that I have recommended other families move into it, prior to Youngkin taking the reins and falling in line with the new GOP playbook.

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Now that district will likely have to enforce these new transgender policies. We want no part of policies that use children to cater to the vote of their parents. These are governing decisions, in some cases legislation, that actively dehumanize people and speed down that slippery slope that Republicans like to point to when there is any talk of gun control: If Democrats get any more control, they say, where will it end?

Let me ask you this. If Republicans keep legislating and governing against LGBTQ kids, where does that end?

Let’s catch up on GOP tomfoolery

So what specifically am I talking about? Here’s a snapshot:

►13 states have enacted anti-LGBTQ laws. Eleven of those states have Republican governors. The two states with Democratic governors, Louisiana and Kentucky, both have GOP-led legislature that overrode a governor's veto.

“Say Gay Anyway” rally in Miami Beach on March 13, 2022, after Florida passed new restrictions on discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, derided by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“Say Gay Anyway” rally in Miami Beach on March 13, 2022, after Florida passed new restrictions on discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools, derided by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

26 states have abortion bans, gestational limits or blocked bans going. Of those, 21 states are fully controlled by Republicans. The other five have a GOP-controlled legislature.

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►On denying the results of the 2020 election, a Washington Post analysis found that battleground states are drenched with candidates who continue to deny the results of the presidential election. Some on that list are candidates for governor. Goes without saying they’re all Republicans. In many cases, we're talking about secretary of state races, which decide the state's chief election official. 

Back to Gov. Youngkin 

Youngkin’s recent decision to suggest new guidelines affecting transgender students is the latest in a long, tragic line of Republicans targeting transgender people across the country. Not to mention his expressed desire to ban abortion in a state where it’s now legal.

Supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gather for an election night party in Chantilly, Va., on Nov. 2, 2021.
Supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin gather for an election night party in Chantilly, Va., on Nov. 2, 2021.

I'm not saying Youngkin and his GOP brethren should stop and let these children live their lives. I'm not saying they should leave abortion rights alone and comply with what most of the voters want. I'm not saying they should make funding public schools a priority or refrain from banning books. I’m not even saying they should acknowledge that teachers might, most of the time, know how best to educate children for a global economy. I’ve never been a fan of yelling into a void, and there are people who support that way of doing things. 

Republicans are going to be Republican, after all.

Where are we safe from GOP madness?

I'm just going to take my leave as soon as I can. Good riddance, some of you will say. I agree.

So where will we move? I asked Republican friends to tell me which states they really despise. Which states, in their opinion, are doing too much to help public schools and are going way overboard with creating accepting environments by likely spending too much on public services and programs?

Where, I asked, do they actively protect abortion rights, allow all manner of books, are not likely to have election deniers take office, won't put targets on LGTBQ kids, and refuse to offer support to Donald Trump and his group of political acolytes?

I'm still waiting for an answer. But I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that those places aren't red on a political map. We have some time to sort that out. Until then, we’ll be catching nonbinary Pokemon and hoping the GOP doesn’t realize their children probably are, too.

More from Louie Villalobos:

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Louie Villalobos is an audience development editor at USA TODAY Opinion. Follow him on Twitter: @louievillalobos

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Republicans going after LGBTQ kids means I have to leave Virginia