Moving to Spain had always been a dream of mine. I longed for a life of relaxing in an open-air plaza in Madrid or Barcelona and dining on tapas, tortillas, and wine. The idea of taking siestas in the middle of the day and enjoying month-long vacations in August tempted me as a young person. As I grew older and became more open with my identity as a queer man, I discovered Spain was also one of the first openly queer-friendly countries. Less than a year after I graduated high school in 2005, Spain became the third European country to grant same-sex couples the right to marry. This heightened my feeling that Spain was where I truly belonged.
Last May, I decided to pack all my things and move to Barcelona. I did it for two reasons: To fulfill my lifelong dream and to escape an ever-increasing wave of conservative laws making my queer existence more and more difficult. I fled from Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis had just enacted the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or queer identity and was expanded in April to include grades 12 and under.
U.S. District Judge Wendy Berger ruled that most of the plaintiffs lacked standing and accused them of “legal posturing.”
Growing up in Orlando, I remember feeling ashamed of my identity. I had no positive representation, and any mention of LGBTQ+ people was usually done in a negative tone. As the years progressed, though, LGBTQ+ people were gaining rights. That is, until Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States.
Get the Daily Brief
The news you care about, reported on by the people who care about you:
With Trump in office, outright hatred toward LGBTQ+ folks (and especially trans folks) became acceptable. Campaigns like Anita Bryant’s 1970s viciously anti-LGBTQ+ “Save Our Children” initiative were back, but with a modern twist.
This environment made me want to move as fast as possible. When I arrived in Spain, I was amazed by how many pride flags flew in places like Chueca (Madrid) and Gaixample (Barcelona). Streets were lined with flag hanging on terraces and buildings. I felt safe. My identity as a queer person did not stand out.
But this past June, the Spanish far-right political party VOX won local elections in the Valencian town of Náquera. One of the first things the party did was ban pride flags in public spaces and government buildings. This was just the beginning. With an aggressive general election campaign, the VOX political party hinted at rolling back LGBTQ+ protections and rights. During the campaign, one of the talking points for VOX was the idea that trans rights hurt children. This seemed eerily similar to what’s happening in Florida.
In other European countries, like Italy, LGBTQ+ rights are being restricted or rolled back. This past summer, the administration of Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, began enforcing an ordinance removing non-biological LGBTQ+ parents from birth certificates.
I moved from the U.S. to escape homophobia, but it has followed me to Europe. Trump’s attitude toward queer people has sent shockwaves around the world, and we are now seeing the same rhetoric in other countries that were once shining examples of equality. Yes, Europe has a checkered past, but in modern times, many nations have been considered bastions of queer equality.
General elections in Spain took place earlier this summer, and it looks like the socialist party will be reelected. While not perfect, this is momentary relief, considering VOX was not too far behind.
In towns like Náquera, residents are fighting back. There has been an outpouring of support from allies showcasing pride flags on their terraces. Some are torn down at night, but locals are resilient and rehanging them. In Italy, people are gathering to protest the restrictions on LGBTQ+ parents.
While the present may seem bleak, there is hope for the future. In Spain, we are witnessing more people who have not previously been interested in politics taking an active role.
I am not allowed to vote yet due to my residency, but when I become a citizen, it will be the first thing I do. The future of Spain could change any time, and even though I was not born here, I know that moving here comes with a responsibility to fight for what’s right.