I’m currently a candidate for permanent residency in Canada. It’ll be a while before the Canadian authorities make their decision, and then a bit longer while I come up with ~$500 that Canada likes to extract from its immigrants for the privilege of the legal right to remain even after their stay is approved, on top of a similar expense required to even apply. I’ll have to sit for some sort of interview in between, most likely, so that an official fundamentally unqualified to make this determination can decide if my relationship to Ania is genuine. I haven’t yet determined whether I’ll have to make that appearance while crossdressing, given that my legal paperwork is all under the old name, but signs point in that direction. I’m still figuring out whether it’s a good idea to start moving on my legal name change now, or if that would complicate my application. Immigrating while transgender is a dreadful experience overall.
Eventually, I’ll also have to renounce my US citizenship, because even having US citizenship is a liability for US citizens relocated long-term elsewhere. The United States is unusual in two respects: it is illegal to enter the United States with a non-US passport if one is a US citizen, and the US extends its financial fingers into the doings of US citizens living abroad. Much has been written about the annoyance that these rules impose on people even approaching middle-class, despite being ostensibly aimed at drawing back some money filched by jet-setting CEOs and parked elsewhere in the world. Worse, because US citizenship is transmitted by birth to at least one American parent or on American soil, if I have children, anything in their names is also subject to US scrutiny and US taxes, when they’ll have no personal connection to “the old country” at all. Relative poverty has kept me off of the IRS and Treasury Department’s radar, but I’ll still probably have to answer for my invisibility once my income becomes real.
And renouncing is hard. Every connection one has to the United States is held as evidence that one is fundamentally unserious about their departure from Americana, even the ones one is legally required to maintain until the moment that renunciation is granted. And the one I’m probably going to get the most nonsense over is my voting record.
I have pointedly voted in every US election that I could manage since I figured out how to make absentee voting work. And for whoever eventually has to grapple with my renunciation, that’ll be a big red flag.
It is also something I have no intention of ceasing.
For better or for worse, nation-states are fundamentally unequal. Some, because of their geography, location, support from other states, and/or population, have swelled to utterly dominating geopolitical influence that is only lately being challenged. Others are global blind spots, which one barely has to acknowledge if their goal is to understand world affairs. Most are in between, relevant to their immediate neighbors and, possibly, in the context of specific globally relevant resources, but otherwise not currently massive engines of geopolitical influence. The United States is not one of these latter cases, and has been a global hegemon for decades or longer. The US’s military is larger than the other ten largest militaries combined; its economy rivals that of the entire continent of Europe; its desires are by and large what the United Nations is allowed to pursue; it has leveraged the remains of the British Empire to make sure English is the language of international business, science, and media; and its status as Canada’s largest trade partner gives it even more disproportionate influence in my adopted home. It is said that savvy citizens the world over all share one thing in common: a deep and well-founded interest in the goings-on of American politics. I am no different.
The structure of American politics keeps me firmly in its grasp in another way. The United States is a federation, and much of how its national level is designed disperses influence across its expanse. Most of its tiers of organization are further subdivided on geographic lines run as simple majorities. The largest tier of organization—the 50 US states and six inhabited non-state territories—has deep historical and geographical roots that have prevented any large-scale rearrangement or even proper integration of unrepresented regions in half a century. This has resulted in US states that, for a very long time, have been reliable and predictable simple-majority votes for specific parties. Most US states are either “red” or “blue,” consistently hosting a majority (however small) for either the Christofascist Republicans or centrist/occasionally-sort-of-leftist Democrats in most elections, and political strategists and commentators alike have long relied on the predictability of this pattern. But some US states refuse to fall into it. Because of greater demographic diversity than their fellows, these states are each home to a near 50-50 split between sympathizers for each of the two major parties, and frequently switch allegiances between elections. These “swing states” become the subject of most campaigning effort in national contests, such as the US presidency, as the others are considered largely foregone conclusions (or mostly irrelevant, such as the five insular territories whose inhabitants don’t have US voting privileges, because the US only says it is a representative democracy).
One of the swingiest of those swing states is Florida, my home state. Florida’s population includes a large Jewish contingent of mostly Eastern European and German extraction, which usually votes Democrat; substantial white settlement from the former Confederacy (Republican), another white bloc of settlers from elsewhere in the US, often of retirement age (a mixed bag), a large black population (Democrat), several Hispanic blocs that tend toward Republican (Cuban) or Democratic (most others) majorities, a large population of (usually Democratic) students, and increasing immigrant populations from all over the world, among others. Florida’s sense of itself is complicated, regional, and ever in flux, and migration from Latin America and from colder parts of the US constantly swells its numbers and makes it continuously more important to the Electoral College’s population-based math. Florida has been the deciding state in several of the most recent US presidential elections, and the one that took absurdly long to finalize its vote tally just before Barack Obama’s first presidency.
Thanks to its influence on the US’s political directions and the US’s influence on the world, Florida’s national elections are quite possibly the most important elections on the entire planet. And I am legally permitted to vote in them.
So I do. Every chance I get.
I vote in those elections because not voting in a simple-majority system, if one has the genuine option to vote and a chance to change the outcome, is not morally defensible. I vote because what happens in the US affects Canada almost as much as what happens in Canada, and sometimes more so. I vote because the entire world economy lurches back and forth with the US political winds.
I vote because my family lives in Florida, and I feel a moral obligation to try to make their lives better in spite of their own determination to make them worse by voting Republican. I vote because whether the place where my family lives is even safe for me to visit depends on the outcome of those votes. I vote because I’m not allowed to vote in Canada (YET), and this keeps me in practice.
I’ll lose that right when I renounce my US citizenship, and I will miss being part of something that big. But until then, I will exercise my right to try and steer the US behemoth toward more reasonable shores, and I will direct a one-finger salute at any Canadian or American who thinks that I should refuse to exercise this vital power out of ill-advised principle.
I vote for them. But I also vote for us.