We are moving to Philadelphia

We are moving to Philadelphia.

After a draining, exhilarating go on the academic job market, my partner landed a new gig in the City of Brotherly Love. We’ll move sometime this summer.

For me it will be another return. Three years ago I came back to Ohio, not too far from where I grew up. This summer I will return to Philadelphia, a city I explored often—and at times commuted to—from my college’s suburban enclave. Philly was my first city.

The desire to move has been growing in recent months, but it’s not without its uncertainties and tradeoffs.

Even now, as I begin to imagine all sorts of new possibilities, I am thinking about the gargantuan, sublime tulip tree that towers over our house. My garden and my dirty fingernails. The quiet and cultivating and creating and caregiving that have marked my time in Ohio. Moving here gave us the chance to drop out of a more bustling, distracted world. We had time and space to host many, many friends and family. Living here gave me the chance to face myself in a way I think I only could have as a stay-at-home parent.

Our decision to trade life here for a new one in Philly is largely about race and some about gay. I wanted so badly to believe I could live wherever I want (which would not be a city). But I’m not just me any more, apart from any other. I’m fused with my kid and his possibilities.

Again and again I considered and weighed the advantages of life here: the ability to prioritize a lifestyle of time together, leisure, greater attentiveness to who we are and how we’re treating each other, the better likelihood of a good education without going into debt, easier access to nature, slow mornings, and the warmth of an oven baking in the middle of the day. I placed these on the scale opposite the deficits.

Yes, it’d be nice to go to an exciting restaurant without driving an hour. Have a community of stay-at-home parents with values in common. Or see more art. However, those sorts of factors didn’t tip the scale. I’m pretty sure if it were just those things, we wouldn’t move.

What weighed heavily was knowing my kid, a child of mixed African-American and Latino origin with two gay dads, will always stand out here. He’ll be forced to blaze trails without having chosen that for himself and without the promise of regular contact with others like him.

It’s not that I couldn’t imagine a way through for him here. We were already connecting him to more people of color, being more conscious about which old friends we visit, who babysits him, cuts his hair, and comes over for dinner. We were planning to use my partner’s academic leaves to temporarily relocate to more diverse communities so Miles could attend an integrated school, hopefully get to know other transracial queer families.

I could imagine a life here in which, supported by these other interventions, Miles becomes known and well liked. We could forge a community in which we’d be respected for our differences yet welcome. Who knows? Miles could emerge as the kind of kid with resilience and natural charisma (not the kind you have to feign in order to survive). What if ultimately he didn’t struggle much with race and being part of a queer family and benefitted from the quality of life here?

It was possible but not likely enough. To make things work here felt too much like threading a needle. It seemed too risky, the stakes too high. If we had an opportunity to surround him with a community in which he might not feel like the only one, we decided we better take it.

The next time he tells me he wishes he had light skin, I want to know the only kids of color he sees aren’t just the ones in his books. I want to know he’s going back to school the next day to friends and classmates who have darker skin too.

Of course, the decision to move is not just about Miles. Just like race isn’t exclusively his issue and gay isn’t exclusively my issue. As you know if you’ve read other parts of this blog, I can get tired of sticking out all of the time too. We’ve made some excellent friends here, but I would love the chance to be around more diverse people and families too–transracial families, people parenting off the mommy-daddy axis, parents with adopted children, etc.

So for weeks on end Travis worked his ass off while I spent a lot of time solo parenting. His work paid off, and new options opened for us. Philadelphia became the obvious choice once we started looking at it more closely, plotting out potential futures in specific neighborhoods, armed with insights from blogs, the New York Times Census Project, and friends.

We now have in front of us the opportunity to live in a highly integrated neighborhood where queer people are also visible. With good coffee and coop groceries nearby, of course.

I’m feeling very lucky that we are even in a position to make this change.

Moving won’t solve the challenges of race or being a queer family. Living in a big city will undoubtedly present new problems. I will mourn our life here, yet I know the decision is right. I know we will feel less alone.

Now comes the planning and imagining about what’s next.

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32 thoughts on “We are moving to Philadelphia

  1. Congrats on the big impending move. I have such respect at how thoughtful you were in making this decision with your entire family’s best interest in mind. As I said, Philly is pretty awesome and I’m sure you’ll love it there. It’s such an interesting city with so much going on and so much queer! Be sure to check out Mountain Meadow when you get there – http://www.mountainmeadow.org. With their year-round programming, I think you’d be able to make lots of connections with other same-sex parents with kids of colour. Even more of a bonus on the families like mine/kids like me front.

    • Thanks so much for your help along the way. Seriously, it was very useful to get some of your thoughts off-blog.. The decision was a tough one, but in the end, Philly became the clear choice. Thanks too for the Mountain Meadow link–I’ll def. check it out.

  2. WOW!!! I am suddenly wanting to move too–just to take the journey with you! How intense and incredible. So pleased for you, and I know what a HUGE undertaking a move of this sort is on so many levels. Miles is blazing the path–and you are his eager co-pilot parents on this life journey! So pleased for you.

    • Yes, it’s feeling like a massive change. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping at night thinking about what it entails and what it might mean for us. If you and your family ever find yourselves down coast, I hope you’ll look us up!

    • I must add: your blog has been a critical resource in helping my own thinking about transracial adoption. So thanks and know you have an impact.

      • Honored Josh. Really. I couldn’t ask for a more meaningful comment. The race/ethnicity/place work I did on the blog this summer felt super important. I’m doing a race /white mind awareness workshop with a PTO this week. The work is so endless, so important. I was talking about YOU and your bravery to my anti racist ally/mama to two brown boys (Mixed family) tonight! How I really feel inspired by YOU.

  3. Pingback: Around the net-race related edition « Mama C and the Boys

  4. Hi!
    I just stumbled onto your blog via another blog I like to read- and I hope this doesn’t feel like internet stalking to you! My husband and I live in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. We are white and our son who is AA came to us through adoption also. Not sure exactly when or where you are moving but wanted to invite you to come to a support group that meets the first Sunday of every month (generally) outside of Philly. FLO (families like ours) is for families who have adopted African-American or African-American/biracial children. We sometimes talk about transracial adoption issues but also it’s a fun chance for the kids to play and socialize and the parents to chat. It was started by some families at our agency and gets some support from them, but is open to any families and there are lots of families that did not use our agency. Here is the link to the info:
    http://www.openarmsadoption.net/events/2012/04/01/families-like-ours-flo/families-like-ours-flo-resources-and-support-for-transracial-adoptive-families/

    • It’s incredible to learn about this kind of group. Totally fulfills my dreams about the kinds of community we can find in the Philly area. FLO must be a great resources because you’re one of a handful of people to share information about it in the past couple of days. I’m now on the listserv and hopefully will get to meet you and others some time soon. We are seriously considering the Mt. Airy neighborhood. I’ll check out your blog and would love to be in touch. Thanks!

  5. I was linked here from elsewhere, and don’t know your story. But as self-appointed ambassador I do know this: Philly welcomes you. We can’t wait to meet you.

    • Um, yeah, they are apparently quite amazing. It’s been soooo terrific to tap into this community of people working on issues of race and adoption and parenting. Thanks for giving us a helping hand into our new world.

  6. Hello–I’m happy to have stumbled on your blog! Congrats on your big move–my household is in the throes of the same discussion. We live in Lancaster, a few counties west of Philly. We consider moving back (I’m from the Philly burbs) to be in a more diverse community now that my white husband and I have a daughter who was born in Ethiopia and an African American baby on the way someday (through Open Arms, by the way…great people there!). Check out The Green Line Cafe, owned by my brother-in-law, to meet your coffee needs. You will love all that Philly has to offer–blessings on your move! http://greenlinecafe.com/

    • Good coffee tips are much appreciated. Glad you stumbled onto the blog, and I hope you guys can come to a decision that feels right for all of you.

  7. I love your blog and respect the way you have thought about this move. I am a queer Philly suburbanite with a kid and I teach in a West Philly University. I look forward to hearing about your adventures here!

    • Thanks. Do you ever get involved with Philly Family Pride? I was just checking them out–seems like a great resources with lots of options to meet other families. I can’t believe they have so many neighborhood potlucks. Very different than our experience in small town Ohio.

      • Yes! I am actually on the board of PFP and the neighborhood potlucks are fairly new and really popular. We will have our annual conference coming up soon, too, so keep your eye on the website. If you join the Facebook group you can see the newsletter, which is a pretty good read.

  8. Hi there! Congrats on your move. I came upon your blog via Mama C’s Facebook page. My husband and I are a mixed race couple and our son, whom we adopted (through Open Arms), is AA like me. There are a lot of diverse neighborhoods in Philly and parents who are just like you – so you and your family will have no trouble fitting in 🙂

    • I know! I know! I think about the blog all the time. I hope to write again sometime soon. I’m a little caught up in selling our house, finding a new place to live, and otherwise getting ready for the move this June. But I’m also finding that the move is changing so much of how I think and feel about my role as a parent…..thanks for caring and bothering to let me know you’re wondering! I hope to be back soon.

  9. You’re killing us with this wait, Josh! Please realize that you life is all about us – your readers – and not this silly little move you have going on. 🙂

    Hope all is well for you 3. Miss your voice!

  10. I loved reading your story and base upon the comments, so does everyone else. I myself am looking to move to Philadelphia from Minnesota and had begun to do some generic searching when I came arcoss your article. Had to say that I really enjoyed it and hope that everything works out okay for you and your family.

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