Aug 17, 2022 - News

Some Texans departing the state over social laws

Illustration of the state of Texas with the LGBTQ Pride Flag colors in it, and black blinds covering them.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Finding new laws limiting LGBTQ+ rights intolerable, some Austinites are now leaving the state.

The big picture: There are still vastly more people moving to Austinand Texas generally — than leaving it, but interviews conducted by Axios suggest a new wave of migration may take hold as people desperate or well-off enough aim for states they deem more welcoming.

Catch up quick: Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year ordered state agencies to investigate the parents of transgender kids for child abuse for pursuing gender-affirming care.

  • Last year, he signed into law a measure that forces public school students to play on sports teams based on their assigned sex at birth.

By the numbers: About 1.8 million Texans identify as LGBT, per an analysis of census data by the Public Policy Institute of California that studied only those four identities.

What they're saying: "All the legislation with trans kids in schools, that was our moment of knowing the Texas we grew up in really was no longer safe," said Ava Cole, who moved with her wife, a software engineer, and 2 1/2-year-old child to Asheville, North Carolina, in May.

  • Cole says she's "very attached" to her identity as a Texan — family lore holds that her ancestors arrived in the Lone Star State in the early 19th Century — but in North Carolina, where a Republican legislature faces off against a Democratic governor, she said, "there's a still a fair fight."
  • Plus: "Liberal Austin has always felt a little like a joke to me," says Cole. "It's not queer. There's not a queer neighborhood."

Writer Katie Haab says she and her husband, who works in the tech industry — they can both work remotely, are poised to move to New York or Massachusetts out of concern for their 6-year-old, who was assigned female at birth and recently explained to his parents that he's a boy.

  • "I'm an activist and I like to make change, so there's some guilt leaving," Haab told Axios."But there is legislation against my child's body, his actual, physical body."
  • "I don't feel like my child is safe in Texas. We're not going to stay. I don't feel defeat, I feel rage."

"Sometimes I waver about leaving Texas, because I Iove so many of my friends here, and it's going to be hard to start over from scratch," says Axios Austin reader Allison M. "But when I start thinking about my son, and possibly grandchildren, then Texas seems impossible."

Meanwhile: While it's hard to pinpoint how many people are leaving Texas because of the new laws, GoFundMe has pages like "Help Chloe Escape Texas."

Worth noting: Bob McCranie, a Dallas-based realtor who is gay, has created a real estate service called Flee Texas to aid LGBTQ+ Texans.

  • "If you feel the need to leave the jurisdiction of Texas, let us help you sell your property here and connect you with an LGBTQIA or ally agent in a better location of your choice," the website reads.
  • "Almost every LGBTQ person I'm having dinner with or talking to or whatever has in the back of their mind, 'What's my plan B? How do I get out of here?'" McCranie told KXAN. "This is turning, and some of the people are responding, 'Well, we should all just stay and fight.' A lot of us have fought for — for me, 17 years. It's just everybody's thinking about, 'Where do I go next?'"

Between the lines: As state lawmakers passed laws limiting LGBTQ+ rights, suburbs around Austin — Round Rock, Bastrop and Pflugerville — celebrated their first Pride festivals, earlier this summer.

Flashback: A report this year by Out Leadership found that Texas trails nearly all states when it comes to offering an inclusive climate for LGBTQ+ workers.

The bottom line: The sorting of like-minded Americans that has materialized at bowling alleys, churches and in neighborhoods is repeating itself on the state level, driven by stark differences in state laws and deepening political and cultural divides.


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