Jun 20, 2023 - News

LGBTQ+ Floridians using GoFundMe to flee the state, citing new laws

Animated illustration of the state of Florida with the LGBTQ Pride Flag colors falling off of it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Koe Hensley has started noticing glares when he goes out to eat. Jayce is afraid to go to the bathroom in public. Lily Lovejoy is terrified of losing health care. They're all trying to flee Florida.

What's happening: Hensley, Lovejoy and Jayce, who asked Axios to only use his first name, are part of a wave of transgender Floridians who launched GoFundMe fundraising campaigns asking for help leaving the state.

  • GoFundMe tells Axios it has observed a sharp increase year-over-year in fundraisers created to support trans people here seeking to relocate to more LGBTQ+-friendly states.
  • So far this year, more than $200,000 has been raised on the platform to support trans individuals and families seeking to leave Florida.

Of note: GoFundMe would not share exact numbers of fundraisers on the record, citing company policy.

Driving the news: Axios talked to several people who launched GoFundMes who said that even if they can't leave, the fundraisers bring awareness to how hard it is to be trans in Florida now.

Catch up quick: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed four bills into law in May that touch several aspects of daily life for some LGBTQ+ community members — from limiting the use of preferred pronouns in public schools to criminalizing the use of bathrooms that don't align with a person's sex at birth.

  • DeSantis also doubled down on his administration's previous efforts to prohibit gender-affirming health care for minors and restrict classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The governor's office did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

What they're saying: "I might not be able to get myself out but I could spread awareness and try and stop (the stigma) at the state level," said Lovejoy, who raised $1,000 to leave Largo.

Yes, but: Lovejoy didn't raise enough to leave and after experiencing medical setbacks, they are trying to use the money to survive where they are.

  • "I’m just kind of frozen in time living day to day, not really sure what I should do," Lovejoy said. "I have some friends in other states but nothing’s stable enough for me right now."

Zoom in: Hensley, a trans man in Clearwater, started a GoFundMe to move to Nevada when his lease is up in September. He has access to gender-affirming health care, but he's worried about discrimination driven by the anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

  • "We're being painted as a cancer to society, this sexual deviancy that needs to be erased," Hensley told Axios.

Zoom out: Similar but smaller spikes in fundraising to move trans people to more LGBTQ+-friendly states have occurred in Texas and Tennessee, GoFundMe told Axios, which also passed anti-LGBTQ+ laws this year.

Jayce and his husband fled from Clearwater with just $335 in their GoFundMe last week — their goal was $3,000. The money was just enough to help them drive out of state when their lease was up June 4, a month after launching the fundraiser.

  • "We didn't want to have to deal with biting our nails off for another year," he told Axios.
  • Jayce worried about being targeted by people emboldened by the laws and feared a future where their daughter could be taken away.
  • The family hasn't figured out where they will live permanently or what they'll do for work. But now that they're out of state, "I feel like I can breathe again," Jayce said.

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