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LGBTQ+ Floridians seek to flee the state amid a flurry of laws targeting the community

Rick Bowmer

As Tallahassee keeps passing more legislation targeting the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ Floridians report fearing for their livelihoods in the state. Crowd-funding sites like GoFundMe have seen an uptick in fundraisers to financially assist LGBTQ individuals and families to leave.

When the state’s largest LGBTQ organization launched a joint support fund to help folks flee the state’s anti−LGBTQ laws, Equality Florida witnessed a surge in requests for their $1,000 grants.

“People are unfortunately looking to leave to get access to the basics, the fundamentals: healthcare, a place where they can exist and be treated with dignity and respect, and they are looking for their neighbors to help them do that," said Brandon Wolf, a spokesperson for Equality Florida.

Equality Florida, which teamed up with the Campaign for Southern Equality, is one of several financial sources for queer and trans people seeking to leave the state.

Axios Tampa Bay reported that crowd-funding sites like GoFundMe have seen an uptick in fundraisers. These are meant to financially assist LGBTQ individuals and families. So far, GoFundMe campaigns have raised more than $200,000.

The Associated Press reportedin early June that dozens of transgender individuals in Florida turned to crowdfunding appeals to help them leave the state after the passage of new legislation that targets the LGBTQ+ community.

Jalen Drummond, GoFundMe’s director of public affairs, told the AP that the online fundraising platform saw a 39 percent increase from April to May in the number of fundraisers created to help trans people leave the state because of the changing laws.

LGBTQ advocates have singled out Gov. Ron DeSantis as one of the most “anti-LGBTQ+ governors in history.” He has signed several pieces of legislation specifically targeting the community and has recently joined the 2024 presidential race.

The news laws include limiting discussion on LGBTQ topics in schools, the removal of books with gay characters from school libraries and a ban on gender-affirming care for minors that a federal judge ruled as unconstitutional, saying it was “invidious discrimination” against transgender people.

READ MORE: After a historic wave of anti-LGBTQ laws, focus now shifts to legal fights

DeSantis and other Florida Republicans have defended their policies as reasonable. They have said parents, not teachers, should be broaching subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with their children. DeSantis has also slammed the use of gender-affirming care for minors, frequently calling it “child mutilation.”

Florida is home to the nation’s second-largest population of transgender adults, an estimated 94,900 people, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

"People need to understand what's at stake at this moment," said Wolf, of Equality Florida. "It's easy to feel like it doesn't impact you when you aren't a part of a marginalized community but all [the legislation] are threats to freedom in general."

Wolf said the governor’s policies are alienating a population, and will cause the "vibrant diversity of Florida to take their talents elsewhere."

"It’s heartbreaking to watch a state essentially turn a portion of its population into refugees — sending them to the northeast, to the west coast," said Wolf.

In the coming weeks, Equality Florida plans to make a $75,000 donation to their support fund and seeks to triple match any donations made on their website.

The Associated Press and News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

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Arianna Otero