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LGBT+ people are fleeing Florida in ‘mass migration’ over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Anti-LGBT+ laws put in place by Florida Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis have triggered a “mass migration” out of the state, a Pride organiser has said.

This comes as several transgender people are reportedly taking to GoFundMe to solicit donations to move out of the state.

Several Pride groups in the Sunshine State have cancelled their celebrations that were set to take place during the month of June after the new laws have left the community worried about possible blowback.

The President and CEO of Lake County Pride Danielle Olivani said on The Daily Beast’s The New Abnormal podcast that their events are going ahead.

“It’s not exactly being welcomed by the community where we’re having it. In fact, yesterday I just got a cease-and-desist from them, telling me not to mention them at all. They don’t want this to take place, but we’re gonna persevere,” they said. “We’re gonna have this Pride, because we’re fully within our rights to do so. And you know, we’re just gonna deal with things as they go. But right now, it’s a mixture of apprehension, fear. Yet, I’m hopeful at the same time.”

Speaking about what it’s like to be a part of the LGBT+ community in rural Florida, they said, “there’s no tolerance here”. They added that the new restrictions have especially affected younger members of the community.

Olivani said that the legislation signed by Mr DeSantis has led to a “mass migration” out of Florida.

“It’s too much,” Olivani said.

The number of trans people asking for donations on GoFundMe to leave Florida could be in the dozens or hundreds, according to The Advocate.

GoFundMe spokesperson Brian Hill said in a statement that “in the wake of more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills being introduced in state legislatures across the United States in 2023, families and trans individuals are looking to leave their respective state as they could face more obstacles when it comes to accessing essential services related to healthcare as well as education”.

Floridian Sage Chelf is trying to finance their move to Illinois on the platform. Chelf, a trans woman living in Orlando, wrote on their fundraising page that “due to the new bill Desantis signed into law SB 254 I can no longer be provided medication from my doctor to continue my transition”.

“At this point, I only have a week’s worth left of my medication. On top of that, the new bathroom ban bill HB 1521 could get me arrested for using a public restroom of the gender I identify with,” they added. “Due to fear for my own safety and human rights, I have decided to try and escape Florida as soon as I possibly can. I’m trying to move to Illinois to be with the love of my life and also to settle down in a state I consider to be an LGBTQ+ safe haven.”

“I just wanna live in a place where I don’t live in fear. Thank you all so much any help is highly appreciated. I’ve never done this before so figured I’d set the goal at like $2,500,” they said.

Trans woman Juliet, 20, wrote on GoFundMe that “Florida grows increasingly hostile toward trans folk and laws are expanding to prevent people like me from receiving life-saving gender-affirming health care, such as ones seen in FL SB 254. I’m asking for you to help me flee this state”.

Violet Rin, a trans woman hoping to move to New Mexico, wrote that “Florida continues to get worse”.

“SB254 along with a slew of other Anti-trans bills have passed, and SB254 affects me directly. My care provider for my HRT had to drop me, and so many trans people in Florida are being dropped by their care providers,” Rin added.

Earlier this month, Mr DeSantis signed a number of bills aimed at transgender people. The bills limit gender-affirming care for minors, ban people from using restrooms matching their gender identity, and block people from using their preferred pronouns in schools.

Restrictions on drag shows were also imposed.

“We are going to remain a refuge of sanity and a citadel of normalcy, and kids should have an upbringing that reflects that,” Mr DeSantis said when signing the bills at an evangelical school in Tampa.

The bills were swiftly criticised by advocates for LGBT+ rights.

Former Florida state representative Carlos Guillermo Smith became the first openly LGBT+ Latino to be elected to the state legislature.

On Twitter, he said that the bills are “revoking our freedoms and ruining people’s lives in his quest for political power”.

“We will NOT be erased,” he said. “We will RESIST. We will FIGHT BACK. We will proudly RAISE OUR FLAGS. We will WIN.”

State Representative Anna V Eskamani said Mr DeSantis is pushing “an extreme agenda that is fueled by disinformation, isolating already marginalised people”.

“In Florida, diversity is our strength – not a weakness or something to demonize and be afraid of,” she added.

LGBT+ advocacy group Lambda Legal said in a statement that the bills revealed a “callous disregard for LGBTQ+ Floridians and, in particular, trans youth by facilitating homophobia and transphobia and exposing this most vulnerable population to discrimination, harassment, and abuse”.

The bills include limitations on gender-affirming treatments for minors, such as puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgery, The Independent previously reported.

Part of the legislation states that that kind of care is child abuse and may lead to children being temporarily removed from their families, despite that it’s supported by medical officials.

Democratic Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones, who is gay, told CNN that “they have cloaked themselves in being the party of less government and parental rights, and what we’re seeing now is the total opposite”.

“Every other parent has the right to raise their child the way that they want to as long as your child is not gay, trans, bisexual. That’s freedom for some parents but not for all parents,” he added.