ORLANDO, Fla. — (AP) — Dozens of transgender people in Florida have turned to crowdfunding appeals to help them get out of the state after the passage of new legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community, including a law restricting access to gender-affirming care for adults and prohibits it for minors.
For Sage Chelf, the decision to leave didn’t feel like an option, but she didn’t have the funds to cover a move. The 30-year-old trans woman, who lives in the Orlando area, was about to run out of medication when she discovered that the clinic that had prescribed her hormone therapy was ending all treatment for trans patients.
“I don’t want to go back to being the person I was forced to be at that point,” Chelf said, of the years before her transition in 2021. “It was a very dark time in my life. I’d rather just not be alive, I guess, than have to go back to living without being trans.”
Chelf was one of dozens who put out an appeal for donations online, saying they needed help getting out of Florida in anticipation of or in reaction to a law that went into effect May 17. In addition to prohibiting gender-affirming care for transgender minors, the law places new restrictions on adults seeking treatment.
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The number of people seeking help online is a fraction of the estimated 94,900 transgender adults living in Florida according to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, which analyzed population-based surveys from Statewide. Many, if not most, will stay.
Not all trans people seek medical interventions. But for those who do, losing access to hormone therapy or stopping other care can be devastating to their mental health. Over time, they may lose some of the sexual characteristics generated by hormones.
Chelf, who works as a leasing agent in Orlando, estimated that he would need $2,500 to cover the cost of moving and finding a new job. He was amazed by raising over $3,000 online in less than two weeks.
“I was under the impression that nobody is really going to donate, people are going to think I’m just trying to like it, get free money,” he said.
People have donated more than $200,000 since January to GoFundMe fundraisers started by trans people seeking to leave Florida, according to data from the platform.
Jalen Drummond, director of public affairs for GoFundMe, said the online fundraising platform saw a 39% increase from April to May in the number of fundraisers created to help trans people leave the state. due to changes in laws.
That’s still a pittance in terms of charitable giving overall, but it packs a punch for people like Chelf. Such mutual aid helps make up for the general underfunding of nonprofits that serve the LGBTQ+ community.
A recent study found that those organizations received 0.13% of the $426 billion in general charitable giving in 2019, the most recent year for which IRS data on giving to tax-exempt organizations was available.
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One reason for that low number is that many nonprofits that primarily serve the LBGTQ+ community are small, grassroots organizations that don’t have much fundraising capacity, said Una Osili, associate director of research and international programs at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School. of Philanthropy.
He is hopeful that the school’s research can be a resource to both donors and nonprofit organizations seeking additional funding.
The report does not analyze funds exchanged directly between individuals.
However, Elise Colomer-Cheadle, director of development at Outright International, said the most vulnerable in the LBGTQ+ community — older people, rural residents, immigrants and trans people — are likely to be underserved.
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“While their movement is the largest that has historically existed in the last 55 years, it is still not large enough to meet all the needs of this population in the context of a very well-funded and very hateful opposition,” Colomer-Cheadle said. , whose organization advocates for the human rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and populations around the world.
“There is a feeling: the opposition is out for blood and our lives are at stake,” he said. “And if we don’t step up ourselves, it’s possible that no one else will. It’s a very, very scary time.”
Advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community, the Southern Campaign for Equality awards $500 direct grants to families of transgender minors throughout the South and to transgender adults in Florida.
She is close to reaching her goal of raising $250,000 in additional funds to distribute this year, said Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the organization’s executive director.
“We have people come up out of the blue, several times a week, and say, ‘Hey, I’ve never connected with your organization before. I’m hosting a fundraiser for you tomorrow night thousands of miles from here. I’ll send you the money. That’s pretty incredible.” Beach-Ferrara said.
Chelf hopes to move to Illinois and live with his girlfriend. His donations to his GoFundMe have restored his faith in humanity.
“I think everyone is aware of how dire the situation really is,” he said.
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