After the passage of new laws targeting the LGBTQ community (including , a law which restricts adult access to gender affirming care and prohibits it for minors), dozens of transgender individuals in Florida turned to crowdfunding to help them escape the state.
Sage Chelf didn’t feel like she had a choice when it came to leaving, but the money to move was not available. Sage Chelf, a 30-year-old woman who lives in Orlando, had almost finished one of her medications when she learned that the clinic prescribing hormone therapy for trans people was discontinuing treatment.
Chelf, who transitioned to transgender in 2021, said: “I don’t wish to return to the person I was forced to become at that time.” It was a very difficult time in my personal life. “I would rather not be alive than have to live as a non-trans person.”
Chelf was one of dozens who posted an online appeal for donations, stating that they needed assistance to leave Florida as a result or in anticipation of a new law which took effect on May 17. The law also places restrictions on adult patients seeking treatment.
The number of transgender people who seek help online is only a fraction of 94,900 estimated transgender adults in Florida, according to the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles School of Law. This study was based on population-based state-level surveys. Many, if they are not all, will remain.
Not all transgender people seek medical intervention. For those who seek medical interventions, the loss of access to hormone treatment or interruptions in other treatments can have a devastating effect on their mental health. They can gradually lose the sexy characteristics that the hormones produce.
Chelf, a leasing agent from Orlando, estimated that she would require $2,500 in order to pay for the costs of moving and looking for a new position. She was shocked to find that she raised more than $3,000 in less than two week.
She said, “I thought that no one would donate. People will think I’m trying to get free money.”
According to GoFundMe data, people have donated $200,000 to fundraisers started by transgender people who want to leave Florida. Jalen Drummond is the director of public affairs at GoFundMe. He said that the online fundraising platform has seen a 39% rise in the number fundraisers set up to help transgender people leave Florida due to the new laws.
This is still a small amount of money in the grand scheme of charitable giving. But it makes a huge difference for people like Chelf. Mutual aid like this helps compensate for the underfunding that nonprofits provide to the LGBTQ community.
A recent study found these organizations received 0.13% the $426 billion total charitable giving in 2019 – the latest year for which IRS data was available on donations to tax exempt organizations.
Una Osili is the associate director of research and international programs for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She believes that this low number can be attributed to the fact that many of the nonprofits serving the LGBTQ community are smaller grassroots organizations with limited fundraising capabilities. She hopes that the research of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy can serve as a resource to both donors and non-profits looking for additional funding.
The report does NOT examine funds that are exchanged between individuals. Elise Colomer Cheadle, Outright International’s development director, says that it is likely that those in the LGBTQ community who are most vulnerable — such as older people, rural residents and immigrants — will not be able to meet their needs.
“Although their movement has grown to be the largest in history over the past 55 years, they are still not large enough to meet the needs of all this population, especially with a well-funded, hateful, and violent opposition,” Colomer-Cheadle said, who is the director of an organization that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ individuals and populations worldwide.
She said: “There is a feeling that the opposition is out to get us and our lives are on the line.” “And it is possible that no one else will step up if we do not. It’s an extremely, very frightening time.
The Campaign for Southern Equality (which advocates for the LGBTQ Community) is giving direct grants of $500 each to families of transgender children in the South, and to transgender adults in Florida. The organization is on track to reach its goal to raise $250,000 to give away this year.
We get people reaching out to us out of the blue, several times a day, saying, “Hey, I’ve never heard of your organization.” Tomorrow night I will host a fundraiser thousands of miles away. Beach-Ferrara replied, “I’ll send you money. That’s pretty amazing.”
Chelf plans to move with her girlfriend to Illinois. Her faith in humanity has been restored by the donations she received through her GoFundMe.
She said, “I believe everyone is aware of the dire situation that exists.”