Parents of Trans Kids Are Raising Money to Flee Texas on GoFundMe

GoFundMe is full of requests for money after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott started investigating the families of kids receiving gender-affirming healthcare.
Janus Rose
New York, US
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As a lifelong Texas resident, Ande McBay never imagined she’d be fundraising to move her transgender child to another state. In the southern Texas city where she’d put down roots, McBay and her 16-year-old kid, B, found a thriving and close-knit LGBTQ+ community that supported their family throughout B’s gender transition.

“We never felt unsafe going through all this here,” McBay told VICE News. “It never seemed like it wasn’t a good place to stay and raise my family.”

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That all changed after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton directed the state’s child protective services to begin investigating the parents of trans children who are receiving gender-affirming healthcare—and threatening to separate trans kids from their families. The directive declared medically supported treatments such as hormone replacement therapy “child abuse.”  

When McBay saw a post on Facebook saying her neighbor’s trans child had been reported to child services, the prospect of having B taken away by the state suddenly seemed very real. She started making plans to move B out of Texas to live with family in another state and started a GoFundMe campaign to cover travel and moving expenses. 

“This is ripping our family apart.”

“We finally hit the point where I realized my child is in boiling water, and it all started from someone I know having their life affected,” said McBay, comparing the situation to the metaphor of the frog who is slowly boiled in a pot of water. “Once you hear that someone had a knock on their door, that illusion just shatters.”

Right now, GoFundMe is awash in stories like McBay’s. About half of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 emergency expense without going into debt or cutting into other expenses, and an out-of-state move typically costs several multiples of that. But for many parents, fleeing the Lone Star State feels like the best investment for a transgender child’s life down the line. 

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“I'm sorry,” one parent wrote in a GoFundMe campaign that has raised $3,500, “but I don't think I could survive if my daughter is taken from me, especially when she just recently started blooming into the girl she was meant to be.”

“We have been planning on relocating to Colorado, which supports the #LGBTQ community better than Texas, but this has made it all the more urgent to provide a safe environment for our child in her daily life,” another parent said in a GoFundMe campaign that’s raised more than $9,300. “She can't even be honest about her feelings and emotional health to therapists or doctors here without fearing that there is a chance they'd make a report.”

“My family has decided that it is no longer safe for my daughter to remain within this state and that we need to move no later than this summer, preferably sooner though,” a third parent said in a GoFundMe campaign, requesting $5,000 because the family has a “very limited income.” (As of Thursday evening, they had raised $135.) 

Last month, Paxton claimed with no medical evidence that providing certain types of healthcare to a transgender minor—including hormone therapy and puberty blockers—was considered abuse under state law. Gov. Abbott then directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate reports of trans children receiving such treatment, which can literally be life-saving. (The announcement came right before a March 1 Republican primary in which both Paxton and Abbott were being contested.)

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The policy goes against an overwhelming consensus in the medical community, which finds that gender-affirming treatments are medically necessary and, according to recent studies, significantly reduce the rates of suicide and depression among trans youth. Puberty blockers delay the onset of hormonal puberty, and aren’t prescribed until adolescence, while gender-affirming surgeries are not recommended until age 18 under current medical guidelines. The American Medical Association, a professional association of physicians, has said that policies prohibiting necessary gender-affirming care are a “dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.”

The announcement was another salvo in the GOP’s moral panic over trans children across the U.S., which has already resulted in Iowa and Tennessee banning trans kids from playing sports on teams that align correctly with their gender. The Texas Legislature also voted last year to block transgender kids from playing on those teams. And in Idaho, a recently proposed bill would make it a felony—potentially punishable by life in prison—to provide gender-affirming healthcare to kids or help a child travel across state lines to receive treatment. (That’s more time behind bars than what a person convicted of sexually abusing a minor under the age of 16 might receive, as GLAAD noted.) 

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In Alabama, the state Senate passed a law that would criminally punish doctors who provide gender-affirming treatment to transgender children. Altogether, legislators have proposed dozens of bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, part of a wave of proposed measures targeting queer and trans people nationwide, according to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan campaign for nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.

Violet Augustine, a 37-year-old artist living in Dallas, said she’s concerned for the future of her bubbly, goofy 6-year-old daughter Isa, who transitioned in October 2020. Last November, the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas shut down its gender-affirming healthcare program, which could have provided Isa with help one day. Though the hospital and its partner in the program, UT Southwestern Medical Center, didn’t elaborate on the closure, the program had been the target of conservative attacks, according to the Texas Tribune.

As a mother, Augustine wants Isa to be happy and thrive, which might mean psychological support, therapy, and gender-affirming care—or no gender-affirming care, if that’s what Isa wants—down the road. What matters, Augustine said, is that Isa has a choice. In Texas, those choices are disappearing.

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So, after raising more than $18,000 on GoFundMe, Augustine is hoping to move to California this summer. She’s currently looking for a job in the state.

Even if the anti-trans policies don’t stick around, “at the end of the day, our lives are not just theory and hypothesis,” Augustine said. “The only reason that I even have money to move is because of this GoFundMe. Imagine if Isa were a teenager, and she was receiving gender-affirming health care, and child protective services showed up knocking on my door, and I didn’t have a GoFundMe, and I didn’t have money for an attorney?” 

“That’s not a hypothetical that I’m OK with waiting just in case to see if it happens or doesn’t happen,” she added. 

Augustine said that she’s been surprised by the amount of support she’s gotten, including out-of-state people offering her a place to stay. Some individuals have donated hundreds—even thousands—of dollars to her GoFundMe. It’s a far cry from what she’s felt in Texas: fear.

“It’s been kind of in the back of my head … that I’d need to get her to a place a little bit more accepting, because Dallas pretty much only has, like, some neighborhoods that are accepting of LGBTQ people,” Augustine said. “We don’t live in one of those neighborhoods. The rest of the state is a scary place to be.”

On Wednesday, a Texas judge upheld an order that temporarily blocked the state from investigating a trans teen’s family, in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and Lambda Legal. But like many parents in the state, McBay says that she and B are not waiting around to find out what happens next. While McBay mourns the loss of all of the little traditions they share together in Texas, like cosplay contests and trivia nights, she’s confident that moving B to some place safer is the right call.

“This is ripping our family apart,” she said, tearing up over the phone. “But the last thing we want after 5 years of being out is to say to B, ‘You have to hide who you are.’ I don’t want B growing up in a place where they have to hide that, where they don’t get the opportunity to be authentic.”

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