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Families With Trans Kids Are Fleeing Hostile States for Welcoming Ones

Kai Shappley
Kai Shappley

Anti-trans moves by politicians in Texas, Alabama, and elsewhere are leading families to seek friendlier locales.

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With transphobia running rampant in Texas, families with transgender children are starting to flee the state.

Kai Shappley, a trans girl who testified against harmful bills in the state legislature last year, posted on Twitter recently that she and her family have sold their home and most of their belongings and are planning to move elsewhere. They have set up a GoFundMe campaign to help fund the move and help other families as well.

"We are only taking the belongings that fit in the car (unless we get a motor home) including three cats and a 50lb dog on a road trip that doesn't have a destination yet," Kai's mother, Kimberley Shappley, wrote on GoFundMe. "What we have in mind so far is an epic road trip the kids will remember forever and my goal as a mom is to help ensure the memories from this season of our life are the ones that bring them joy later in life."

Their move comes a few months after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents for child abuse if they allow their trans children to receive gender-affirming care. That was based on a legal opinion issued by the state's attorney general, Ken Paxton, that such care is child abuse. Some of the investigations are blocked temporarily by court order while lawsuits against the policy are heard, but still, many families with trans children feel unsafe in the state.

Other families who are leaving hostile states for friendlier ones spoke recently to Time. One of them is an Austin family who moved to Portland, Ore., in June. "There are no good choices when the situation that these politicians have created is a nightmare," said the mother, identified only by a pseudonym, Karen. She and her husband, Chris, have a trans daughter, Jessie, and a cisgender son, Lucas (all names are pseudonyms).

Jessie at one point expressed fear that she would die because, in her perception, everyone in Texas hated her. "I felt safer to move," she told Time. "Like, much safer."

In Alabama, which this year enacted a law criminalizing the provision of gender-affirming care to youth, a mother identified as Heather and her 15-year-old trans son, Robert, are planning to move to Illinois. The Alabama law is also partially blocked due to a lawsuit, but that hasn't stopped them from worrying. "The atmosphere here is already tense," Heather told Time. "Could you imagine what it will be like closer to the election?"

Some families have considered leaving anti-trans states but have found barriers, and while they sympathize with those who are leaving, they are going to stay and fight. "We shouldn't have to leave," Texan Amber Briggle, mother of a trans son, told the magazine. "Our rights shouldn't depend on our zip code."

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.