Roberto Che Espinoza had been thinking about leaving Tennessee after the 2024 election, but in June they noticed that the state’s attorney general was looking for medical records on gender-affirming health care, which Espinoza, a nonbinary transgender man, said included his own records.
“Being on any kind of list… I knew after those records were released that this is not good,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza had already been alerted to a threatening anti-LGBTQ post on social media featuring her photo that they said was shared by Proud Boys, a group at the Southern Poverty Law Center. designates like a hate group. His wife, who is gay and has lived in the state for 20 years, worried about Espinoza’s safety.
As the political climate in Tennessee continues to worsen for LGBTQ people, and rapidly, the couple is no longer waiting. Espinoza, an ordained Baptist clergyman, activist and educator, and his wife leave Nashville in August for an East Coast state.
“We see the toll it has taken on our emotional, physical and mental health and we are terrified,” Espinoza said.
LGBTQ families are weighing whether to move to states with different political climates
As anti-LGBTQ laws spread across Tennessee and the rest of the country, many LGBTQ people and their families are considering whether they should move to a state with a more LGBTQ-friendly political climate. These elections can harm the economic stability of queer people and their loved ones. But research and surveys suggest that relocations can also hurt state and local economies that lose LGBTQ people, and benefit those who gain them.
LGBTQ people and their families shared with States Newsroom that they are moving or considering moving to Colorado, Virginia, California, Michigan, Washington and Oregon, where they see better legal protections.
Wells Fargo launched a report in June about the effect LGBTQ people have on state economies. It found that gross real estate product was positively correlated with higher concentrations of LGBTQ people between 2010 and 2019. This suggests that state economies with higher concentrations of LGBTQ people grew faster in this period than they would have been without higher proportions of people. LGBTQ, study authors. report explained. The researchers suggested this could be because LGBTQ people tend to be younger and more educated than the average American and are more entrepreneurial.
The researchers added: “In our view…the diversity that LGBT people bring to a community can help it achieve ‘economic creativity’ and thus higher rates of economic growth.”
Todd Sears, CEO and co-founder of Out Leadership, an LGBTQ business consultancy, said he spoke with Wells Fargo economists and said the report aligns with much of the research OutLeadership has done.
“It’s one, it’s not surprising. Two, obviously having data to prove it makes the conversation much easier to have and hopefully more impactful,” she said.
Sears said that for years, economists and sociologists, such as Richard Florida, who wrote “The Rise of the Creative Class,” have argued that diversity is linked to economic creativity. Sears said it may take time for states to see evidence of how anti-LGBTQ laws have impacted their economies, but the departure of LGBTQ people and their families will have an effect.
“These states will see all these economic fallout and start saying, wait, what do we do? Why did we do this? How did this help our state? … The impact it will have on trans youth who are the most vulnerable youth in our country is significant and it is unfortunate that they are the ones who will really suffer,” she said.
Moving after LGBTQ laws are passed by state legislatures
At least 70 anti-LGBTQ laws were enacted this year, with 15 of those laws targeting gender-affirming care for transgender youth and seven allowing or requiring gender confusion of trans children at school, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s May analysis. of this legislation. States have also passed anti-LGBTQ bills that limit how LGBTQ people can be mentioned in school curricula and criminalize some drag performances.
The Movement Advancement Project, which tracks anti-LGBTQ policies in the US, gave a negative policy count 13 states for their anti-LGBTQ policies, most of which were concentrated in the southern US. Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, South Dakota, and Montana belong to this group, and Ohio, West Virginia, Idaho, and Indiana had political casualties.
Anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence occur across the country, regardless of individual state policies. Trans people, particularly black trans women, are also delicate in states with less hostile political climates. In July, a Michigan barber shop fixed via Facebook that refuses to serve transgender and non-binary users. The Movement Advancement Project gave Michigan a fair political score.
Tennessee, which has a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, has enacted many anti-LGBTQ bills in recent years, including banning trans students from playing sports on their gender team and affirming health care. gender.
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Data for May 2023 progress survey of more than 1,000 LGBTQ adults in the US showed that 27% of LGBTQ adults have considered leaving their state due to anti-LGBTQ legislation, particularly transgender people at 43%. Eight percent of LGBTQ people ages 18-24 said they had already moved, and 9% of LGBTQ people ages 65 and older had. In response to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay and Trans” bill, 56% of LGBTQ parents had considered moving out of state and 16% had already taken steps to move out of Florida, according to a June 2023 report . report from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Kristen Chapman, a Nashville-based queer artist, plans to leave Nashville at the end of this month to ensure that her 15-year-old transgender daughter can continue to receive gender-affirming care. Chapman moves to Virginia. She said that she believes that Nashville will be affected by the loss of creative labor and workers in the healthcare industry.
“I think people leaving are leaving a hole in the fabric, and I’m not sure it’s very obvious at first,” she said. “But all the people I know who are moving are deeply invested in their chosen communities. They are not people to isolate themselves and they are also all creative, particularly here in Nashville where the livelihood of the city depends on creative work.”
John Cooper, the mayor of Nashville, tweeted in 2021 that he was concerned about the “threat” that anti-LGBTQ bills “pose to the community and the economy.”
When it comes to his family’s financial stability, Chapman said there are still many unknowns.
“I’m interviewing for jobs right now. I’m on it, you jump off a cliff and expect the net to look like some kind of situation,” she said.
Relocate from home for a future
Zofia Zagalsky, a 25-year-old trans woman, is a student at Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro. She said that she is considering leaving the state after finishing her graduate program. She isn’t sure where she would go, but she said California, Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Wisconsin are among the possibilities.
“The honest truth is that I never wanted to leave Tennessee,” he said. “This is my home. This is where I was born. This is where I have learned to live my life. This is where I was raised… I love Tennessee.”
But the discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ people is stressful, he said.
“I constantly hear people who want to leave, people who want to leave, because nobody wants to live like this. Nobody wants to get old faster because they have to listen to people yelling at them,” she said.
Katie Laird, whose son Noah is transgender, moved some family members from Texas to Colorado a year ago for a less hostile political environment. Her husband still has to live in Texas to work, but she can do her work as a consultant to Colorado civic and nonprofit organizations. Living in two cities has caused financial strain, but she said Noah is thriving there. Laird said that she has seen more visible representation of LGBTQ people in the workplace.
“The fact that he’s able to have these very visible examples of trans people, queer people, non-binary people in the workforce, whether it’s at the doctor’s office, at the DMV, like him, being able to witness everyday people living their daily life…even that has helped fuel their hope for their future,” he said.
She said that Noah, who is 16, has thought about working in health care.
Many LGBTQ people the States Newsroom spoke to are confident that the states have lost something by their departure. MD Sitzes, communications manager for Equality Ohio, said they and his wife moved to Ohio in 2020 in part to be closer to Sitzes’ mother, who Sitzes had reconciled with after she forced him to move when he was a child. Teen. Since her mother is a person with paraplegia, it was easier for her younger children to see her if they lived near her, Sitzes said. But the anti-LGBTQ climate in Ohio became too intense for the family to continue living there, they said. Sitzes said that at one point, they were contemplating suicide for the first time since they were in their early 20s. The family moved from Ohio last year and lived in Portugal for a while before moving to the Bay area. They said Ohio and other states are losing out financially when they encourage homogeneity.
“[Diversity] it brings perspective and the loss of that perspective is very damaging to the economy,” Sitzes said. “When people don’t feel safe, they’re not going to move there and then send their kids there… I know diversity breeds creativity. I know it builds a stronger economy, because I’ve lived in those economies and I’ve worked in those economies.”