Montinique Monroe/Getty Texas Capitol
One Texas family is moving out of the state over a barrage of anti-LGBTQ bills that put their 8-year-old son at risk.
Camille Rey and her trans son Leon, 8, spoke to The Daily Beast about their family's decision to move from Texas to Maryland, where anti-discrimination protections will keep Leon safe before he begins third grade later next month.
Leon, who told the outlet he's been called a "freak" because of his gender identity, said proposed anti-trans laws make him feel like lawmakers "don't have any empathy, and they don't know how hard it is to get hated for just not feeling comfortable in your body."
In the Reys' home state of Texas, the Republican-controlled state legislature has been pushing bills that would ban transition-related healthcare, although none have made it into law so far. Gov. Greg Abbot has said he plans to pass a ban on gender-affirming health care.
In a message to Abbot and other Republican legislators, Leon said, "If these laws were passed before I came out as transgender, I probably would not love myself and might not be alive." He added, "Sometimes, when people don't love themselves, they kill themselves."
Camille said that while some people accuse her family of making a "forced" decision to move out of Texas, she sees it differently. "I feel that I took a look at the situation, and made a decision. This is something I don't want to deal with any more, and put my family through and my son through," she said. "I didn't feel forced when I made the decision. The anti-trans bills in the state legislature here may not have become law this time.
"But they represented a threat, a possibility," she continued. "It was more the sense that even if they don't pass this time they'll bring the bills back, and it just seemed a terrible way to live: to be in constant fear of the state government taking away our civil rights."
The Reys' decision to leave is the latest in a string of public disavowals of anti-trans legislation from families and parents of trans children.
In March, Brandon Boulware's speech to the Missouri state House went viral after he pleaded for lawmakers to allow trans children to compete in high school sports.
"It will affect my daughter. It will mean that she cannot play on the girls' volleyball team, or dance squad, or tennis team," the Missouri dad said. "I ask you: Please don't take that away from my daughter or the countless others like her that are out there. Let them have their childhoods. Let them be who they are. I ask you to vote against this legislation."
And in April, North Carolina politician John Autry spoke up against anti-trans bills in his state, telling PEOPLE the issue hit close to home.
"I have family members that are in the LGBTQ community, including a grandchild that identifies as female and is transitioning," the Democratic state representative from Charlotte said. "I would do anything to protect any of my children and my grandchildren and that is one of the reasons I am so supportive with these measures here today."