An Illinois town offers solidarity to gender migrants fleeing far-right tyranny in Southern states

When the time came to leave Florida, Ellie Winter*, a 34 year-old trans woman in a lesbian relationship, couldn’t bring her bed because a trailer couldn’t be hitched to her car. Winter left it behind, along with a job she loved, a ton of close friends, and many happy memories. 

Florida is where she’d met her fiancée, fallen in love, and gotten engaged. It’s also where she faced her worst fears of persecution as a series of discriminatory measures — dubbed the “slate of hate” — were signed into law this spring: the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, health care and bathroom bans, attacks on gender and race curriculum, and the license to discriminate in health care. 

“I was especially worried because I worked at a school and, with all the rhetoric and false accusations of all queer people being pedophiles, I didn’t know who I could trust,” Winter told Facing South. “Basically, I was like, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.'”

Taking only their clothes, books, and guitars, and without much in their wallets or bank accounts, in June the couple flung themselves towards an unknown future in Carbondale, Illinois, a place they’d never visited. As much as they were fleeing danger, they felt themselves to be moving toward something positive — at the very least room to breathe. They’d chosen the college town of 21,000 at the edge of the Shawnee National Forest primarily because the Carbondale Assembly for Radical Equity (C.A.R.E.) would be there to receive them with open arms.

Read the article on Facing South