After violent threats, the family of transgender schoolgirl Maddison Kayleen Kleeman is trying to move away from Achille, Oklahoma, their small rural town near the Oklahoma-Texas border.
The Los Angeles Blade reported last Aug. 14 that Kleeman, 12, had been the target of a group of adults in a private Facebook Parents Group page devoted to the elementary school she attends. Members of the group were angered by her use of a girl’s bathroom and the apparent affirmation of her gender identity by school staff. Kleeman’s parents were forced to seek protective orders, the county sheriff’s office launched an investigation and one adult has been suspended from his job.
The story went viral on social media and was spotted by Anne Babb, a writer and journalist based in Oklahoma City, whose first thought was that the group was wrong. Her second thought was to start a GoFundMe to help the family move.
Babb then spoke with Kleeman’s mother, Brandy Rose, and they created a GoFundMe page. “I was just like, ‘Well, that’d be a blessing to be able to move out of the area,’” Rose told NBC News about their conversation. “That’s when she told me that her and a neighbor of hers had been discussing it. They thought that it would help us to start a GoFundMe page Move4Maddie to get the funds to move … I thought that was very sweet and amazing and a blessing, so she set that up for us.”
Babb initially wanted to set the fundraising goal for $15,000 but decided to start with $10,000. When contributions reached that goal in the first 22 hours, she increased the goal to $15,000. That figure has since been exceeded.
“I never imagined that we’d get the donations that we’ve gotten, because I mean it’s strangers,” Rose said. “I didn’t expect strangers to do that. But it’s been amazing.”
As of Aug. 20, the donations had reached nearly $25,000.
“I hope we get our ducks in a row so we can move to Houston as soon as possible,” Rose told NBC News. “We just want to do it the right way, so it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, but that is our plan—to just get out of this little town.”
Oklahoma does not have a law protecting transgender people against discrimination and last February, the U. S. Department of Education withdrew guidance protecting trans students under federal law. A spokesperson for Education Secretary Betsy DeVoss told the LA Blade that it has sent memos out clearly stating that the USDOE will not process any complaints from transgender students experiencing discrimination in schools. – Reporting by NBC News and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade