A growing refugee crisis is occurring in the United States, and it is getting very little coverage. I highlight the growing migration crisis, the people fleeing, and the laws they are fleeing from.
As state legislatures across America proliferate anti-transgender legislation, a growing crisis is unveiling itself. Transgender individuals and their loved ones are increasingly criminalized by their home states and their care, banned. This is prompting a growing number to seek refuge elsewhere. The scale of this issue remained under wraps until a recent Data For Progress survey brought to light the unsettling reality: hundreds of thousands of transgender people have already left their home states, and more than a million are considering a similar course of action in the coming months. These transgender individuals, frequently accompanied by their families, often sacrifice their jobs and relinquish their stability to reach the sanctuary of states willing to facilitate their care and protect them under the law. Should this trend persist, we may witness the largest domestic migration crisis since the Dust Bowl upheaval of the 1940s.
The numbers are stark. The poll from Data For Progress shows that 8% of all transgender people have already moved out of their community or state as a result of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. An additional 43% of transgender people are likewise considering moving. Transgender people are between 0.5-1% of the population of the United States, meaning that 130-260,000 transgender people have already fled their home states. An additional million transgender people are considering leaving due to the anti-trans legislation that targets them.
See the Data For Progress results here:
Legislation has increasingly targeted transgender people in every facet of life. In schools, dire consequences await transgender teachers who merely share their pronouns. Students face outright bans from bathrooms of their gender identity. In several states, physicians are criminalized for providing necessary care to their transgender patients. Affirming therapists, vocal coaches, and even parents are also falling victim to new restrictive policies. Bans that prevent transgender people from using bathrooms have returned, an issue we've not grappled with since 2016. Florida's bathroom law is notably severe, threatening imprisonment for up to a year for any transgression. Concurrently, adult trans people in states like Florida and Missouri are being blocked from their medication. Trapped in this increasingly hostile environment, many transgender people are forced to consider one final option: to leave their home states entirely.
Simultaneously, a slew of states have started to enact sanctuary laws, extending assurances of protection from prosecution from other states, and from custody orders that might steal transgender children from their parents for pursuing gender-affirming care. So far, a dozen states have enacted protective legislation for transgender people, their families, and their healthcare providers. Given the considerable push from harsh legislation and extrajudicial threats in states endorsing anti-trans laws, paired with the allure of states actively upholding transgender rights, a perfect storm has emerged. These factors are now driving a significant migration within the United States of not just transgender individuals, but also the broader LGBTQ+ community, their families, and their allies.
“The hardest part has been watching friends of mine and listening to them talk about being stuck there.”
The stories of those forced to leave are both heartbreaking and hopeful. One transgender woman, Sheena, left Florida to move to Minnesota. Florida has recently passed extremely harsh legislation targeting the transgender community, and Sheena cited this legislation in her decision to move with her partner, stating that she “had to leave Florida within one month [of the transgender medical ban on adults] to avoid having my care halted.”
When asked what the hardest part of her move was, she stated, “The hardest part has been watching friends of mine and listening to them talk about being stuck there. Most lost access to care. I had people begging me to take them with me when I moved, but I could only accommodate myself and my partner. It was heartbreaking. So many people are completely helpless to get out, even with all the bumps and roadblocks, the fact is I'm still one of the lucky ones.”
“It was tough because it felt like the world was caving in around me.”
Ariel is another transgender woman who left Florida. When she chose to leave to Chicago, she had to wait four months in order to finish up college classes. When asked about the days leading up to her move, she stated, “It was tough because it felt like the world was caving in around me.”
The law that got her to make the final move was the bathroom ban and the medical right to discriminate law. She cited fears of the loss of her medication and the lack of treatment should she ever be hospitalized for anything serious.
She brightens up when speaking of her experiences in Chicago, stating that she feels much safer in the city, “I don’t worry nearly as much just walking around, the attitude has significantly changed.”
She also stated that the hardest part was leaving behind friends who live there, but she knew she had to leave: “I promised myself that I’d move anywhere to keep my access to hormone replacement therapy, because I felt my life depended on it. I was suicidal immediately prior to transition.”
(c) 2023, Erin In The Morning