Half of trans people in US have considered moving out of state because of anti-LGBTQ laws: survey

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Nearly half of transgender people in the U.S. have considered moving to another state because of legislation in their home state that threatens to curtail access to things like gender-affirming health care, public restrooms and school sports, according to a survey published Wednesday by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).

Roughly half, or 47 percent, of the more than 92,000 transgender and nonbinary people surveyed by NCTE, a nonprofit group that focuses on transgender policy reform, said they had thought about moving to another state at some point during the past year because their state government had either pursued or passed laws that target the transgender community.

Around 5 percent of respondents — just north of 4,500 people — said they had already moved because of anti-LGBTQ legislation, according to Wednesday’s report, the latest iteration of NCTE’s U.S. Transgender Survey. The report reflects responses collected by the group at the end of 2022, after the pandemic and a string of organizational blunders caused NCTE to forgo its original 2020 deadline.

“It’s truly astonishing to know that people living in the United States at this time are having to think about leaving their home state, let alone that so many people have actually had to leave,” Sandy James, the survey’s lead researcher, said Tuesday on a Zoom call with reporters ahead of the report’s public release.

More than 315 bills targeting LGBTQ rights — and trans rights, especially — were introduced in state legislatures across the country in 2022, when the survey was conducted, according to a tally kept by the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ civil rights group. Anti-LGBTQ legislation surged again in 2023, with at least 510 bills introduced in 46 states, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). More than 80 became law.

Already, 2024 is shaping up to be another record-shattering year for state bills targeting the LGBTQ community, with close to 400 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced or carried over from last year, according to the ACLU.

Bills threatening LGBTQ rights can feed hostility and make the states in which they are introduced less safe for LGBTQ people, even if they don’t manage to become law. A third of LGBTQ 13- to 24-year-olds surveyed last year by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization, said their mental health had deteriorated because of legislation taking aim at their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Nationwide, LGBTQ people are being forced to weigh the costs of uprooting their lives with the benefits of leaving for greener pastures. After a controversial Florida education bill — known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law for its disparate impact on LGBTQ students and families — became law in 2022, more than half of LGBTQ parents said they were considering moving their families to another state.

“The idea of having to leave to protect my child and my partner is scary but one I am willing to do,” one parent said at the time.

Laws that ban gender-affirming health care for transgender minors have backed families of transgender children into perhaps an even smaller corner, with families in mostly GOP-led states forced to choose between staying in their homes and giving their children access to health care considered medically necessary by every major medical organization.

Twenty-three states and counting have banned gender-affirming health care for transgender minors. Restrictions in some cases also apply to adults.

According to Wednesday’s NCTE survey, a majority of respondents that moved to another state because of anti-LGBTQ laws came from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The report lists these states in alphabetical order and does not indicate the number of trans people that have fled each state. The report also does not indicate which states are among the most popular to relocate.

“It’s really striking that this is spread around the country in response to this, essentially, discrimination out of the state Legislature and the government,” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, NCTE’s executive director, told reporters on Tuesday. “I think that really paints a picture of how pervasive and damaging that discrimination is.”

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