This year has seen an unprecedented wave of almost 500 anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced at the state level this year, with no signs of slowing down. This is prompting many trans adults and families of trans children to consider moving out of their home states or out of the country.
I am a trans person living in Ohio, with a Republican-controlled legislature that is seeking to strip trans rights, facing the same dilemma. However, I ultimately will stay in my home state, both due to my desire to stay and school obligations that don’t permit me to relocate. Not all trans people can or want to flee red states in the wake of anti-trans legislation, and it is vital to support those of us who are staying to fight for trans lives.
Approximately 55,000 trans youth and adults live in Ohio, and hundreds of thousands more live in red states across the country. For many of us, uprooting our lives to move to a more accepting area is not a viable option. Many trans individuals have strong ties to our communities, face financial limitations, or have work or family obligations that make relocation impractical or impossible. Many are also activists and organizers leading the fight for trans rights, working to turn the tide in these states.
The financial means to relocate is a privilege. Moving can cost thousands of dollars, and more than 20% of trans adults lived in poverty in 2021, compared to 11.6% of the general US population. This economic struggle is often exacerbated by discrimination, which can result in limited employment opportunities and lack of access to healthcare and support services. These barriers are even worse for BIPOC trans folks. In response to these challenges, many GoFundMe pages, mutual aid requests, and emergency funds have emerged to help trans people relocate from unsafe situations.
Apart from financial barriers, many trans people have deep connections to their communities. They may have grown up in their community, have a network of friends/family or a support system of other queer and trans folks there, or be involved in local organizations. Being pushed out of your community is traumatic, and displacement can be associated with poorer health outcomes. Leaving one’s community is often a deeply emotional decision, especially when it feels like being forced out by state legislation.
The notion of abandoning red states also perpetuates a cycle of exclusion. While some are able to achieve safety by moving, leaving those who can’t or don’t move behind to suffer even more in isolation. This leads to disinvestment from support services and protections for LGBTQ+ people. Instead of running away for our own ease, we should stay to stand by the most vulnerable in our communities. We cannot discount entire regions of the country and the individuals and communities there, especially in our current social, political, and economic climate.
Recent survey data showed that 8% of trans adults have already moved out of their community or state as a result of anti-LGBTQ legislation, and 43% have considered it. This would amount to hundreds of thousands of people relocating. Some may argue that staying in hostile environments is futile and that trans individuals should prioritize their safety and well-being by moving to more accepting areas. While this may be the best choice for some individuals as an act of self-care or self-preservation, this advice neglects the reality that trans people face. What may seem like a simple decision for some comes with huge costs to our trans siblings without this luxury of choice.
I’ve lived in Ohio almost my entire life. My family is here, my friends and community are here, and I started medical/graduate school here last year. Ohio could pass legislation that restricts access to gender-affirming care for adults or makes it illegal for me to use public restrooms, as Florida already has, but I would not move out of state. I’m staying here to share in the fight alongside other trans Ohioans.
Trans activists are working tirelessly to fight for our rights. Trans teens, forced to fight for their right to exist before they even have the right to vote, often testify in front of legislators that are hostile to the barriers they face. Trans communities and their allies have gathered in states like Missouri, Texas, and Florida to protest discriminatory legislation. Without our leaders in these states, we would have little hope for protection for the most marginalized in our community, including Black and Indigenous trans femme folks, facing hostile environments. Activism in every state is essential to our fight for justice, and trans solidarity in red states is imperative to our liberation.
You can support trans people facing these legislative attacks and hostile climates by actively supporting LGBTQ/trans organizations in red states such as House of Tulip, OUTMemphis, Trans Pride Initiative, and many others. If you live in a state that is considering anti-trans or anti-LGBTQ legislation, contact your legislators.
When considering relocating due to the threat of transphobic legislation, please consider your ability to stay and fight; because whether or not you do, there will be many people left behind who need our help.
We should not let discriminatory legislation force us out of our homes. Instead, we should work towards justice for all. Trans people belong in Ohio. And Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Nebraska …