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trans conversion therapy protest
Photography Karollyne Hubert

18 US states to offer legal refuge to trans youth

San Francisco senator Scott Wiener has pledged to build a ‘rainbow wall’ to protect trans youth and their families

There’s a slew of anti-trans bills passing through the US at the moment. In Alabama, lawmakers are forcing schools to out trans children to their parents. Florida passed their notorious, damaging Don’t Say Gay bill in March. Over in Texas, Republican lawmakers continue to argue that gender-affirming care constitutes child abuse.

Thankfully, Democratic lawmakers in 18 states are hoping to open their doors to trans youth and their families who are seeking refuge from these backward and hostile laws. In March, San Francisco senator Scott Wiener announced his plans to provide legal refuge in California to displaced trans youth and their families. Now lawmakers in Minnesota and New York have filed refuge state legislation modelled after Wiener’s bill.

Lawmakers in 16 other states – Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – are planning to follow suit.

Wiener’s bill would reject any out-of-state court judgments removing children from their parents’ custody because they allowed gender-affirming health care. It also would make arrest warrants based on alleged violation of another state’s law against receiving gender-affirming care the lowest possible priority for California law enforcement.

“We’re sick of just playing defence against what these red states are doing,” Wiener said in a recent interview. “We’re going on offence, we’re going to protect LGBTQ+ kids and their families and we’re going to build a rainbow wall to protect our community.”

Wiener also stressed that it is harrowing to think that any American family would have to move to another state to protect a child, but expressed hope that many progressive states would warmly welcome trans youth and their parents.

“When your kid is being threatened with removal from your home, families are going to consider a lot of different options,” he said. “And we just want to be clear that if you decide that’s the option for you, we’re going to do everything we can do to welcome you and protect you.”

Wiener is right to say it’s horrifying that young trans people are needing to seek refuge and flee from such regressive and harmful laws in the US in 2022. In a better world, trans kids would be free to live in peace and safety anywhere at all – and even this is asking the bare minimum. But in the meantime, it’s cheering to see so many states rally together and accept trans youth with open arms.