Top 5 Hardest States To Be Transgender
Last week, we discussed the top 5 states to be transgender. I was asked by subscribers to compile a similar list, but this time for the bottom 5 states. Here they are!
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A week ago, I compiled a list of the top 5 states to be transgender - a question I am often asked as a result of my legislative risk map releases. Following that release, many subscribers wrote to me asking for me to do the same thing but for the worst 5 states. I understand the need for this - people who want an honest assessment and feel like their state is particularly difficult for them. Thankfully, I have put much thought into this and have a very solid list based on legislation that has been passed in recent years as well as upcoming legislation proposed. I have to note that the experience of being transgender doesn’t just differ between states, but within them - even in these worst states, some transgender people have found ways to survive and thrive. So before I release my top 5 hardest states to be trans in, here are my caveats:
In these states, urban areas will often be much more accepting and there are good organizations, people, and cultural movements within these urban areas that transgender people can find safety and solace in.
Trans people living in these states often do not have a choice. One thing that unifies these states is that they all have fairly cheap costs of living and therefore moving from them becomes much harder for trans people in poverty.
I am only writing from the perspective of legislation targeting the trans community in these states. If legislation and laws that restrict your rights is not something you care as much about, this list will not be as applicable.
With no further adieu, here are the top 5 hardest states to be transgender:
Calling Oklahoma a difficult state to be transgender in is an understatement. Legally, there are virtually no protections for transgender people in the state. Transgender people can be discriminated against in adoptions, there are no state-wide nondiscrimination laws, and insurance companies can deny transgender people their healthcare and often do. The trans panic defense is legal, meaning if someone decides to kill a transgender romantic partner after learning they are trans, they can potentially get off murder charges.
Oklahoma has some of the harshest laws around changing your birth certificate and drivers licenses. In order to change your birth certificate, you must seek a court order for a gender change. The birth certificate will retain an “ammended” marker. For drivers licenses, you must have had a “sex change operation” with a letterhead from a physician saying it was irreversible and permanent.
In the last few years, Oklahoma has increasingly attacked trans people with harsh legislation. Recently, they banned all trans youth from bathrooms and sports. They are proposing bills this year that would make it illegal to have gender affirming care all the way up to age 21, which would medically detransition trans youth and many trans adults as well. To add insult to injury, if you wish to participate in school sports in Oklahoma, you must sign a biological sex affidavit and get it notarized:
Arkansas is a difficult state to be transgender in for many of the same reasons Oklahoma is: the state lacks discrimination protections, the trans panic defense is legal, there are no hate crime laws protecting trans people, HIV is criminalized in some circumstances, and transgender people are often discriminated against in health care. The state itself discriminates on gender affirming care for state employees. What makes Arkansas worse, though, is that it has taken some of what Oklahoma has tried to do and put it into action.
Arkansas was the first state to pass a bill banning gender affirming care for trans youth in 2021. Governor Hutchinson vetoed the bill citing that it interfered with parents and physicians and also stating that it would forcibly detransition trans youth or send them out of the state. Hutchinson’s veto was a landmark decision, but the legislature overrode it and Arkansas was the first bill to be signed banning such care. This bill has been debated in court and a final decision on the legality is pending. If this sounds familiar, the ban was so heinous that Jon Stewart and John Oliver both recently covered the law there, with Jon Stewart making a fool out of Attorney General Rutledge for trying to enact the law:
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While the other states on this list had predictable trajectories into their harsh action against LGBTQ+ people, Florida has emerged as a wild card into the top 5 hardest states to be transgender in. That is because Governor DeSantis has made attacking transgender people a major priority in the state. When the state law banning gender affirming care for transgender youth failed to pass the Florida legislature (as it has failed to pass in most states), rather than give up, DeSantis forced through a sham medical board decision to ban gender affirming care through people that do not answer to voters, only to him. The medical board at times cut the debate after only hearing from people in favor of the new policy, shutting out the over 100 speakers from even being able to testify at the hearing. Experts say that Florida misrepresented research on gender affirming care in order to justify the ban. DeSantis then used that same process to ban gender affirming coverage from Medicaid, effectively hitting impoverished members of a minority community with potential withdrawal from gender affirming medications if they could not afford them.
Florida has been particularly heinous to trans people in many other ways and shows signs of attempting to top this list at number 1 - they would certainly be a shoe in if all of the possible policies go into effect there. Recently, the 11th Circuit Court ruled that schools in Florida can ban transgender people from bathrooms that match their genders. This ruling covers Florida, Georgia, and Alabama and could have far-ranging effects when paired with DeSantis willingness to push all the way against transgender rights. We already know he was willing to pass Don’t Say Gay, which was a Don’t Say Trans law as well (and which arguably impacts trans people who must remain closeted even more than many gay teachers). Will Florida attempt to pass a bathroom ban for trans adults now that similar bans have been ruled constitutional by the 11th Circuit? I leave you with one particularly heinous initiative Florida is working on in the wake of these recent cases: a ban on social transition for trans youth (that’s right… haircuts, names, pronouns could be banned):
To people in the state, I suspect that Alabama being ranked so poorly will turn out to be no surprise. Alabama is a master class in how to be anti-LGBTQ+ and in particular, transgender people are treated very poorly in the state. If you visit the Movement Advancement Project scorecard of Alabama, you will see lots of X’s and negative laws and very little green. In order to change the gender on one’s birth certificate and drivers license, you need gender affirming surgery. Although attempts have been made to end conversion therapy, it is still legally practiced in the state. Alabama is also the state with one of the highest populations in a gender affirming care desert according to my Informed Consent Hormone Therapy Map. There is a single informed consent hormone therapy location for adults in Mobile. Trans people often have to drive for hours just to get to their doctors.
Alabama is the only state with a criminal gender affirming care ban for transgender youth. On April 8, Governor Ivey signed SB184, which made providing gender affirming care for trans youth a felony. She also signed a bathroom ban for trans youth that same day. Her signing statement famously said, “if the good lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are girl.” It is hard not to see the animosity in that statement. The bill is currently being fought in court. When faced with the impending passage, Neil Rafferty - the state’s only gay male lawmaker - called out his colleagues in an impassioned speech:
While the other states have been particularly difficult for transgender people, Texas has gone above and beyond to be particularly cruel to its transgender residents. On February 22, Governor Greg Abbott at the suggestion of Attorney General Ken Paxton famously issued a letter to the Department of Family and Protective Services directing the agents in the state to investigate the parents of transgender children for child abuse. The results of this were damaging - transgender people had to flee the state and many attempted suicide. Texas has since begun a relentless assault on transgender rights in the state with animosity towards transgender people. Just a few weeks ago, information came to light that Ken Paxton tried to compile a database of all transgender residents in the state who changed their gender markers. What will he use this database for?
Right now, Texas has the most anti-trans laws of any state proposed and the list of bills that are coming down the pipeline are terrifying. One bill would classify transgender people doing performance as “drag” if there is alcohol present, effectively banning transgender comedians, singers, actors, and more. Another would codify consenting to gender affirming care as child abuse within state law. The state also has a strong contingent of anti-trans militants and is the home of Protect Texas Kids, which has been found protesting beside Nazis against drag shows and trans clinics multiple times.
If that doesn’t secure them the #1 spot on the worst states to be trans in, this resolution that was just proposed in Texas calling for an end to all gender affirming care should:
Dishonorable Mentions: Idaho (the house passed a bill that would make leaving the state for gender affirming care for a trans youth a felony with life in prison), Virginia (Glen Youngkin is trying to be DeSantis and is banning trans kids from bathrooms in Virginia as well as forcibly outing them to their parents), Tennessee (the anti-trans bathroom sign law last year was bad, and there are further anti-trans bills down the pipeline), South Carolina (proposes a 21 year old trans ban).
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