Trans Teen, Family 'Run Out of Town on a Rail'

'New Yorker' piece dives into how laws in Tennessee, and in South in general, have affected LGBTQ youth
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2023 9:30 AM CDT
Trans Teen, Family 'Run Out of Town on a Rail'
Stock photo of a transgender flag.   (Getty Images/Alvaro Moreno Perez)

Tennessee has passed nearly 20 anti-LGBTQ+ laws since 2015, among the highest in the nation, per the Human Rights Campaign. For Kristen Chapman, that number is more than just a statistic—it proved to be the death knell for her family's future in the Volunteer State, as her 17-year-daughter, Willow, is transgender. In a lengthy piece for the New Yorker, Emily Witt delves into the struggles Chapman's family has faced amid increasing anti-trans legislation, culminating in a decision for her, Willow, and her other daughter, 15-year-old Saoirse, to move to Virginia. In March, GOP Gov. Bill Lee signed a law barring gender-transition treatments for minors in the state, and Chapman worried that Willow would eventually have to travel unwieldy distances to access the puberty blockers she'd been receiving for the past two years.

The closest option once her Tennessee clinic stopped offering such services would be in Peoria, Illinois, 450 miles away—not to mention the $1,200 cost per shot if they couldn't use their Tennessee insurance. The issue goes far beyond one family: UCLA's Williams Institute estimates there are more than 100,000 teens ages 13 to 17 in the South who identify as trans, "more than in any other region in the country," Witt writes. The Campaign for Southern Equality says up to 5,000 trans youth there may see their gender-affirming medical care stymied by the bans. Some regional university hospitals have already ceased pediatric gender services, even before being mandated to do so. As for Chapman, she's sad to leave her home of more than three decades, but she doesn't feel like she has a choice if she wants to protect her daughter. "I genuinely feel we are being run out of town on a rail," she says. "I am not being dramatic. It is not my imagination." Read Witt's full piece here. (More transgender stories.)

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