SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As more states pass bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, the phone at OutFront Minnesota continues to ring.
The LGBTQ+ advocacy organization said that over the last month, they have received more than a hundred calls of people in states with these bans either looking to move to Minnesota or travel there to access-gender affirming care that is now illegal where they live.
“That’s amplified this legislative session with a passage of a number of these gender-affirming care bans in a couple of states, including South Dakota, Iowa, and we know there are ones moving in North Dakota as well,” Kat Rohn said Tuesday.
Kat Rohn, Executive Director of OutFront Minnesota, explained that the calls began in 2022 when Texas officials began investigating the parents of transgender children for child abuse. Since then, several states including South Dakota and Iowa have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth. For families in South Dakota, who have until December 31, 2023, to end care involving puberty blockers, hormones and surgery, the search for care elsewhere has already started.
“At this point, we have people that are starting to call and make appointments in Minnesota,” Susan Williams said Monday.
Susan Williams, Executive Director for the Transformation Project, said that families in the state are also looking to Colorado as more states in the upper Midwest enact similar bans. Those families are experiencing wait times upwards of six months to one year to get their children seen in Minneapolis.
Wyoming’s bill to ban gender-affirming care died but with Nebraska and North Dakota still considering bills, Minnesota is quickly becoming a refuge for such care in the Upper Midwest which is what some lawmakers are hoping it will become.
“So, right now on the sort of policy front, Minnesota had the executive order signed by Governor Walz a couple of weeks ago,” Rohn explained. “That executive order is, you know, providing some degree of protection for care providers here in the state of Minnesota, but also, especially for folks who are coming to Minnesota, to seek and receive care so that they know that the state of Minnesota is not going to extradite them, or prosecute them for coming to receive what is safe, legal and effective care here in the state of Minnesota.”
In addition to the executive order, a bill is passing through the Minnesota Legislature to codify protections for transgender youth and their families.
“This legislation would not be necessary, this executive order would not be necessary, if not for other states criminalizing what is the central care for individuals and families,” Rohn continued.
South Dakota’s current law does not prohibit transgender youth from seeking care elsewhere nor does it punish other states for providing the care. Instead, only physicians in South Dakota providing the care risk consequence.
While care is still available in some states, travel to access it is not feasible for everyone.
“Families are trying to figure out, you know, are we able to take that much time off of work? Are we able to take our kids out of school for that long, and, you know, travel to another state to seek health care that should be provided, you know, in the in the town or the city that they live in or in the state that they live in?” Williams said.
Rohn said that even for transgender youth in rural Minnesota, this kind of care can be difficult to access if they have to travel to the Twin Cities to do so.
“And that’s a challenge that’s existed well, before any of these legislative issues,” Rohn said. “We know that for folks and other states, particularly folks who are geographically removed from those care networks, that is an extraordinary hardship. And we know that for families who are now having to choose between staying where they live, and driving, you know, 5, 6, 7 hours to get access to this care, and thinking about uprooting that as a deeply difficult complex question.”
The cost and complexities of travel can be difficult for families to navigate which is why organizations like The Transformation Project and OutFront Minnesota are working to provide a network of resources and funds.
Despite the onslaught of anti-transgender legislation across the country, both Williams and Rohn spoke of hope as they look ahead to International Transgender Day of Visibility this Friday.
“I think being able to tell a different story here in Minnesota, one of trans folks, being a part of this rich fabric of our state of folks just belonging and taking care of one another, is a really important one,” Rohn said.
In Sioux Falls, the Transformation Project will host a day full of activities on Saturday, April 1 downtown.
“There are now going to be Transgender Day of Visibility events held in multiple cities across the state, versus just one or two places,” Williams explained. “I think that really shows that people are wanting to be supportive as allies and more and more trans people across the state are getting involved and finding community.”