We Need More Trans Sanctuary States Now

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Minnesota is about to follow in California’s quest to better protect transgender youth, which is a triumph against hundreds of anti-trans bills actively being considered across the country.

A new bill, which will turn Minnesota into a sanctuary state for young trans people, passed the state House on Friday. and because the state is predominantly Democratic, full passage is likely. Here’s what that means and why it matters so much right now.

If you’re unaware of the magnitude of the war on young trans people, Trans Legislation Tracker has reported over 487 bills seeking to police every aspect of a trans person’s existence, from the ability to change their pronouns in public schools to parents’ agency to support their children in accessing gender-affirming care.

Minnesota’s trans refuge legislation, also known as HF 146, acknowledges that trans young people are under attack and deserve protection. The law will help make gender-affirming care safe and accessible to young people and their families who travel to the state. The legislation would also give state officials the power to reject conservative states’ extradition requests or other harmful punitive measures to thwart gender-affirming care provided in Minnesota.

In addition to working to pass the bill, earlier this month, Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed an order to protect the health care access of Minnesotans who identify as LGBTQIA+.

“Protecting and supporting access to gender-affirming health care is essential to being a welcoming and supportive state,” Walz said while signing the executive order. The state has a long history of championing queer rights dating back to the late ’60s.

While Minnesota and California are the only states with trans sanctuary status right now, there’s a dire need for other states to create safe spaces for trans youth instead of passively watching conservatives fight to keep the nation’s future as white and cis-male-dominated as possible.

To say we’re at a crossroads is an understatement. Although Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) ultimately vetoed it, a recent bill was introduced that would have effectively allowed students in that state to misgender transgender peers at school. In Nebraska, state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D) effectively halted the legislature to keep an anti-trans bill — this time, a proposal to outlaw gender-affirming medical care for minors — from advancing. These bills won’t be the last attempts from conservatives who can’t seem to just let trans kids exist.

And outside of attacks on trans youth, there are several other factors that leave them vulnerable. Last fall, Reuters released one of the first studies on young people receiving gender-affirming care, which found gender dysphoria diagnoses have nearly tripled since 2017. Gender dysphoria, defined as a sense of unease due to the mismatch in an individual’s gender identity and sex assigned at birth, can manifest as severe anxiety, depression and even suicide.

Studies have also shown that nearly 60% of America’s youth are not receiving sufficient mental health care. The need for gender-affirming care of every kind is undeniable, and ensuring it on a state level is essential to improving the mental health of existing and future generations.

A failure to protect young queer people is a failure to protect our future. And the establishment of trans sanctuary spaces means clarity on where we stand when it comes to protecting them. Here’s hoping that more states follow suit, soon.