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Florida’s GOP, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, has proposed and passed some of the most hateful legislation in decades.

From banning gender-affirming care for teens to prohibiting trans from school sports, to the odious “Don’t Say Gay,” the legal attacks don’t stop coming.

Sadly, what happens in Florida, doesn’t stay in it. Now the targets of their attacks don’t have to stay here either. While other conservative-led legislatures trip over themselves to mimic Florida’s laws, other states are opening themselves up. At least 16 states have introduced (or plan to introduce) “safe haven” laws. LGBTQ Victory Institute said the goal is aimed at providing a legal safe haven for trans kids and their families whose gender-affirming care has been criminalized in other states. Texas, for example, not only bans care for trans teens, but has Family Services investigate the parents and could remove the kids from home and send the parents to prison.

Some states, like California, face few if any political obstacles to protecting and welcoming trans youth. In Florida, it will be much harder. Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones and Florida state Representative Michele Rayner plan to introduce trans refuge legislation but, since Republicans dominate both chambers of the legislature, their proposals will likely die in committee. However, that could change if Floridians vote in a Democratic majority in November.

Tatiana Williams, Executive Director of Transinclusive Group, said the attacks against trans people are mentally and physically dangerous.

“For those of trans and non-binary experience, gender-affirming care is about our health and wellbeing — both physically and mentally. Our leaders need to understand how we feel and the impact laws can have on our safety and ability to navigate the world as our authentic selves. When lawmakers restrict our youth from being able to be themselves, they marginalize them even further, pushing them into a corner that isolates them, impacts their mental health, and puts them at risk.”

It’s important to note that legislatures in Texas and other “red” states are not primarily comprised of doctors, making it reasonable to believe their attacks are based on political expediency and not medical realities.

“So many of the legislative attacks against our transgender youth are rooted in old beliefs and the knowledge that trans kids are the most vulnerable among us and can’t necessarily advocate for themselves,” Williams said. 

“Too often the LGBTQ+ community finds itself used as a convenient political pawn to pander to cruelty and misinformation, and providing legal refuge for trans youth and their families fleeing hostile states is so important,” said Nic Zantop, deputy director of Transinclusive Group.  

Transinclusive advocates for trans rights and believes medical decisions should be between patients and doctors.

“There is nothing to debate,” Zantop said. “Gender-affirming care is patient-led, medically necessary healthcare and the idea that the existence and wellbeing of our trans kids would ever be politicized is reprehensible. It’s more vital than ever for our elected officials to loudly proclaim that gender-affirming care is life-saving care and our trans youth, their families, and their healthcare providers should never have to exist in a state of fear. Trans rights are human rights, and a belief in bodily autonomy is a sacred value that should be near and dear to everyone who believes in freedom and the constitutional right of equal protection from discrimination.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reported that 94% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health, and more than 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and non-binary youth.