Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

SD’s neighbor prepares to serve as ‘trans refuge’ state

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – A new report found more than half of transgender youth in the U.S. have lost — or are at risk of losing — access to gender-affirming health care.

With South Dakota among the states enacting bans, some families might be looking east to seek out options.

Minnesota recently adopted a so-called “trans refuge” law, which added legal protections for a family pursuing gender-affirming care if they hail from a state with a ban or restrictions in place.

Kat Rohn, executive director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group OutFront Minnesota, said they want trans youth in those states to know they are welcome when they cross the border. But they stressed Minnesota’s action does not mean all access roadblocks will disappear.

“We still have gaps in terms of folks being able to fully access and be able to get into care without extensive wait lists and lines, and things like that,” Rohn explained.

OutFront is working with nearly a dozen other groups and providers to coordinate care accessibility, with more out-of-state patients than they expected. Those who support restricting care often cite the need to protect children from a decision they may regret. But advocates and the medical community counter such choices involve a lengthy information-gathering process led by doctors and parents.

Rohn noted their allies need to know it is not simple for trans youth families to pick up and move if they are seeing restrictive policies in their state.

“Ultimately, there are going to be trans kids born tomorrow in states that have bans,” Rohn pointed out. “If our only call to action is ‘move out of state,’ we’re leaving folks behind.”

Rohn added it is important for those who might oppose bans to speak up and organize efforts around the country. The report detailing the decline of care access was issued by the Human Rights Campaign. So far this year, policies targeting gender-affirming care advanced in nearly 20 states.

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