A trans rights protest, with demonstrators holding signs reading "trans people belong"

Sanctuary States and Cities for Transgender Americans

Blue states have a response to hateful trans bans.

Starting in 2022, states and cities across America began declaring themselves sanctuaries for transgender individuals and healthcare providers who are targets of Republian-led anti-trans laws. A “sanctuary” refers to a legal haven where specific groups can be shielded from the laws of other states. For example, if Texas passes a law making it a felony for doctors to provide gender-affirming care, Texan doctors can seek refuge in a state or city that has officially claimed sanctuary status.

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Sanctuaries work by prohibiting their own resources from being used to further another state’s prosecution of an individual. Different sanctuaries use different language to enact their protections, but the general idea is that individuals who would face charges in their home state can flee to sanctuaries and thus be shielded from potentially harmful laws.

Since 2022 when California was the first to announce sanctuary state status, 10 states and the District of Columbia have declared themselves to be sanctuaries for transgender Americans. A handful of cities have done the same (despite one being located in a red state).

Among the trans sanctuary states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington. Sanctuary cities include New York City, Kansas City, MO, and West Hollywood. The flood of sanctuary announcements comes in the wake of over 20 states introducing a combined 130 anti-trans pieces of legislation in the 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions. With bans and restrictions starting to kick in, blue states are taking action to provide safe havens for transgender Americans.

For some trans folks, seeking gender-affirming care is their first step toward transitioning. And for those undergoing gender-affirming care, these bans are horrifically disruptive and damaging (not to mention a massive invasion of medical rights and privacy). Complicating matters further, the rush of trans patients seeking care in sanctuaries has overwhelmed healthcare providers. This means that trans people in need of care have longer wait times once they make it to a sanctuary, which can frustrate the transition process. This is especially true for trans youth, who may be relying on hormone blockers as part of their care.

Beyond protecting healthcare providers and trans people, sanctuaries offer a safe haven for parents of trans kids. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tried and failed last year to mandate that transgender children be placed in foster care. The court cases against Abbott are still in progress, but a temporary order has blocked the mandate from taking effect for the time being.

The shadow of anti-trans legislation in red states has been a cause for fear and uncertainty for trans people in America. That progressive states and cities have stepped up to the plate in defense of trans rights is a heartening showing of support for the trans community, and one that the rest of America ought to get in line with. Trans rights are human rights, full stop.

(featured image: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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Scout (she/her/hers) is a freelance news writer for The Mary Sue. When not scrolling Twitter, she's thinking about scrolling Twitter. She likes short walks on the beach, glitter pens, and burnt coffee. She does not read the comments.