I'm a 17-year-old trans kid in Utah, and I'm uprooting my life because of a law that bans gender-affirming care

Collage of teenage boy, Utah and Oregon maps and Supreme Court with transgender pride colors 2x1
Utah Governor Spencer Cox recently signed a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors. Insider spoke to a 17-year-old trans kid in Utah who made the decision to leave his family and home behind because of the new restrictions.iStock; Rachel Mendelson/Insider
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  • Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill that bans gender-affirming healthcare for minors.

  • Luka, a 17-year-old trans kid living in Utah, is moving to Portland to evade the ramifications.

  • He shared with Insider an account of his preparations and everything he's leaving behind.

On January 28, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors. Utah is the first state to enact such a law but at least 23 other states are considering similar bills.

Insider's Yelena Dzhanova spoke with Luka, a 17-year-old trans kid in Utah who recently made the decision to leave his family and home behind because of the new restrictions.

Luka, who requested that only his first name be used, said he fears this law will spur similar anti-trans and -LGBTQ laws in the state. He is in the process of preparing to move to Portland. 

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

When I was 12 or 13, I was struggling really badly with my mental health. And at that point, I couldn't figure out why I felt so wrong. Something was not right.

So I started doing research, and it led me to learn more about the LGBT community.

Then I learned I'm trans.

I've been out for about three years and have realized that I fit more in the agender category. So I am trans-masculine but don't feel a connection to any gender.

I live in Utah, and I'm out to pretty much everyone. I have some family who I'm not yet out to, but most of the people who know me know.

For a while, I was home-schooled for health reasons. But once I had come out as trans, I went back to in-person schooling in 2019 and met a bunch of awesome friends who are in the community. They really, really helped me figure out who I am and helped me feel comfortable living as who I am.

Just being able to talk to people who had similar experiences to me and people who got it really helped me figure it out.

My parents have also been really supportive. They've always supported me in every way they can, which I am very lucky for.

But now, a new law says trans kids can't receive gender-affirming care. Learning about that devastated me. I was at home scrolling on Reddit in the living room and saw it pop up on my feed and just almost immediately started crying.

A lot of my friends who are younger than me are definitely going to be affected by it. One of my friends, for example, just recently started testosterone and he's 16. He's, I think, four months in and he can't get it anymore.

Getting HRT is basically lifesaving for him because his dysphoria was so bad. He attempted suicide six or seven times. And now he can't get testosterone anymore. I've never seen him as happy as he is medically transitioning, but now he can't. So it's definitely going to affect him.

I think the biggest effect it has on me is that it makes me worry about a domino effect.

Such laws themselves may not be the biggest deal to a lot of people in the state. But for me, it's what they could lead to. It could start with a law like this, and that law might open the door to so many other laws that could pass and that could affect not just minors, but all trans people in the state of Utah and really all LGBT people. It can open the floodgates.

So I'm planning to leave Utah.

Utah is absolutely beautiful. Some of my favorite things to do here are going to the incredible national parks we have here. We have a lot of really nice lakes, too.

There's a lot of great things about Utah. But when you aren't the normal, you don't really fit in. So I grew up outside of religion, and if you know anything about Utah, it's a very religious state. So I've always been outside as far as that goes.

And then coming out, figuring out that I am not straight, not cis — that was another level.

I'm in the middle of waiting for college acceptance letters.

Before the law was enacted, I planned to go to Utah Tech University. It used to be known as Dixie State University. I was also thinking about the University of Utah, but at this point, both are completely out of the question.

So I am hopefully going to Portland State or Oregon Health and Sciences University to pursue genetics and just medicine in general.

I have really great family in Portland. They're very accepting. I was thinking about moving there anyways because of the schools, but this law just made me sure.

It's also just the overall vibe of the city. There are a lot of people there who fit my fashion style, the type of music I listen to. So I would find a lot more people with the same interests as me than I find here.

My biggest reason for staying was my parents because they won't be able to move with me. It'd be too messy for my parents to leave. My parents are split, but my dad's stuck here for job obligations — at least for the time being. And my mom is here until my little brother turns 18, so 10 more years for her. He's my half-brother, and his dad doesn't want to leave the state. So my mom has to stay for him.

But even with my parents' love and support, I can't stay here. With everything becoming the way it is here and how Utah is the first state in the United States to pass these laws, it's not worth staying in a place that is going to affect me mentally.

My mom was actually the one who brought up leaving Utah. We both had big emotions. There was lots of crying.

I also texted my girlfriend and was just like, "Hey, you want to get out of the state?" Because she's also trans and not out yet. It's almost harder for her, which is definitely scary. But we're both planning on leaving for Portland because of these reasons.

Currently, I'm not in school because I graduated from high school early. So these days, I am basically doing everything that I need to prepare and spending a lot of time with my dog. He's a service dog in training, so a lot of my days are spent doing training. He'll come with me to Portland.

I have been looking into housing and getting money saved up. Making sure my car is in working order.

I'll probably stay with family members to establish residency and then live on campus.

If I don't end up going to Portland, I'll probably go to either California or another city in Washington.

I'm definitely going to miss Utah. I hate the idea of having to leave my parents, my family, my brother, my friends.

But because of the legislation that's passed, I don't feel safe to be myself here anymore.

There's that fear of going into public as someone who is obviously not the stereotypical cis person. There's that fear of being targeted or getting slurs thrown at you, which no one should have to deal with.

When laws like this pass, it shows that we aren't seen as human or equal and that we're not deserving of healthcare or of acceptance, and that we're still seen as other. And when you're already dealing with feeling like you don't belong in your own body, having society tell you that you shouldn't exist or that you don't belong in society is very jarring and deeply unnerving.

So I'm making the decision to leave Utah as soon as I can.

Leaving the people I love will be very hard, but knowing that I have their support makes it easier.

Read the original article on Business Insider