Unequal treatment causing transgender residents to leave Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Transgender people are moving out of Tennessee.

That’s according to a nationwide survey that found Tennessee to be among the top 10 states where transgender residents reported leaving due to unequal treatment. However, one local organization is fighting for the transgender community.

“We get calls pretty often about, you know, ‘Should I stay in the state? Should I be staying for my child? Should I just leave? Would it be safer for me to leave?'” said Jace Wilder, education manager with the Tennessee Equality Project. “All those kinds of conversations are happening on a daily basis.”

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According to the Human Rights Campaign, for the past nine years, Tennessee has enacted more anti-LGBTQ+ laws than any other state in the country.

In a report from the HRC, it said there are currently 15 anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including a law preventing transgender students from playing sports consistent with their gender identity.

A public health law prohibits a healthcare provider from performing surgeries or hormone blockers on a minor.

After hours of debate, the bill was passed into law in 2023 and headed up by House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland).

“It is dangerous; it is destructive, and I will say it: it is evil,” Lamberth said. “What those children need is love and support, mental health treatment, and time.”

“We need to allow doctors and families to make those decisions,” state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) said.

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On top of these laws, Wilder said hate crimes against the trans community have increased, especially during 2023’s Pride Month.

To combat feelings of being uninvited or fearful, the Tennessee Equality Project is working to bring voices to all members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“All people in this state belong to this state; it’s our state as well,” Wilder said. “We voted, we live here, we exist here, we have jobs here, and so that is the core foundation for us, honestly, just going back to what community means and how we are defining it, not how others define it for us.”

Wilder told News 2 the Tennessee Equality Project would continue fighting for the trans community for as long as it takes.

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“Even though the laws are saying we don’t belong here, we do and that there are people who are ready to represent in this state,” Wilder said. “A lot of times our wins are quieter, and it’s the times where we are no longer having to get up in the morning with dread about what our politicians have done that day.”

The Tennessee Equality Project will meet on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Feb. 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to speak with legislators about the bills affecting the LGBTQ+ community.

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