Josie had postpone packing lengthy sufficient. It was time to make some robust selections about what to carry and what to depart behind. The highschool sophomore from St. Augustine, Fla. sat on her mattress one latest morning whereas her mother Sarah pulled garments from her closet.
It held a trove of fine reminiscences — just like the purple gown Josie wore to the winter homecoming dance. And the pink cover-up she sported at a pal’s pool occasion.
Good occasions like these have felt scarce these days. Josie, who’s transgender, now not feels welcome in Florida.
Her household requested they be recognized by their first names solely, fearing retaliation in a state the place Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and different officers have politicized and handed anti-trans insurance policies in well being care and schooling.
Conservative states throughout the nation are pushing a document variety of payments that concentrate on LGBTQ rights, significantly transgender rights. That is compelled residents like Josie to rethink the place they need to name residence.
In just some days, Josie was shifting greater than a thousand miles away from St. Augustine – and her dad and mom – to begin a brand new life in Rhode Island. Her aunt and uncle stay outdoors Windfall, and he or she’ll stick with them and attend highschool close by.
Her mother Sarah held up outfit after outfit and requested, “Staying or going?”
The formal gown may keep. Cardigans and overalls went within the suitcase. At one level, the household canine Reesie crawled previous the baggage to snuggle as much as Josie.
“She has, like, a way after I’m unhappy, and he or she simply comes operating in,” says Josie, 16.
Transferring to Rhode Island had been “Plan B” for awhile, however Josie says she by no means thought it might really occur. However so much has modified within the final 12 months.
“It is unbelievable how far the state has fallen,” she says.
What drove Josie to depart
Florida is one in every of greater than a dozen states which have handed bans on gender-affirming medical therapies for minors, reminiscent of puberty blockers, hormone remedy and sure surgical procedures.
In Florida, the state medical boards started debating these bans final summer time, they usually went into impact in March. For months, Josie was terrified she would lose entry to the hormones she takes to assist her physique align along with her gender identification.
Most main nationwide medical associations agree gender-affirming care is protected and efficient. However the Florida medical boards argued the therapies had been “experimental,” and barred docs from prescribing them to minors.
A provision within the new rules meant that youngsters like Josie, who’d already began care, may proceed with their therapies. However she did not belief that will final.
She pointed to the truth that this spring the legislature thought of forcing all trans youth to cease therapy by the top of the 12 months, as a part of a invoice to bolster restrictions on transgender care.
“I believed that they’d notice what they’ve executed flawed and, you recognize, repeal some issues,” she says. “However they only stored going. It simply turned, like, too actual, too quick.”
Lawmakers ended up stripping that exact provision on Might 4, simply earlier than the session ended, permitting children like Josie to remain in therapy.
However she had already determined to depart.
Faculty has been difficult at occasions since Josie got here out as trans in eighth grade. Some childhood mates ended up rejecting her.
Josie needed to play on the ladies’ tennis staff, however a Florida legislation handed in 2021 bars trans ladies from competing on college groups meant for athletes assigned feminine at beginning.
It was additionally painful when Florida lecturers needed to begin watching what they stated about LGBTQ points, a results of the chilling impact from one other latest Florida legislation, the Parental Rights in Schooling Regulation. Critics name that the “Do not Say Homosexual” legislation.
Josie observed that at her college, stickers signifying that areas had been “protected areas” for LGBTQ individuals had been taken off classroom doorways.
“Which is simply ridiculous, such as you need your college students to be comfy and protected,” she says.
Different households additionally shifting or planning to depart Florida
The brand new legal guidelines and anti-trans political rhetoric are hurting children throughout Florida, says Jennifer Evans, a medical psychologist on the College of Florida’s Youth Gender Program in Gainesville.
“I am seeing extra nervousness, extra despair,” Evans says. “Issues I hear sufferers say are, ‘The federal government would not need me to exist.’ They do not really feel protected.”
Many Republican-led states are pushing measures that deal with all types of gender-related points — not simply transgender well being care, however what faculties can train or what bogs individuals can use.
Payments do not should cross to trigger hurt, says Evans, who identifies as queer.
“It is so much to really feel like sufficient individuals on this nation do not agree along with your existence — which really is not affecting them – that folks need to shut down different individuals’s entry to dwelling full and affirmed lives,” she says. “It is painful to see that.”
4 households who beforehand sought care at Evans’ clinic have already moved out of Florida, she says, whereas one other ten households have plans to depart later this 12 months. Some older teenagers she treats are additionally planning to get out after they flip 18.
However shifting is not straightforward. Josie’s dad Eric says that like many households, they’d so much at stake.
“, simply financially it is troublesome to uproot what we have arrange,” he says.
They’ve owned their residence in St. Augustine for a very long time. Eric lately began a brand new job, whereas Josie’s mother Sarah works at a personal faculty, which features a profit that permits Josie and her older sister to get decreased tuition at some faculties across the nation.
So her dad and mom determined that, at the least for now, Josie would go stay along with her aunt and uncle and they’d keep behind in St. Augustine.
It was a devastating and emotional resolution to should make.
“It was simply terror in my coronary heart, like you may simply really feel that chilly burst in my chest simply going all all through my physique, simply loads of shock” says Sarah. “I could not think about what it might be prefer to get up — like Josie’s a part of every part I do.”
A brand new residence and a “bombardment” of assist
Josie will end her sophomore 12 months up north in Rhode Island earlier than returning to St. Augustine for summer time break. Her household sees it as a trial run for what could possibly be years of separation.
One night time earlier than Josie left, she invited a number of mates over for a going away occasion. The kids performed a dance online game, laughing as they tried to carry out a hip-hop routine in sync.
Sarah introduced out a black forest cake. “We love you Josie” was piped in frosting alongside the sting of the platter, framed by two hearts.
It was a easy however highly effective send-off from the group assist system Josie has relied on in Florida.
A couple of days later, she and her mother flew north to get Josie settled. Leaving her daughter in Rhode Island was “agony” for Sarah.
“I used to be a multitude,” she says. “I cried the entire approach to the airport. I simply felt I used to be going the flawed means.”
Again in St. Augustine, Sarah continues to be adjusting to life with out Josie at residence, however they speak day by day.
And Josie is getting used to her new surroundings in Rhode Island. The cooler climate is nice, she says, and her aunt and uncle have been actually supportive.
Her new highschool is a bit of smaller than her previous one, and in a extra liberal space. Josie says in her first week she made at the least one pal per day, and has since made extra.
She loves seeing satisfaction flags within the halls and plans to affix the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Membership. All of it seems like a “bombardment of assist.”
“It was similar to such a shock to me – like not a foul shock, however like simply shocked that that is how faculties will be, it is simply that Florida’s simply selecting to not be like that,” says Josie.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ workplace has not responded to a number of requests for remark to handle the issues of households like Josie’s. The state has taken further authorized steps to limit trans rights since she left in April.
Josie’s dad and mom say they may preserve their satisfaction flag waving within the entrance yard and advocate for equality whereas their daughter is away.
Josie says she additionally thinks about children in Florida who cannot depart, and he or she urges them not to surrender hope.
However for proper now, she wants to maneuver on in her new life.
For assist, name Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or The Trevor Venture at 866-488-7386.
This story comes from NPR’s well being reporting partnership with KFF Well being Information and WUSF.