NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — One family is leaving Tennessee next month due to the state’s new law banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
Kristen Gibbons has four teenage children, all of who identify as queer. Her youngest is transgender and has been receiving puberty blockers from a doctor in Nashville for two years. However, she said despite the law not yet being enacted and pending legal challenges, medical professionals who once provided gender-affirming care will stop doing so in a few weeks.
“A lot of providers are uncomfortable,” Gibbons said.
Now, she considers her family to be refugees as they quickly try and leave the state to make sure her daughter can continue to receive regular care.
“I’ve hit a new level of literally near panic watching all of this happen,” she said. “It’s kind of like watching the crash in slow motion and you kind of know the train is coming, but you don’t…you can’t get out of the way.”
While she had once hoped she would have more time to plan the move, Gibbons is taking her family to Virginia in June. She said Tennessee has been her home for most of her life and her kids, including her youngest daughter, are happy in Nashville.
“No one wants to leave high school in the middle and start a new high school,” she said.
However, it was her kids who first said it’s time to go.
“They didn’t blink an eye, you know, they said, ‘We’ve gotta go. We gotta go. She can’t stop treatment.’ And it’s too stressful and expensive to drive to Illinois every three months, and there could be legislation that penalizes me for doing that next year,” Gibbons explained.
During the debate over SB001, Republican lawmakers said the law is not meant to hurt trans kids, but rather keep them safe.
“Destroying the healthy reproductive organs of a child for the purpose of altering their appearance is profoundly unethical and morally wrong. This dangerous practice comes with lifelong health complications children are not capable of understanding…In Tennessee, we will continue to protect vulnerable children who cannot give informed consent for adult decisions they aren’t ready for,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R—Portland) said.
Gibbons said comments like these are inaccurate. She also said claims that it’s easy for teenagers to convince parents and doctors to provide them access to gender-affirming care are false.
“It is an extensive, thorough process. You have to go through many, many, many hoops from mental health care, you know, across the board physical tests,” she said. “It is not a, you go in and get a prescription, or something like that.”
According to The Trevor Project, one in five trans and non-binary young people have attempted suicide. In addition, nearly half of trans and non-binary youth have seriously considered suicide.
These and others stats on trans mental health are used by both supporters and opponents of the law in their arguments.
“She does not need hormone injections and scalpels; she needs to be protected from those quaks and vultures who want to exploit her for their own gains,” said conservative commentator Matt Walsh while testifying at the Tennessee Statehouse in February.
Walsh and others like Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R—Tennessee) have said that supporters of gender-affirming care can’t define what a “woman” is, yet Gibbons said it is simple.
“Listen to what people, who people tell you they are. That’s what you do,” she said.
However, she said rhetoric like that is what is leading her to uproot her life in Tennessee.