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My husband is transgender. Thanks to anti-trans healthcare laws, my family and I had to flee Florida.

Ash Leigh Majcen   

My husband is transgender. Thanks to anti-trans healthcare laws, my family and I had to flee Florida.
  • After Florida enacted anti-trans laws, my husband, who is transgender, couldn't access basic care.
  • Losing our home and community was devastating, and we now live with family in Illinois.

In May 2021, my husband, our teenager, and I decided to move to Florida. We wanted to put down roots in a new place and always loved vacationing there. Travel and adventure were a priority for us. It also felt like the best place for our kid to attend college and a place we would love to retire eventually.

We found a home in a great area and formed a strong community. I even planted a garden of trees, hoping to see them grow fruit one day. We were lucky enough to have close friends and family move closer to us and were excited to have our kids grow up with theirs.

An anti-trans agenda changed everything

My husband is an army veteran. He's also trans and was assigned female at birth. There's a lot of hate and misunderstanding directed at trans people because of ignorance, whether willful or for lack of exposure. But trans people are just people, like anyone else. My family is just like any other. We had a community with places we loved to visit. Thanks to the new anti-LGBTQ+ laws, our vision for the future has been shattered.

In March, Florida legislation sessions started, and new laws were proposed, such as SB 254, which would limit healthcare for trans adults and completely deny it for any trans person under the age of 18. Bills were introduced that would negatively affect my family.

If passed, these bills would become laws that dictated which public bathroom my husband could use and what type of conversation my child could have about our family in school. They would even put in place strict guidance on what books and language were appropriate to use. Schools in Florida are now required to teach sexuality and gender as binary, which doesn't fit what my family looks like.

I decided I needed to learn more about this kind of legislation and how deeply it could affect our future. On April 4, our doctors emailed us to say they would no longer be able to provide care to my husband if the laws were passed. We knew it was time to face the reality that getting access to care under these proposed laws would be difficult and time-consuming for everyone involved. The proposed guidelines of SB 254 would require additional visits and paperwork for patients, as well as approvals through a medical board. There would be additional requirements with a new doctor, and we would have to find one near enough to visit. We decided it was time to think about moving to a safer state.

Moving began to seem like our only option

My husband and I decided to let our 15-year-old know that moving was a strong possibility. We told our friends and extended family that because of the laws coming into effect, there was a high likelihood we would be relocating.

At the time, we weren't sure what to do, so when we told people about the possibility, we also asked for advice and suggestions. We let them know that we weren't sure yet but would be taking a few weeks to make a decision. Some of our family encouraged us to take our time because the laws hadn't passed and they found it hard to believe they would move forward.

On May 17, Florida SB 254 was signed into law by the governor and went into immediate effect. This law, as explained on the Florida state page, states that it is for children and patients under 18. The preview of the law does not mention the additional medical standards for patients over 18.

After we reviewed everything listed, it was clear this law was also intended to change care requirements for adults, not just children. The law adds that nurse practitioners can no longer provide gender-affirming care, regardless of the patient's age.

The guidelines also state that a new health board will be in charge of reviewing patient consent for treatment. It was clear the law was increasing restrictions on the type of care being provided. Our practitioner closed their office, and our timeline became more urgent. We realized we would need to move to gain easy access to basic care without restrictions.

Moving wasn't as simple as just leaving the state. We had a lot to consider. We wanted to go somewhere that wasn't headed in the same political direction as Florida, which left us with only a few safe options.

It was difficult to decide where we wanted to relocate; the American Civil Liberties Union was tracking over 400 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the US. We couldn't just quickly pick up and move — we have three cats and two dogs, and a big reason we'd chosen Florida was the weather.

Many of the states we were considering would either be too cold or too expensive for a similar home with space for the animals. Because of our rush decision, we just didn't have time to find our ideal home. Instead of trying to find a new place to settle down, we decided to eventually get an RV and sold our home. We decided to live with family temporarily in Illinois while we worked on purchasing an RV to live in full time.

We learned to let the past go and look at the possibilities

After SB 254 was signed in May, it took us just under three months to downsize from a three-bedroom home to a 6-by-12 moving trailer. We sold or gave away two-thirds of our possessions. I cried over teacups and my fruit trees for weeks. Everyone in my family has felt loss and setbacks, but we're all moving forward because we're also making room for new possibilities and safety.

In July, we spent three days traveling from Florida to Illinois. We're now living in a temporary space with our family, but it doesn't truly feel like home. We sleep on an air mattress and a couch, with everyone in the same room. I'm slowly trying to rebuild my hope for our future adventures, but being displaced within my own country is devastating. Whenever someone asks why we moved from Florida, they're shocked to hear our story.

I still have a difficult time putting into words the hole in my heart that Florida has left. For the first few weeks after our move, we struggled to feel safe or at ease in our home or in public. The more we were received with kindness from our family, and the people we shared our story with, the easier the transition became.

My husband and I had pictured ourselves growing old on a beach in Florida. Our kid wanted to become a veterinarian, live in Florida, and encourage their friends to move closer to them. The three of us have no idea what our new future looks like. What I have learned is if I can't have what I planned for, then it's time to make new plans.

While we grieve and learn to let go of our old plans, we are looking forward to new journeys that will allow us to travel and explore wherever our RV wheels can take us.

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