A Safety Map for Gender-Nonconforming U.S. Residents

It's a distressing time for trans and nonbinary people in the USA. In the past few weeks, I've seen many of my friends begin to make emergency relocation plans from states they've lived in their entire lives.

This map is an attempt to provide tangible help instead of crying about it. There are a lot of maps out there depicting specific legislative situations in US states, and while these are great, they're mostly a tool to energize cis allies and put pressure on state governments and courts to make better decisions. What's missing is a tactical tool for trans/NB folks who are faced with difficult decisions about where to live and where it's safe (or unsafe) to travel. If you are scared about making travel plans, or are in the process of becoming a refugee in your own country, this map is for you.

As of 5/7/2023, based on US Census population data for 2021, I estimate that 49.5% of Americans live in a state without legal protections for gender-nonconforming people. In addition, 18.5% of Americans live in a state where they can be arrested for existing in public as a trans/NB person.

Update 5/31/2023: Texas has been changed from yellow to red due to the passage of SB 12, an ostensible drag ban that will make it a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, for anyone to wear "accessories" associated with the opposite sex in public places. This can be construed as a ban on things like push-up bras and packers, but is written so broadly that it essentially gives police a blanket license to harass people they perceive as trans/NB.

Update 5/7/2023: Oklahoma and Nebraska have been changed from blue to yellow due to the passage of SB 613 in Oklahoma and LB 574 in Nebraska. These laws will ban gender care for minors.

Update 5/2/2023: A St. Louis County judge has temporarily stayed the Missouri Attorney General's emergency rule that would effectively ban gender care for all residents. Missouri has been changed from orange to yellow pending the outcome of a hearing on May 11.

What do the colors mean?

The red states are unsafe for any trans/NB person to live in, to visit for work or pleasure, or to travel through. This could be because of an anti-drag law that effectively criminalizes being trans in public, a "bathroom bill" that forces folks into potentially dangerous situations in public restrooms, or a law that may allow the state to seize the children of visitors because they are trans/NB.

The orange states are unsafe for any trans/NB person to live in. These states have enacted blanket bans on gender-affirming medical care. I understand that not everyone is in need of long-term medical care, but since these rules affect a broad range of services, and since medical issues can arise without warning, I believe the classification is fair.

The yellow states are unsafe for trans/NB people under the age of 18 to live in. These states have either banned gender-affirming care for minors, or have laws or policies that force trans/NB minors into potentially dangerous situations in school restrooms, locker rooms, etc.

The blue states are not unsafe, but allow discrimination in employment and/or public accommodations. If you are well off, working for an accepting private employer and not dependent on state-provided services, these are probably safe places to live for now.

The green states have none of the safety issues described above, and also have laws, constitutional language or judiciary decisions that explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment and public accommodations on the basis of gender identity/expression. These are currently the safest places in the country for trans and nonbinary folks to reside. If you are becoming a refugee from a red, orange or yellow state, these are likely your best destinations at this moment.

What else should I know?

I've used data from many sources to compile this map, with most data coming from the state legislatures themselves. In keeping with the spirit of this as a tactical decision-making tool, in situations where the legislature of a state has passed a bill that has not yet been signed by the governor, and where the governor is overwhelmingly likely to sign the bill, I've treated the bill as already passed. In situations where restrictive laws/orders are currently tied up in court, and where the state courts have historically been hostile to trans/NB folks, I've made the pessimistic assumption that those laws/orders will be upheld. In other words, there are some states for which this map doesn't represent the current situation on the ground so much as the likely situation on the ground 30-45 days from now. As of April 29, 2023, this included Missouri, where an emergency rule from the Attorney General would effectively ban gender-affirming care for adults but is currently being litigated. Missouri was dropped from orange to yellow on May 2, 2023, due to a favorable court result granting a temporary restraining order against the AG's emergency rule. Hopefully this helps illustrate where I've chosen to place the "razor's edge" between categories.

At the same time, I've tried to avoid fear-mongering and keep in mind that discomfort does not equal danger. For example, as of April 29, 2023, Oklahoma has a policy that requires students in public schools to use restrooms and locker rooms according to the sex on their birth certificate -- which, of course, Oklahoma does not allow anyone to change. However, there's also a requirement that schools provide single-occupancy facilities as a reasonable accommodation to anyone impacted by this law. I may find this legislation odious, but because there's a policy to mitigate the acute danger it could cause to students, Oklahoma is still blue on my map.

We would all do well not to panic and to remember that risk does not imply outcome. Just as with other civil rights issues through history, stepping foot in a hostile state doesn't mean you're automatically going to be attacked by local authorities. In fact, you may be fine for a lifetime. The point here is to highlight risks and dangers that are difficult to moderate over the long term. Your personal exposure to risk, and your personal risk tolerance, are still unique to you and deserve independent consideration.

How can I contact you if I think you should make a change?

I'll continue to update this map as new developments occur. If I have the situation wrong for the state you live in, please let me know by emailing me at sarah at 4d2 dot org, texting me at 971-358-3336, or sending me a secure message on Matrix at @sarah:4d2.org (if you don't have Matrix, you can sign up on my own server for free and chat securely with anyone on any Matrix server). A lot of research has gone into this, but it's impossible for me to be totally comprehensive for all 50 states.

Who are you, anyway?

My name is Sarah. I'm a trans woman, mother, IT dork, tinkerer and occasional news junkie. My family relocated from St. Louis, MO to Portland, OR when it became clear that our child was going to grow up impacted by homophobic and transphobic bullying that had nothing to do with her. We miss the Midwestern USA, and seeing that the circumstances that forced our relocation are rapidly expanding motivated me to create this map in a Facebook post. This page is meant to be a more stable target for folks who might want to check for updates, and for those who choose not to use Facebook.