Nora, a Trans Teenager, Was Forced to Flee Her Home State. Where Does She Go From Here?

Nora Anderson has left a lot of places. When administrators forgot to unlock the only unisex bathroom at her high school in Iowa City, Iowa, the transgender 15-year-old (who felt uncomfortable using the girls’ restroom) got picked up by her parents so she could use one at home or a nearby grocery store. After a classmate suggested starting an “anti-trans club,” she transferred out of the public school system and switched to homeschooling. Nora couldn’t even get a German pastry at the farmers market without a blonde middle-aged woman shouting, “Look! There’s a boy in a dress!” She left without buying anything. Then, in 2022, the governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, aired a campaign ad saying, “We still know right from wrong, boys from girls.” Nora and her family no longer felt welcome—or safe—in their home state. So they packed up and moved to Portland, Oregon. “It’s pretty sad having to leave all the time,” Nora says with a sigh. Refugees flee war, violence, conflict, and persecution. They are displaced families who have lost their homes in battle. They are environmental migrants forced to escape famine due to historic droughts. They are not, as we traditionally think of them, American families driving SUVs cross-country. Though the Andersons didn’t flash their passports at the border or submit to questioning by immigration officers, leaving Iowa meant they joined a growing group of so-called gender refugees escaping states that have become increasingly hostile for the transgender community.

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