Family Moves From Arkansas to Support Trans Teen Amid State's Transition Surgery Ban

After living in Arkansas for more than 15 years, one family has packed up and moved to New Mexico where they can better support their 17-year-old son—after the state passed legislation that criminalized transgender health care.

The Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act denies anyone under the age of 18 access to gender-affirming treatments, surgical or chemical—including hormones or puberty blockers. Additionally, doctors are now at risk of losing their licenses if they were to treat a minor.

For the Spurrier family, the legislation became a blockade for their son's health.

George and Emily Spurrier told WDTN that their son, Cas, 17, came out as transgender in 2019. He had a team of doctors, psychologists, nurses, and an endocrinologist to begin his testosterone treatments.

When the SAFE Act went into effect, and in order to avoid halting Cas' treatments until he turned 18, the Spurrier family decided to leave Arkansas, moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In the description on their GoFundMe page, the Spurriers wrote: "We have family and friends in New Mexico, a state which still respects the medical rights of transgender people and the healthcare professionals who aid them."

"His confidence and comfort have increased by leaps and bounds, and it is clear that he is elated with his progress so far. He has gone from being on the verge of suicide to excitement for his future," they wrote on their fundraiser's description.

The Spurriers also told WDTN that they are happy they can now be in a place that their son can feel more comfortable and accepted in.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the state of Arkansas in an effort to halt the implementation of the SAFE Act.

Holly Dickson, the ACLU of Arkansas executive director, said in a statement last month: "We are hearing from concerned families all over the state who are afraid about the impact of this bill and others like it. We are committed to doing all we can to support these families and ensure they know how to continue to fight for their rights and get the care and resources they need."

"No matter what these politicians do or say, one thing has not changed: trans youth are loved, they are seen, and we will never stop fighting to defend their dignity, their rights and their lives," Dickson stated.

Dickson told Newsweek that she hopes their case will bring hope to these young people when they see that "someone is fighting for them." She said that it is "incredibly damaging for a child" when their legislature is fighting against them.

Advocates and health experts in Arkansas fear the consequences on the mental health of youths because of the SAFE Act, considering how much more at risk of self-harm these young people already are.

The Trevor Project's 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 52 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide the year before.

Michele Hutchison, a pediatric doctor in Arkansas, testified in March before the state Senate and said that there were "multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide" after the bill passed the House.

Pediatric Doctor Michele Hutchison: "I've had multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide just in the last week."

Arkansas' proposed bill is already harming trans youth. The time to defend trans lives is NOW. pic.twitter.com/p4ipcVE23t

— ACLU (@ACLU) March 26, 2021
US-TRANSGENDER-DAY-OF-VISIBILITY-GENDER
Trans pride flags flutter in the wind at a gathering to celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility, March 31, 2017 at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles, California. After living in Arkansas for more than 15 years, one family has packed up and moved to New Mexico where they can better support their 17-year-old son—after the state passed legislation that criminalized transgender health care. (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)