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Family with transgender child leaving restrictive Arkansas for ABQ

The Spurrier family at their home in Little Rock, Ark. The Spurriers are in the process of moving to Albuquerque, after the Arkansas General Assembly passed multiple anti-transgender bills in 2021, they say.

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The last couple of weeks have been overwhelming for Cas Spurrier and his family.

Cas, 17, has spent the majority of his life in Little Rock, Arkansas, but his family is now in the process of suddenly moving to Albuquerque. His family told the Journal they no longer feel Arkansas is a safe place for Cas, who is transgender, after their state government recently passed multiple anti-transgender bills.

The final straw was House Bill 1570, which prevents transgender children from accessing such gender-affirming treatments as hormone replacement therapy, among others.

When attempts to stop the bill’s passage had failed, Cas and his parents, George and Emily, had a family meeting and decided it was time to leave their home of 16 years.

“We’ve never felt particularly represented in the Arkansas state government,” George Spurrier said. “Our kid is not safe in Arkansas.”

When it came to selecting a new state to live in, New Mexico felt like a perfect combination of what they were looking for.

The Spurriers have many friends and family in the state. New Mexico’s colleges have programs in ornithology and paleontology, two areas Cas is hoping to pursue when he graduates high school.

But maybe most importantly, New Mexico has more laws on the books protecting against discrimination based on gender identity and hasn’t seen the wave of anti-trans bills happening in other states.

For Cas, though, it’s strange to feel forced to leave due to a state law.

“It does not feel right in the slightest that a law being passed would be against my own life,” he said.

Then came the issue of financing the move. It wasn’t going to be cheap, and while they could save to move eventually, it wouldn’t be before HB 1570 was enacted and Cas could no longer access his treatment.

The family set up a GoFundMe page to hopefully speed up the process. As of Wednesday, it’s managed to raise almost $14,000 from more than 200 donors, many of whom were from New Mexico.

“For the first few days, I cried,” Emily Spurrier said. “I was just kind of shocked that many people would pull for us.”

The Spurriers are now in the process of completing the move.

While the family had contemplated leaving for a while, the anti-transgender legislation that forced their hand came on very suddenly.

The Arkansas General Assembly has passed multiple anti-transgender bills in 2021, many of which are focused on transgender children in the state.

Those in favor of HB 1570 argued children are too young for gender-affirming treatments, but transgender advocates have noted these treatments are often live-saving and can protect transgender people from harmful situations.

“I find it extremely ironic – these people think that it’s the parents forcing their kids to do it,” Cas said. “When in reality, it’s them forcing the law onto the kids.”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed HB 1570, but legislators overrode his veto. Hutchison has signed other anti-transgender bills.

A majority of state legislatures across the country have introduced similar bills, including New Mexico. Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and others sponsored a bill that would prevent transgender girls from participating in women’s sports in February, although it quickly died in committee.

But Ryan Calabretta-Sajder, an expert on LGBTQ issues based in Arkansas, said the bills introduced in Arkansas were the catalyst for a nationwide movement against transgender rights.

“The domino effect already happened,” Calabretta-Sajder said. “Once one state in the South is doing it, there’s a whole bunch that are jumping on this bandwagon.”

The Spurriers are not the only ones that have considered leaving. Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, told the Journal many LGBTQ families in the state have contemplated leaving since the bills were passed.

But George and Emily are also feeling hopeful about their future in New Mexico and the opportunities it’ll provide for their son.

“He’s grown up to be a wildly empathetic and compassionate young man,” George said.

And for Cas, that empathy extends to the trans kids still living in Arkansas, many of whom are unable to leave.

“They don’t really get a chance to move or don’t really have the opportunity to,” he said. “It feels just kind of sad.”