Child holding the rainbow flag against the blue sky

Here's how much legislation in each state restricts or protects trans youth

Written by:
April 14, 2022
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Here's how much legislation in each state restricts or protects trans youth

Superficially, Americans and their legislators accept and understand LGBTQ+ individuals more now than even a decade ago. The Supreme Court's 2015 decision to legalize same-gender marriage stands as of the most tangible and significant wins for LGBTQ+ rights—yet the 2015 ruling only directly protected cisgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals.

At least 19 states in 2016 considered bathroom bills, legislation that would force every person to use the gendered restroom matching the gender listed on their birth certificate. North Carolina passed this legislation, igniting conversations across the country and empowering lawmakers to draft similar bills in other states. But sister bills struggled to pass, and even North Carolina has since repealed its bathroom bill.

Several congressional representatives have turned to gender legislation to target a new group: transgender youth.

Stacker took a look at state-by-state data on sexual orientation and gender identity policies that affect transgender youth from the Transgender Law Center. All 50 states and Washington D.C. were then ranked by their total policy tallies” (the number of laws and policies driving equality for LGBTQ+ people), with #51 being the most restrictive state and #1 being the most protective state of trans youth. Negative tallies mean more discrimination laws exist than protection laws.

TLC's policy tally accounts only for passed legislation and does not take into account activism efforts, attitudes, and feelings expressed by people in the state, nor implementations of these laws. The core categories TLC considered revolve around relationships and parental recognition, nondiscrimination, religious exemptions, LGBTQ+ youth, health care, criminal justice, and identity documents.

TLC's findings capture how trans youth remain protected or vulnerable by statutory law, but legislation is elastic and lawmakers introduce new bills constantly. One category of these rankings only capture laws pertaining to sexuality since significant overlap exists within the queer community and within the legislation. Many lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals also identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming, meaning LGBTQ+ individuals can identify with more than one queer identity.

Since 2020, anti-trans youth legislation claiming to protect children popped up more frequently in state legislatures, entering the more mainstream lexicon in 2021. During the first three months of 2022, lawmakers filed about 240 anti-LGBTQ+ laws—most of which targeted trans people.

Tennessee, the top state for anti-trans youth legislation, in 2017 signed a bill into law preventing trans children from receiving gender-affirming care. It was the fifth anti-trans law to pass in the state. Bills like these claim to protect parents and children, yet lawmakers in Tennessee are also considering a bill that would establish common-law marriages in the state between “one man and one woman” while eliminating age restrictions for marriage.

While anti-trans youth legislation outnumbers legislation to protect trans youth, several states have enacted or are considering laws intended to protect trans children. California has gone so far as to introduce a bill to accept families escaping anti-trans youth legislation. Colorado—formerly known as the “Hate State” for its history of passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation throughout the ’90s—passed legislation banning conversion therapy, prohibiting bullying based on LGBTQ+ identities, and ending discrimination against LGBTQ+ families adopting children. Hawaii passed legislation in March that would require health insurance companies to pay for gender-affirming care—but not until 2060.

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Tennessee Capitol building
1 / 51
Mihai_Andritoiu // Shutterstock

#51. Tennessee

- Overall tally: -6
- Gender identity policy tally: -5.75
- Sexual orientation policy tally: -0.25

Arkansas Capitol building
2 / 51
W. Scott McGill // Shutterstock

#50. Arkansas

- Overall tally: -5.5
- Gender identity policy tally: -5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: -0.5

South Dakota Capitol building
3 / 51
Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#49. South Dakota

- Overall tally: -4.5
- Gender identity policy tally: -4
- Sexual orientation policy tally: -0.5

Flags at Alabama Capitol
4 / 51
Kristi Blokhin // Shutterstock

#48. Alabama

- Overall tally: -4
- Gender identity policy tally: -3.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: -0.5

Mississippi Capitol building
5 / 51
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#47. Mississippi

- Overall tally: -3.5
- Gender identity policy tally: -3
- Sexual orientation policy tally: -0.5

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Flags at Oklahoma State Capitol building
6 / 51
Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#46. Oklahoma

- Overall tally: -3
- Gender identity policy tally: -5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 2

Senate chamber at Louisiana State Capitol building
7 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#45. Louisiana

- Overall tally: -2.5
- Gender identity policy tally: -3.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 1

Georgia State Capitol building
8 / 51
f11photo // Shutterstock

#43. Georgia (tie)

- Overall tally: -0.5
- Gender identity policy tally: -3
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 2.5

South Carolina State house
9 / 51
Jon Bilous // Shutterstock

#43. South Carolina (tie)

- Overall tally: -0.5
- Gender identity policy tally: -1.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 1

Flags flying in front of the Texas Capitol dome
10 / 51
CrackerClips Stock Media // Shutterstock

#42. Texas

- Overall tally: 0.5
- Gender identity policy tally: -2.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 2.75

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House of Representatives chamber in Missouri State Capitol building
11 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#41. Missouri

- Overall tally: 0.75
- Gender identity policy tally: -2.75
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 3.5

Wyoming Capitol building
12 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#40. Wyoming

- Overall tally: 1.75
- Gender identity policy tally: -0.75
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 2.5

Arizona Capitol Building
13 / 51
EQRoy // Shutterstock

#39. Arizona

- Overall tally: 2.25
- Gender identity policy tally: -3.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 5.75

Idaho State Senate chamber at Idaho Capitol building
14 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#38. Idaho

- Overall tally: 3.75
- Gender identity policy tally: -0.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 4.25

Montana State Capitol building
15 / 51
Mihai_Andritoiu // Shutterstock

#35. Montana (tie)

- Overall tally: 4
- Gender identity policy tally: -0.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 4.5

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Nebraska State Capitol building
16 / 51
Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#35. Nebraska (tie)

- Overall tally: 4
- Gender identity policy tally: -1.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 5.25

West Virginia Capitol building
17 / 51
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#35. West Virginia (tie)

- Overall tally: 4
- Gender identity policy tally: -1.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 5.5

Florida Capitol building
18 / 51
vmfreire // Shutterstock

#33. Florida (tie)

- Overall tally: 5.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 2
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 3.75

North Carolina State Capitol Building
19 / 51
Zack Frank // Shutterstock

#33. North Carolina (tie)

- Overall tally: 5.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 1
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 4.75

Indiana State Capitol building
20 / 51
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#32. Indiana

- Overall tally: 6.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 1.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 5.25

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House of Representatives chamber in Kansas State Capitol building
21 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#31. Kansas

- Overall tally: 7.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 3
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 4.75

Ohio State Capitol building
22 / 51
Mihai_Andritoiu // Shutterstock

#30. Ohio

- Overall tally: 9.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 3.75
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 6

Kentucky Senate chamber at State Capitol building
23 / 51
Susan M Hall // Shutterstock

#29. Kentucky

- Overall tally: 10.25
- Gender identity policy tally: 3
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 7.25

North Dakota State Capitol building
24 / 51
Joseph Sohm // Shutterstock

#28. North Dakota

- Overall tally: 11.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 4.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 7.5

Utah State Capitol building
25 / 51
InnovativeImages // Shutterstock

#27. Utah

- Overall tally: 14.25
- Gender identity policy tally: 6.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 8

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Pennsylvania State Capitol building
26 / 51
Real Window Creative // Shutterstock

#26. Pennsylvania

- Overall tally: 15.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 9.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 6.25

Iowa State Capitol building
27 / 51
Grindstone Media Group // Shutterstock

#25. Iowa

- Overall tally: 17
- Gender identity policy tally: 6
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 11

Alaska State Capitol building
28 / 51
Rob Pauley // Shutterstock

#24. Alaska

- Overall tally: 17.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 9
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 8.75

Wisconsin State Capitol building and fountain
29 / 51
Suzanne Tucker // Shutterstock

#23. Wisconsin

- Overall tally: 18
- Gender identity policy tally: 5.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 12.75

House of Representatives chamber of the Michigan State Capitol building
30 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#22. Michigan

- Overall tally: 19
- Gender identity policy tally: 11.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 7.75

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Delaware State Capitol building
31 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#21. Delaware

- Overall tally: 25.25
- Gender identity policy tally: 12.75
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 12.5

House of Representatives chamber of the Virginia State Capitol building
32 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#20. Virginia

- Overall tally: 26
- Gender identity policy tally: 14.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 11.5

New Hampshire State Capitol building
33 / 51
Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#19. New Hampshire

- Overall tally: 27.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 14
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 13.5

New Mexico State Capitol building
34 / 51
Traveller70 // Shutterstock

#18. New Mexico

- Overall tally: 28
- Gender identity policy tally: 14.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 13.5

Maryland State Capitol building
35 / 51
Felix Lipov // Shutterstock

#17. Maryland

- Overall tally: 29.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 16.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 13.25

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Interior of the Hawaii State House of Representatives chamber
36 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#16. Hawaii

- Overall tally: 31
- Gender identity policy tally: 16
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 15

Rhode Island State Capitol building
37 / 51
Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#15. Rhode Island

- Overall tally: 32.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 16
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 16.5

Massachusetts State Capitol building
38 / 51
Belikova Oksana // Shutterstock

#13. Massachusetts (tie)

- Overall tally: 33.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 17.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 16.25

Minnesota State Capitol building
39 / 51
Randy Runtsch // Shutterstock

#13. Minnesota (tie)

- Overall tally: 33.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 18.25
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 15.25

Interior of the Senate Chamber of the Illinois State Capitol
40 / 51
Moab Republic // Shutterstock

#12. Illinois

- Overall tally: 35
- Gender identity policy tally: 18
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 17

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Pennsylvania Avenue and U.S. Capitol
41 / 51
Orhan Cam // Shutterstock

#10. Washington D.C. (tie)

- Overall tally: 36
- Gender identity policy tally: 19
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 17

Vermont State Capitol building
42 / 51
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#10. Vermont (tie)

- Overall tally: 36
- Gender identity policy tally: 18.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 17.5

Oregon State Capitol building in spring
43 / 51
James Curzio // Shutterstock

#9. Oregon

- Overall tally: 36.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 19.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 17

Washington State Capitol in Olympia
44 / 51
Always Wanderlust / Shutterstock

#8. Washington

- Overall tally: 36.75
- Gender identity policy tally: 20
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 16.75

Maine State Capitol building
45 / 51
Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#6. Maine (tie)

- Overall tally: 37
- Gender identity policy tally: 18.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 18.5

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House of Representatives chamber of the New Jersey State House
46 / 51
Nagel Photography // Shutterstock

#6. New Jersey (tie)

- Overall tally: 37
- Gender identity policy tally: 20
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 17

Connecticut State Capitol building
47 / 51
Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#5. Connecticut

- Overall tally: 37.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 20
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 17.5

Nevada Capital of Carson City
48 / 51
Jacob Boomsma // Shutterstock

#4. Nevada

- Overall tally: 38
- Gender identity policy tally: 20.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 17.5

New York State Capitol building in Albany
49 / 51
Wangkun Jia // Shutterstock

#3. New York

- Overall tally: 39
- Gender identity policy tally: 20.5
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 18.5

California State Capitol building
50 / 51
Sundry Photography // Shutterstock

#2. California

- Overall tally: 39.25
- Gender identity policy tally: 20.75
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 18.5

Colorado State Capitol building in Denver
51 / 51
Creative Family // Shutterstock

#1. Colorado

- Overall tally: 39.5
- Gender identity policy tally: 20.75
- Sexual orientation policy tally: 18.75

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