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Michigan's Trans Migration Project Is Helping to Protect Trans People Just By Getting Them Somewhere Safe

Network of religious partners connects out-of-state trans folks with gender-affirming care, support

Liam Clymer

A faith-based collective of partners across Michigan is shepherding out-of-state trans people to Michigan for the gender-affirming care and affirmation they can't access in their home states through a movement called the Trans Migration Project.

Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow, senior pastor of MCC-Detroit, is the board president of Inclusive Justice of Michigan, a faith-based coalition that advocates for the acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals in the religious space and is spearheading the local Trans Migration Project. Stringfellow said that religious spaces are well-positioned to provide the resources needed in this movement.


The project isn’t built around a formal process. Instead, to avoid drawing attention from harmful political groups, the movement provides information and resources to organizations across the U.S. in private. “We could help them with housing, financial support or simply just being a friend to them,” Stringfellow told Pride Source. “Congregations are more suited to do that quicker than trying to find families or individuals who can respond.”

It’s vital that religious figures show that religion doesn’t have to be used as a weapon, but instead, can be used as a resource, Stringfellow said. “I utilize the same skills I use as when I’m speaking with anyone — I speak to them from a positive religious angle,” he added.

The concept of migrating for affirming care falls in line with much of the rhetoric surrounding the concept of migration as a whole, said Stringfellow. “Migration, particularly for our trans siblings, is still very much in line with the whole issue in this nation surrounding migration,” he added. “You know, ‘This is ours’, ‘Get out’, ‘Build a wall,’ kind of rhetoric.” He said he encourages his country to examine what it prioritizes. 



The goal of the Trans Migration Project is to provide “humanity, dignity and safety,” Stringfellow said. “When someone is in a place where they are unsafe, their lives are threatened, their livelihood is in jeopardy… Shouldn't we be a country where we welcome all and protect?” Stringfellow said. “If there's a place in the country, in this case a state, that is hostile to them, then those of us who can should welcome and facilitate safe passage. Give them a warm welcome in the time that they need it.”

It’s not surprising that Michigan has become a much-desired travel destination for people seeking gender-affirming care from out of state. Jay Kaplan, the ACLU of Michigan's LGBTQ+ project staff attorney, said the interest stems from the legal protections in place and access to care found in Michigan.

Whether seeking help through the Trans Migration Project or individual organizations and medical systems providing care in Michigan, patients must do thorough research before deciding to travel out of state for care — differences in state regulations can impact what responsibilities fall to the individual.

“For instance, Indiana has a prohibition on aiding or abetting in accessing gender-affirming care, and it applies to licensed medical professionals and counselors in the state of Indiana,” Kaplan said. “Let’s say a family was interested in going to Michigan — it couldn't be that doctor in Indiana that's making a referral or sending medical records to a provider in Michigan, and more likely, it would have to be that the family gets the medical records and brings those."

Separate from the faith-based Trans Migration Project, Kaplan, on behalf of ACLU of Michigan, is part of a workgroup made up of stakeholders from various organizations and legal entities in Michigan focused on easing access to gender-affirming care in Michigan. 

He said almost half of the states within the U.S. have some kind of ban on care — Michigan doesn’t. “We have civil rights protections, explicit protections, under our laws for gender identity and expression,” Kaplan explained. “We don't have any limitations or bans on gender-affirming care… our Medicaid program doesn't have any limitations on covering gender. So, we're in a safe space where one can access this care.”

“This is a highly politicized thing,” Kaplan said. “In my opinion, it's certainly not about what they say: protecting children. It's a cynical political play where these politicians profess to know more than doctors and medical experts and current medical science as a way to gain political advantage.”

Those who care for their trans siblings must show it through action, Kaplan said. “I think all of us who care, we can't just stand by and not do anything,” Kaplan said. “This is wrong. These laws that have passed, they’re harmful. They do harm kids, and they will continue to harm kids. We all have a role to play.”

Connect to the Trans Migration Project by contacting Inclusive Justice of Michigan at [email protected].



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