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Parents of LGBTQ kids say new Tennessee legislation makes their kids want to move out of state

Human Rights Campaign organized roundtable
human rights campaign and tennessee
Posted at 4:59 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 23:12:14-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Parents of LGBTQ kids say Tennessee is making it harder for their children to be happy.

This spring, lawmakers passed several bills targeting transgender kids. New legislation included a policy that lets teachers ignore their student's preferred pronouns. Another new act excludes transgender girls from participating in school sports through college.

On Tuesday, at a roundtable organized by the national Human Rights Campaign, HRC called Tennessee a leader in legislative attacks on LGBTQ people. The executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project echoed that.

"It's wearying to a community to be under attack, [and] under an attack in a compressed way in a four-month period," said Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project.

Mothers of transgender kids talked about state legislation.

"My own child had to be hospitalized because of these laws in Tennessee," said Karen Orsulak. "My own child had to do virtual school because of Knoxville, Tennessee. She wasn't accepted."

In this legislative session, roughly 20 bills focused on LGBTQ youth.

Orsulak said the slate of bills this year confirmed to some kids that Tennessee is not the state where they want to be.

"For our daughter, her number one thing, and this is awful, her number one thing is she wants to move out of Tennessee... My husband and I are doing, quite frankly, everything in our power to get our daughter out of Tennessee so that she is safe and so that she can live her true authentic self and just be here," Orsulak said.

Parents said they want to educate decision-makers who don't understand what it means to be transgender.

"These types of laws will make it very difficult for transgender children to be happy, healthy, transgender adults," said Sara Cunningham, founder of Free Mom Hugs. "We've got to share our stories. We need people to see our families and see that we are just like any other family."

Next session, the Tennessee Equality Project expects lawmakers to re-introduce an anti-gay marriage bill.