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Transgender teen moved cross country due to safety concerns

Louie Bullock's family decided to leave their home state of Texas and make the move up north to Minnesota in June 2022. Although difficult, Bullock said it was worth it.

Louie Bullock
Louie Bullock on Monday, March 27, 2023, in Rochester. Louie and their family moved here from Texas in search of a more inclusive environment.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — Louie Bullock feels included in their Rochester community. They have a great group of friends at Century High School, love studying science, and just finished a run of "My Fair Lady," where they got to show off their vocals playing Freddie, one of the leads, at the Panther Playhouse.

Bullock, who is transgender and uses they/them pronouns, hasn't always felt so welcome in the community where they lived. They moved with their family to Rochester from their home state of Texas in June 2022 due to safety concerns and an influx of anti-transgender legislation in the Lone Star State.

Bullock, 19, hopes to attend community college soon and pursue either forensic science or mortuary studies. They said they want to help families give their loved ones a proper send-off.

With bans on care for minors in South Dakota and Iowa, Mayo Clinic and others Minnesota health systems are readying for an increase in transgender patients needing gender-affirming care.

Different laws

Texas is among more than 20 states where legislators are trying to limit gender-affirming care for transgender people, particularly those under the age of 18, according to the ACLU.

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In the Midwest, both Iowa and South Dakota passed bans this year that prevent trans youths from seeking this care. North Dakota is on track to follow their lead. Furthermore, Iowa has passed a bill that prohibits individuals from using restrooms that align with their gender identity if that differs from their gender assigned at birth.

“These bills are incredibly harmful to trans people, like, it’s just so very scary,” Bullock said. “It has you wondering at what point is this about protecting anybody, you know?”

Bullock is not the only trans person to move to Minnesota in response to safety concerns. Minnesota is seen as a haven by many due to local legislation pushes, such as Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order that protects the right to receive gender-affirming care and efforts by the state Legislature to establish Minnesota as a “trans refuge” state.

In an interview with the Post Bulletin, Bullock shared how they made the decision to move and how their life has changed since they arrived in Rochester.

Safety concerns

Bullock grew up in a suburb of Austin, Texas, with their family. As Bullock made their way through junior high and high school, they heard more and more stories of trans people in surrounding cities being physically and verbally assaulted.

In school, their classmates didn’t seem willing to learn about or tolerate students that were coming out and didn’t take Bullock’s gender identity seriously. In classes, kids would make prejudiced comments about trans people, often espousing inaccurate information.

The culmination of these interactions began to wear on Bullock.

“It was definitely, you know, not the greatest environment to be learning in,” they said. “It didn't really allow for much personal growth because so many people would have something to say about it.”

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Bullock had a strong group of friends in school, but the school environment became increasingly concerning.

Trans students were leaving surrounding schools because of safety concerns. People close to Bullock were attacked because of their gender identity. One of Bullock’s classmates was physically assaulted, and was later pulled out of school.

“It was scary,” Bullock said. “It’s really hard to see people go through that.”

Bullock’s family began to realize that Texas was not a safe environment for Bullock or their siblings.

Time to leave

Leaving Texas was not an easy or quick decision.

Bullock’s family spent more than a year discussing whether the time had come to uproot. Their mom did a good deal of research to determine what areas would have more trans protections in place. In the summer of 2021, Bullock, their mom and three siblings flew out to Minnesota to scope out the area.

Minnesota proved to be a good prospect. They had family members nearby, and the family agreed that they liked the size and feel of Rochester, especially.

In June 2022, when Bullock was 18, the family moved to Rochester.

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Although the discussions had been drawn out, Bullock said the move felt pretty sudden and there was a lot of uncertainty.

“We had to sell our house and buy a new house in Minnesota,” they said. “We drove up from Texas to move before we were able to see it in person. We didn’t know where we’d be sleeping or where we’d be going to school. It was a super nerve-wracking experience.”

IMG_3649.jpg
Louie Bullock and their family before they moved up north from Texas. Pictured from left are Louie Bullock, Catherine Mattijetz, Violet Bullock, Camden Bullock, Bradford Bullock and Jeremy Sorensen.
Contributed / Louie Bullock

A new home

Bullock said that although it was difficult to move away from everything they’ve ever known in Texas, it paid off in the end. The family has now lived in Rochester for almost a year.

“It was a chance that we took and a risk,” Bullock said. “We didn’t know if this would be good for us. But it has definitely been worth it.”

Bullock said they noticed changes right away when they arrived in Minnesota. Their classmates were more willing and automatic in asking their preferred name and pronouns and then would respect their answers.

When Bullock had doctor appointments, doctors asked for preferred names and pronouns right away and put them in the system to ensure the correct pronouns were used in following appointments. Bullock said this, especially, has made a world of difference.

“I don’t have to tell everybody every single time, which is a nice change,” the said. “In the past, I would often opt out of telling anybody at all because I didn’t want to go through the effort. Here, the care I’ve already experienced is on a different level in terms of respect. I feel like I’m finally being taken seriously.”

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Louie Bullock in Century High School's production of "My Fair Lady" in Feb. 2023.
Contributed / Louie Bullock

While Minnesota isn’t free from trans violence — just recently a trans woman was attacked in Minneapolis — Bullock said their new home has been a welcome improvement and that they’ve noticed the culture is more inclusive. They have also been able to pursue the health care they need.

“If I had stayed in Texas, I probably wouldn’t have moved forward with my transition as willingly,” Bullock said. “I would have been a lot more scared. I’ve had the courage to seek it out more intensely here.”

Moving forward

Bullock said it has been hard seeing the flurry of anti-trans bills introduced across the country.

“Transgender people are really scared about what's going on right now, and we shouldn’t have to be,” they said. “It's hard because we're not doing anything, right? Like, it's confusing why we're being targeted so hard right now.”

Bullock said they hope moving forward, there will be more media coverage centering the perspective of transgender people, squelching misinformation and encouraging people to learn more before jumping to conclusions.

“We are just people trying to navigate the world like any other person,” they said.

Photojournalist Traci Westcott contributed to the reporting of this story.

Molly Castle Work is an award-winning investigative journalist. She has investigated a range of topics such as OSHA and worker safety during COVID-19, racially-disproportionate juries and white-owned newspapers' role in promoting lynchings. Readers can reach Molly at 507-285-7771 or mwork@postbulletin.com.
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