There’s a New Group Helping Trans People Flee the US

TRANSport launched its website about two weeks ago, and 30 people have already applied, the nonprofit’s founder told VICE News.
Supporters of LGBTQA+ rights participate in the March for Queer & Trans Autonomy on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 31, 2023.
Supporters of LGBTQA+ rights participate in the March for Queer & Trans Autonomy on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on March 31, 2023. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images)

A service that aims to help transgender people flee the U.S.  officially launched two weeks ago—and it has already received 30 applications. 

“In July, people said I was crazy to even come up with this idea. That ‘it won't work,’ ‘it's not needed,’ ‘it's not necessary,” said TRANSport founder and trans activist Rynn Azerial Willgohs. “Here we are nine months later, and I feel like I was looking at a crystal ball.”


Over the last year, many anti-trans bills have made their way through state legislatures across the country, including in Willgoh’s home state of North Dakota, where legislators passed 10 anti-LGBTQ bills in a single day last week. Almost 500 anti-trans bills have been introduced nationwide, ranging from gender-affirming care bans for youth and even adults to drag bans and bills that enable teachers to misgender trans students. Many politicians pushing these bills have equated gender-affirming care to child abuse. 

In light of all this, TRANSport is hoping to step in. The group aims to help trans people get documents with up-to-date gender markers, including valid IDs and passports, and ultimately help them make their way out of the U.S. VICE News first reported on TRANSport in January, before the site launched. It’s a “non-profit organization dedicated to transporting at-risk transgender individuals outside of the United States of America into a more accepting world,” according to the newly launched website

About thirty trans people, mostly young people in their twenties, have already applied for help from the group, Wilgoh’s told VICE News. “The demographic is typically people in their twenties, which is really surprising because they were initially the ones that were like, Oh, we need to stay and fight, we need to do this, we need to do that,’” Willgohs said. “That's really shifted.”


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TRANSport is primarily focused with supporting trans people from North Dakota, but Willgohs said people from Oklahoma, a state that is trying to ban gender-affirming care for people under 26, have also reached out. “We're getting a lot of traffic from Oklahoma,” Willgohs said. “So what I've done is I've created this list saying, ‘Okay, if this is what you want to do, this is what you need to do before you leave.’”

The intake form is made up of a range of questions, including whether a client knows people overseas or has family ancestry that could make it easier to legally move to a new country. The form also lists 10 potential areas within which clients can seek help, including support with legal name changes, getting a verifiable medical diagnosis, and help with shipping medications, such as hormone replacement therapy, from the U.S. to other countries.

Willgohs and her team plan to help people with the move and get up-to-date legal documents, such as IDs with accurate genders and passports, before they leave the country. All this takes time: “Once a name change happens, then the passports, this process could take up to six months from start to finish depending on how much stuff you need done before you go,” Willgohs said. 


Once a person has their documents in order and is ready to leave the U.S., TRANSport will explore various pathways into new countries, including via work visas and even asylum claims. WIllgohs said multiple people in European countries have reached out to offer help, including university student groups and individuals offering to marry trans people looking for a way out of the U.S. 

TRANSport is currently focused on fundraising so that the group can cover most of its clients’ costs. Willgohs estimates it’ll cost about $2,000 per person to go through the whole process from start to finish. 

Willgohs herself is considering moving to Iceland, ideally via work visa. She said she doesn’t plan on moving until after the next presidential election, but some of her colleagues are considering going to Germany and Sweden. “Whoever goes first is going to have the biggest challenges. So once we get people over there and the groundwork laid out, it'll make it easier,” she said. 

It’s hard to say, though, whether U.S. citizens will successfully make asylum claims in Europe. VICE News previously spoke to a trans woman named Robin Cóir who fled the U.S. in 2022 and sought asylum in Germany. Cóir said recently that she’s still in Dettenhausen, Germany, waiting for an interview with officials. Meanwhile, a human rights expert also told VICE News that U.S. citizens are unlikely to be approved for asylum in Europe.


“European systems are already very crowded, very busy, very ill-funded, very backlogged, and they are designed to be the last refuge—literally—for people who have no other options in life,” Nora Noralla, a human rights researcher based in Berlin, said earlier this year. “Americans do not fit that definition.”

Noralla also noted that U.S. citizens who want to flee states hostile to trans people, like Texas and Florida, can still theoretically relocate to blue states. “To apply for asylum you need to prove that the entire country isn’t safe for you,” Noralla said. “You need to prove this is a federal policy.”

But states that are friendly towards LGBTQ are often prohibitively expensive, Willgohs said, adding people are still afraid of anti-trans violence.

In the U.S., trans people are more than four times more likely than their cis peers to be the victims of violence, including rape and aggravated assault, and Black and brown trans people are at an even higher risk. Trans people are also more likely to suffer fatal violence, an issue the Human Rights Campaign has been tracking since 2013.

And it hasn’t gotten better. During the midterms last year, LGBTQ candidates won big—a huge victory dubbed the Rainbow Wave—but Republicans ran aggressively anti-trans campaigns and continue to push anti-trans legislation forward. In the fall, GOP politicians spent at least $50 million on anti-trans attack ads. Far-right personalities have also escalated anti-trans hate, with FOX News, Daily Wire, and social media influencers pushing harmful misinformation about trans people, including the false claim that LGBTQ people are groomers. A recent leaked cache of emails between anti-trans lobbyists and Republican South Dakota Rep. Fred Deutsch reveals how even in 2019, concerted Evangelical-led efforts were already underway to usher in anti-trans legislation across the country as part of what some experts are saying resembles a “Holy War.” 

Willgohs told VICE News she’s worried things will get even worse after the 2024 election cycle. “It may be very doomsday, but I haven't been wrong yet,” Willgohs said.