‘I won’t detransition for someone who thinks I shouldn’t exist’, says trans man fleeing Florida

A graphic composed of an outline of the state of Florida, a trans Pride flag, the US flag and Avery Wade Kelley a trans person who left the state over gender-affirming healthcare bans

When another Florida trans healthcare ban went into effect, Avery Wade Kelley knew that he had to leave.

“I won’t detransition for some a*****e who thinks I shouldn’t exist,” he says.

Kelley made the decision to get out after Senate Bill 254 was implemented in May. It affects a large swathe of transgender Floridians, including Kelley, by limiting who can prescribe hormones, and imposing extreme restrictions on access to gender-affirming care.

Florida has the second-largest transgender community in the US, with an estimated 94,900 trans adults in the state. Among other hurdles, SB 254 mandated that they can only receive gender-affirming care from physicians. 

The legislation is devastating for Kelley as he is among the estimated 80 per cent of trans adults in the state who obtained their healthcare from nurse practitioners.

Kelley shared his experiences on TikTok since the bill came into law, revealing that he’d had a “hard time finding a pharmacist” in Florida who would prescribe his hormones. 

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“They were giving me a whole bunch of different excuses like: ‘The signature doesn’t look real’, or ‘your address isn’t on here’, without actually calling my doctor and verifying,” Kelley tells PinkNews. 

“They were just telling me no, and they knew why I was getting it. They saw my legal name. They saw my birth marker on my ID. They knew I was trans. I didn’t even have to say anything. 

“But it felt like there was no compassion. There was no, ‘I know what’s going on in the state right now, and I see how scared you are, let me help you as one human to another human’. 

“It was like: ‘Oh, you’re one of those. No, we’re not doing that’.”


This is my personal experience. People are having different excuses not to have their horomones filled out, or people are just being extremely difficult and making us jump through loops like a fucking sick circus. Also, if they don’t give you back your prescription, raise hell and say “I will go to someone who will fill it. It is my property.” Don’t let them take it, don’t let them talk bullshit, and don’t give up. 🏳️‍⚧️ #fyp #trans

♬ original sound – Avery Wade

The experience was very disheartening because Kelley was raised in Florida, and Orlando has been home. 

He remembers how the state was once “super accepting” and “loving”, but says that has changed in recent years. 

In governor Ron DeSantis’ Florida, Kelley does not always feel safe. That’s why he left the Sunshine State with his partner, to build a new life in the more trans-friendly Colorado. 

‘People don’t understand the gravity of detransitioning’

Republican lawmakers have been fixated on banning trans healthcare for young people, with 21 states passing legislation restricting such care

This year alone, more than 570 anti-trans bills have been introduced in the US. Proposed legislation ranges from “bathroom” and drag bans to attacks on how trans people can legally have their gender recognised.

In September, a federal district court judge denied a motion to temporarily block SB 254 while a legal challenge makes its way through the courts.

This concerted effort by right-wing politicians has left those affected in Florida with a tough decision: leave their homes or potentially be forced to detransition if they remain. 

‘I wanted to decorate, celebrate, feel my skin’

Kelley thinks many people don’t understand the “gravity of why this is so important” and why detransitioning “isn’t something that we are willing to go through”. 

He explains: “When I came out as trans and started my hormones, my mentality fit. My body fit. Everything felt less itchy. 

“It felt less like I wanted to rip my skin off, and I wanted to put more on it, decorate it, celebrate it and feel it.”

He compares his trans experience to having to wear a very uncomfortable sweater.

“And it’s itchy,” he says. “It’s the itchiest wool you’ve ever worn, and you’re wearing it because someone told you that you have to wear it from birth because we’re assigned a gender at birth.

“Once you take that sweater off, you don’t want to put it back on, and that’s exactly what they’re trying to force us to do: put the sweater back on. 

“They’re trying to make us go back to our gender assigned at birth. I feel that gravity is missed among so many people because they just don’t understand. 

“They’re not going through it, I understand that. I don’t know what it’s like for a mother to lose a child, but I know what it’s like to be trans. 

“I know what it’s like to not be accepted, that you’re lying, that you’re mentally ill… and in my heart of hearts, I’m screaming something else, and people don’t understand the gravity of that.”

Avery Wade Kelley, a trans person from Florida with a variety of tattoos and glasses, wears a sleeveless shirt with the NASA logo on it as he sits outside his house
Avery Wade Kelley saw his “mentality[and] body fit” when he came out as trans. (Instagram/Avery Wade Kelley)

Numerous studies show that gender-affirming care isn’t harmful – in fact, in many cases, it’s life-saving.

Transgender people are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide than their cisgender peers. Experts say some of these risks can be mitigated with access to gender-affirming care.

Gender-affirming care is also strongly linked to better mental health outcomes for trans people and has been endorsed as safe and effective by several major medical associations.

Still, a growing number of transgender people and families of trans youth are leaving states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws which run counter to the expert opinion.

More than 40 per cent of trans adults surveyed in a Data for Progress poll said they’d considered moving states over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation at home. And eight per cent of trans adults and people aged 18 to 25 reported that they’d already moved because of hateful laws in their state. 

‘We have to leave because of all this’

It’s not just the laws that have forced the likes of Kelley to flee – public sentiment and behaviour has also made many parts of the US inhospitable for some queer people.

Right-wing groups have shown up outside family friendly drag events and Pride celebrations as well as outside trans healthcare spaces.

There have been several reports of protestors waving Nazi flags and chanting antisemitic, racist and anti-LGBTQ+ messages outside Disney World, in Orlando. 

For Kelley, seeing so many extremists feel emboldened to openly spread hate was just another reason to get out of Florida.

His partner is Black, and they lived a few miles away from an area where Nazi signs and flags were placed. 

They also witnessed the rapid rise in anti-LGBTQ+ information demonising trans people, such as repeated false claims they are grooming children.

It’s reached a point now where Kelley says trans people are having to constantly fight to exist. They are fighting the “giant stressor” of hateful legislation and bigots.

“We had to leave because of all this,” Kelley says. “It was just too much stress added on to trying to pay bills, trying to have a relationship, to have the regular things that we go through as people. 

“I’m just a normal person. We are just normal. We pay rent, we pay off our car, we have cats, we’re just normal people trying to live normal lives.

“We had to leave everything we know just to feel safe.”