Transgender Veteran Finds His Calling—And A Safe Workplace—In Social Work

When Matt Aversa completed his Master of Social Work in 1999, he was elated to land a job at the VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire. From 1979 to 1982 Matt served in United States Air Force, first in the air force reserve and then in the air national guard. He was proud to be serving fellow veterans, once again.

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Soon though, Matt soured on his job at the VA. Not because he didn’t love the work—but because his supervisor at the time became hostile after learning he was transgender.

In 1994, after spending a decade questioning his gender identity, grappling with depression and suicidal thoughts, and living in and out of psychiatric hospitals, Matt made the choice to officially transition. Although he had lived his life up to that point as a woman, Matt finally understood—thanks to his therapist, who was well-versed in issues surrounding gender identity—that he identified as a man.

“I credit her with saving my life. She figured it out. I had seen three or four therapists over the years and not one had addressed that piece of it all,” Matt said.

His therapist had been browsing online, and found an organization in Waltham, Massachusetts that was working to provide resources for transgender people. At the time, many people—including Matt—knew almost nothing about being transgender. But when he visited Waltham, he was encouraged to find a wealth of resources.

“When I got over there it was like ‘wow, this fits.’ And all the depression and suicidality went away.”

As part of his transition he went to the DMV and changed his driver’s license, social security information and official name. Matt was finally living, working and going to school as gender he had always felt himself to be. It was after fully transitioning to living every day as the man he is that Matt was hired at the VA hospital.

But even though Matt had changed much of his official information, some remnants of his female identity lingered in government databases—something he only discovered several years later when his supervisor at the VA hospital confronted him about it one day.

“She went online and looked it up, and of course it being the government they [the VA] have access to more than you or I would. She found out that my name had been something else, and that I had been female.”

And things got worse. Matt’s supervisor had confronted him via email, and cc’d the hospital director, effectively outing him to the entire office. From that day on, he said, he always felt uncomfortable at work.

“She outed me to the whole hospital,” Matt explained. “And it’s not that anyone else had an issue, but it being a military culture, I didn’t know if anyone would be OK with that.” While he was in the military—serving as a woman—Matt had experienced first-hand the military’s lax attitude toward sexual harassment, and didn’t have high hopes that the VA would be any more sympathetic to any harassment he might face as a transgender man.

After the incident, Matt decided to leave the VA and pursue social work in other settings. His experience there was the first time he had experienced such hostility in the field because of his gender identity. His graduate program had been understanding and supportive. When he graduated from Boston College with his MSW, the school even offered to go back and change his undergraduate transcripts to reflect his male gender identity.

“When I went into social work I figured I would have less of a problem being accepted at my job, and that was important to me.”

Luckily, Matt found his niche—treating LGBT patients at the Brattleboro Retreat, a mental health and addiction treatment center in Vermont.

“They were very happy to have me. I was one of the few transgender people they had.” He said the administrators were glad to have someone who could provide more specialized care to their LGBT patients, and the patients were glad to have someone safe to confide in.

That feeling of safety, Matt says, is one that transgender people have a hard time finding, especially when the law does not protect them from discrimination.

Truth is, Matt’s experience of workplace harassment is something most, if not all, transgender people have gone through at least once in their life. And in many cases, workplace mistreatment goes much further. Matt remembers 20 years ago, knowing transgender people who were “unemployable” because no employer would accept their gender identity.

Now, he says, a lot has changed culturally—but the law has some catching up to do.

“I don’t think, had the laws been in place at the time, she would have been so open about cc’ing me and my director. Now that more and more trans people are out and visible, I think it makes a lot of sense to make sure those protections are in place.”

Matt is one of many transgender Granite Staters and their allies who are calling on the state to add “gender identity” to the list of classes protected from discrimination under the statewide non-discrimination law.

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Church Provides A Pillar of Support for Transgender Woman

August 30, 2016 by admin

Linda4Linda Rogers considers herself lucky. She’s a transgender woman—meaning she was assigned a male identity at birth but her gender identity is that of a woman—and has been active in the transgender equality movement for decades. She’s heard plenty of stories about transgender people who have experienced discrimination. But she says she’s been fortunate that in her personal and professional life, people have always seemed to accept who she is.

“I don’t think I’ve been discriminated against—at least, not that I can prove. I’m more of a success story. There are plenty of trans people who I’m sure have been discriminated against. But I’m a success story.”

Still, Linda has had to make some tough choices in her career because of her gender identity. In 2003, Linda to move from Ohio to New Hampshire to advance her career in marketing. But because her new job required her to represent the company to secure government and military facilities that had rigid security clearance requirements, she had to work under the male identity listed on her birth certificate.

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“I was out in the trans community in Ohio for decades before I moved here. But mine was a very high-end job, and I represented the company, so I made a conscious decision to transition everywhere in my life except the office until I retired.”

Linda, who is retired now, says that although this trade-off enabled her to access resources that many transgender people are never able to access because of social, legal and economic restrictions, she would be happier if she knew that no one else would ever have to make such a choice.

“I’m aware that I’m very fortunate. Because of what I did for a living I had access to medical care for the transition. I was prosperous, and employed, which provided me a platform to do a lot of things. Still, I would like for people to not have to go through [the experience of living two separate lives].”

Linda3One very important place that Linda has been able to live openly is in her church. She’s a member at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Concord. When she officially transitioned six years ago, she hid no part of the process from her congregation. All of her fellow church members were incredibly supportive, and even asked her if she would take on leadership positions, including serving on the church’s board and the Greater Concord Interfaith Council.

In all of these roles, she has consciously chosen to represent her community as a transgender person of faith.

“Basically, I was able to educate our whole congregation and by extension many people in that particular forum, just by being who I am. I don’t pretend to be anything other than a trans person, and that’s my way of bringing these two communities—the trans community and my faith community—together.”

As a member of the Interfaith Council, Linda says she does come into contact with other people of faith whose churches are not as accepting of transgender people as her’s has been. But, in the same way that Linda—when she first began transitioning to her true self six years ago—was open to sharing her experience with people to help familiarize them with what it means to be transgender, she treats these interfaith meetings as an educational opportunity.

“It’s really a matter of not preaching to them,” she says, when she meets someone who is not as accepting. Changing hearts and minds is a gradual process, she says, and the best thing she can do is be herself and represent herself as a caring member of the church.

“I show them I’m just somebody else in the faith community, who does the work, who cares. Being out there and involved and being caring member, that’s more effective, especially if they find out later on I’m trans. I just show up and they can learn that I’m a good upstanding citizen whose blood is red just like theirs.”

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Local Auto Racer Is Proud to Showcase the Transgender Community’s Diversity

August 30, 2016 by admin

Cummings Printing Cynthia Tebbetts

Once a year, Cynthia Tebbetts takes time out of her busy schedule to speak with students at Southern New Hampshire University about her experiences as a transgender woman. The first thing she tells them: check everything you think you know about transgender people at the door.

“The first thing I tell students is to take all of your stereotypes and throw them away,” Cynthia explained. “I’m a transgender woman, but transgender people, we’re just as diverse as you are. I’m a punk rocker, I’ve seen the Ramones 21 times, I do auto racing—that’s who I am.”

In her day job, Cynthia is an estimator at Cummings Printing in Hooksett, NH, meaning she spends most of her day—as she has for 29 years—in Microsoft Excel, “staring at spreadsheets.”

But her real passion is definitely auto racing. She started out in auto racing in 1980 as part of the pit crew, and in the mid 1980s became an official with the Lee USA Speedway, the Oswego Speedway and the International Supermodified Association (ISMA). In the early 2000s she starting officiating with NEMA, the NorthEastern Midget Association (midget is a type of race car), and worked in that capacity right up until 2007. At that point she decided to retire, but it was to be a short-lived retirement. One year ago, NEMA’s sanctioning body asked her to come back for a show. Now, she’s the organization’s race director, meaning she has control over everything that happens on the track, officiating races across the New England circuit in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire

Cynthia3

Cynthia was still racing when she started her transition from the man she was born as to live every day as the woman she’s always known herself to be. And by and large, her friends at the track were supportive.

“I lost a few friends.” she said, “There were a few rumors, and a few people got rubbed the wrong way. But I gained more friends than I lost, I think because I had my sense of humor around it all. Now that I’m back, working, it’s not even an issue and has never been brought up. Even in heated moments, it’s never been thrown in my face.”

When she’s not auto racing, Cynthia is actively engaged in local and state politics. As the former chairman of the Merrimack Valley Young Republicans, a position she held during Bill Clinton’s first run for the presidency, Cynthia considers herself a strong fiscal conservative. But she’s been moving away from the Republican party in recent years.

“The Republican Party of today is not the one that it was in the ’80s and ’90s. They’ve gone the wrong way on social issues. But I’m not really cool with the Dems either. I’m more of a libertarian.”

When it comes to transgender issues, Cynthia says the most important thing lawmakers in Concord can do is listen—something she says they didn’t do when the issue of transgender equality came up in the legislature during the 2008-2009 session. Back then she went to the State House with a group of advocates to present a pages-long list of thoughts and concerns. But in the 30 minutes it took her to drive back to Manchester, lawmakers had already declined to pursue the issue further.

“By the time I got home from Concord, they had already decided to scrap the plan,” she said. “I thought, ‘Gee, I’m glad you took it into consideration.’ I think they had a preconceived notion of what they wanted to do.”

Cynthia hopes lawmakers will take the time to educate themselves on who trans people are and the type of discrimination and harassment they face daily across the state. But she also hopes they’re paying attention to the economic repercussions of discrimination. New Hampshire’s economy could hang in the balance if the anti-transgender policies or rhetoric sweeping other parts of the country come to the Granite State.

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“I would hate to see us get in the same situation as North Carolina with House Bill 2, especially with our education funding.”

Ultimately, Cynthia says transgender equality shouldn’t be a heavy lift for the people of New Hampshire, who live every day under the state’s motto Live Free or Die. “We don’t want anything special, just equal is all we’re asking for.”

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For transgender athletes, getting back on the field presents its own set of hurdles

August 25, 2016 by admin

By LEAH WILLINGHAM
Monitor staff

Click here to read the article on the Monitor’s website.

In theory, any transgender New Hampshire high school athlete can play on the team that aligns with his or her gender identity, according to rules set by the state’s high school athletic association.

In practice, those students still face many hurdles before they can ever take the field.

In 2010, athletic rules in the state were modeled after the NCAA’s policy requiring athletes to receive hormone treatment before being eligible to play.

Four years later, a new policy that backed away from those requirements was adopted.

Mandating student athletes to take hormones set “unrealistic” standards for high school students, said Jeff Collins, executive director of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“What it’s all about is: How do we accommodate these kids, and how do we make sure that they have a fulfilling high school experience?” Collins said. “That’s what it really comes down to.”

Critics say allowing transgender athletes to participate – specifically transgender women who were born male – presents an unfair advantage in competition.

But educators see little evidence that any athlete has changed genders to gain a competitive edge.

“No kid is going to say, ‘Wear a skirt this month and go by Mary and we’ll win the championship,’ ” said John Stark Regional High School Principal Chris Corkery. “That’s just not going to happen.”

The number of transgender students in the state is slim, and the number of those students participating in athletics is even slimmer.

Benjamin Boh, an endocrinologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said many transgender children never end up participating in sports at all because of confusion surrounding their bodies.

“Due to early gender segregation, many turn away from organized sports, and that’s something that has always bothered me,” Boh said.

The rules

As of 2014, a transgender student who wishes to participate on a sports team must notify the school in writing at least two months before a season.

The school will then verify the student’s gender identity through written statements and documentation from parents, friends, teachers and a health care professional that confirm the student’s consistent gender identification and expression.

Medical documentation, such as hormonal therapy or sexual reassignment surgery, may also be used to review cases, but going through hormone therapy is no longer a requirement.

The NHIAA’s policy is ranked in the top 15 in the country for inclusiveness by TransAthlete.com, a site created by Chris Mosier, the first openly transgender man to qualify for a United States national team.

The debate over who should be allowed to play made national headlines in June when a high school student in Alaska became the first transgender student in her state to win a state championship in girls’ track and field. The student received backlash from competitors’ parents on Facebook and social media.

The NHIAA has a provision in its transgender policy that allows any one of the 116 member schools to challenge a player’s eligibility and begin a review process if they find that a player is unfit to participate.

Collins said the appeal process is one that has never been utilized.

Correy Parker, athletic director at Oyster River High School in Durham, said his concern is the harm that men’s sports could pose to transgender men.

“When you look at these extremely physical men’s sports, like football, hockey and lacrosse, inequalities are going to reflect in the physicality of the game, rather than on the scoreboard,” Parker said.

Competition vs. participation

In 2014, the Federal Office of Civil Rights clarified that discrimination against transgender students in schools is covered by Title IX, and that educators are accountable for ensuring the safety and inclusion of transgender students in all school-sponsored activities.

“Most students are not interested in being trailblazers, they just want to play a sport, avoid controversy, but could be discouraged if they have to go through too much hassle and public scrutiny,” said LGBT sports advocate Pat Griffin.

“Schools have a responsibility to do the best job they can to make sure all students can participate, and it’s important for us as educators to make sure we’re providing opportunities for students rather than throwing up barriers.”

Boh, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said inequality in competition is not something that should be “a big issue” at the high school level.

“I don’t see the harm as long as individuals are safe,” he said.

At the international level, female athletes who display more masculine characteristics are “always brought under scrutiny with the idea that it’s somehow more unfair,” Boh said.

“We need to take the focus away from that, and on how can we have equity for transgender individuals and allow them to participate,” Boh said.

At Oyster River, Parker said the high school has had transgender students, but none have been athletes. Parker said it’s “only a matter of time” until the school does.

Concord High Athletic Director Steve Mello said the school deals with the needs of each transgender athlete on a case-by-case basis.

“If we had an athlete in this situation, we would meet with the family, figure out their needs and go on from there,” Mello said. “We would take the steps to support the student and the family and figure out what’s going to work.”

Already, younger generations are increasingly more accepting of their transgender peers.

Corkery, principal at John Stark, said students are more likely to come to him in defense of a transgender student than to complain about one.

“This generation doesn’t care,” he said. “They’re more concerned with are you a good person, or are you not? It’s the parents that are wrapped around an axle on this issue.”

And while the state’s rules are in place to set guidelines and protect fairness in competition, the goal is inclusion, educators said.

Limiting transgender children from participating in sports teams eliminates the life lessons athletics offer a young person, like team building and time management, Corkery said.

“There’s a lot more to sports than just winning,” Corkery said.

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Challenges persist for transgender athletes

August 25, 2016 by admin

By LEAH WILLINGHAM
Monitor staff

Click here to read the article on the Monitor’s website.

By the time he was 4 years old, Alex Dannehl knew two things: He was an athlete – he absolutely loved to play soccer, lacrosse, anything physical – and he was not an average girl.

When he was old enough to use a computer, Alex, then Alexandra, began researching the word “transgender.”

“I used to lay awake in bed at night wishing I could find a genie and a lamp that could turn me into a boy and take care of all my problems,” said Dannehl, now 23. “But that’s not how life works.”

Instead, Dannehl kept his feelings to himself and continued to live as a young woman.

He played on his high school girls’ soccer team and became the only openly gay student at his high school in Pennsylvania. When he was accepted to the University of New Hampshire in 2011, he joined the women’s club rugby team and soon elevated to the status of captain.
But the feelings Dannehl had tried to bury for years could no longer be ignored. During the summer after his junior year, he decided to start the transition to live as a man.

“I realized I can’t stop thinking about this forever – the feeling was never going to go away,” he said.

His decision was an affirmation of his identity and who he had always felt he was – Alex.

Dannehl hoped to be recognized as a man in all aspects of his life – sports included. But he soon found out that switching from women’s athletics to men’s teams wasn’t so simple.

Dannehl wanted to take hormones for at least a year before joining the men’s rugby team so he could amass muscle. So he decided to keep playing on the women’s team, after encouragement from his coach and teammates – but doing so proved harder than he had imagined.

“I was struggling with being on a women’s team and definitely not being a woman,” he said. “My conclusion was to not be as ingrained in the team as I was the first few years.”

He felt uncomfortable using the women’s locker room after coming out, and he felt out of place in the men’s locker room.

That winter, Dannehl legally changed his name, started taking hormones and had his breasts removed. By the time he graduated UNH in the spring of 2015, he was “a totally new person.”

But his choice came at a cost – he was forced to sacrifice a part of his identity as an athlete to finally become a man.

Defining policies
Dannehl’s struggle is becoming more common as more athletes identify as transgender.

And gender identity in athletics has risen to the highest level of sports. The International Olympic Committee passed new rules this year that allow transgender athletes to participate in Olympic sports without undergoing reassignment surgery, and transgender men are allowed to participate without any form of hormone therapy.

Transgender women, however, are still required to have estrogen levels below a certain cut-off point for one year before competition.

The use of hormones, which are typically a banned substance for athletes, can be a complex issue for transgender athletes.

In the NCAA, strict rules govern when a student can compete again after transitioning genders, both for safety reasons and to prevent a competitive advantage.

The NCAA requires that athletes transitioning from male to female take estrogen for one year before they are able to play on women’s sports teams. Athletes transitioning from female to male can continue to play on women’s teams unless they start taking testosterone, then they can start playing on the men’s team at any time.

Some club sports have their own governing associations that set up unique rules.

Rory Wilson, a transgender man and a junior at UNH, spent the first two years of his college career competing on the women’s fencing club, until coming out to his coach last year.

Fencing at the collegiate level is typically split into squads of four men and four women.

Last year, Wilson was the co-captain of his squad and the lead female fencer, but Wilson has now been cleared by his coach to compete on the men’s section of the squad starting this fall.

Still, even with his team’s approval, Wilson worries about what might happen when he travels to other schools for matches.

The United States Fencing Association has not put out an official policy for transgender athletes. Instead, the association defaults to the most recent version of the Olympic policy.

Wilson said the policy can be difficult to find – it’s not posted on the association’s website, nor are there clear guidelines.

“It’s not very clear or easy to navigate,” he said. “It can be very hard to always be the ones having to advocate for ourselves.”

In addition to policy barriers, Wilson also has logistical barriers to confront.

Wilson said he doesn’t feel right changing in either the men’s or women’s locker rooms, especially at matches at other colleges, since he has not physically transitioned to male.

Female fencers also typically wear breast plates under their uniform for protection.

“I definitely don’t want to be using that while working with the men’s team,” Wilson said.

Navigating this system is nearly impossible for non-binary athletes, individuals who don’t identify as male or female, Wilson said

“We don’t realize how many spaces are gendered until suddenly you don’t have a place to go,” he said.

Support from within
Groups at UNH have started to create more opportunities for transgender students, including athletes.

Cayden “Casey” O’Dea has worked with Trans UNH since he came out a few years ago.

O’Dea feels supported by his equestrian teammates, but there are times when his athletic career seems to take a backseat to his gender identity.

“The biggest struggle is getting people to see us as athletes with skills and accomplishments first rather than that we’re transgender,” he said.

O’Dea said UNH has a “preferred name policy,” which allows students to change their name on school documents without legally changing it. O’Dea hopes to start using his chosen name, “Cayden,” at equestrian competitions starting next year.

O’Dea said transgender students have seen support and recognition from the university, like the preferred name policy, but more work remains to be done.

“We would like to see more action taking place, rather than just a statement that says, ‘Sure, we accept trans students here,’ ” he said.

Some of this action could involve more gender-inclusive bathrooms in academic buildings and residence halls, or college insurance policies that are more inclusive of the needs of transgender students, O’Dea said.

For many athletes, the road after transition can be unclear.

Dannehl said he is unsure how sports will fit into his future life.

“When I was playing with women, I was pretty good. It was easy to be competitive and be one of the better players,” he said. “But now, as a man, I’m on the smaller size – like 5-7, and I’m not so sure.”

This is a difficult decision for those who have identified as athletes their whole life.

“It’s something I’m still working on,” he said.

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Dr. Jennifer Madden is in a unique position to help transgender patients

August 23, 2016 by admin

By ELLA NILSEN
Monitor staff

Click here to read the full article on the Monitor’s website.

When Dr. Jennifer Madden gets a new transgender patient at her practice, she pays close attention.

“Most patients, whether they are seeing you for a sore throat or they’re uncomfortable with their gender, want a doctor willing to listen to them,” Madden said.

She’s in a unique position to give advice. Madden is transgender, starting her transition from male to female nearly 12 years ago when she was 48, after decades of struggling with her gender identity.

Dressed in strappy sandals and a flowery blue dress as she took a lunch break in her Amherst office, Madden said she finally feels free.

“I feel like I don’t have to carry this lie inside of me,” Madden said. “I can do a lot of the things I felt uncomfortable doing before.”

Now she goes to ballet and tap classes. She can buy shapely pink ballet pointe shoes and ask the shopkeepers how to sew the laces correctly.

“I don’t think I would have been comfortable doing that as a man,” she said.

More than a decade after she became Jennifer, Madden is content with her identity. She hopes she can bring that same peace of mind to the couple of hundred transgender patients she’s seen at her family practice over the years.

She doesn’t exclusively see transgender individuals, but many who are starting their transition seek her out.

“I’m clued into what they’re thinking,” she said. “I know where you’re at, I’ve experienced that.”

Barriers to medical care

Transgender individuals face unique challenges trying to navigate a medical world that is still in the early stages of understanding them.

Often, they have to advocate for themselves to get hormone treatment and gender reassignment surgery, and they can face barriers with insurance (or lack thereof), as well as doctors who aren’t well-versed in transgender issues.

Changing genders is a new world for patients, and it’s often a whole new world for their doctors. Transgender medicine is an emerging field, one in which few medical school students receive training.

National statistics show that getting medical care can be very difficult for transgender individuals. A 2011 survey of 6,000 transgender Americans showed 19 percent were refused health care and many more didn’t seek medical care for fear of being discriminated against.

In 2010, 70 percent of transgender individuals nationwide reported their doctors denied them health care by refusing to touch them, using harsh or abusive language, using the wrong name, or prohibiting them from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Madden said barriers to health care stem more from a lack of understanding than doctors being outright opposed to transgender people.

“I think a lot of physicians feel uncomfortable prescribing hormone therapy to transgendered patients,” Madden said. “It’s not necessarily because they’re against it; it’s just that they’re unsure of how to do it.”

Some of Madden’s patients come in knowing they want to start taking hormones and pursue gender reassignment surgery. Others aren’t as focused on taking action; they just want a welcoming place where they can come in and talk about the feelings they’re experiencing.

“I try to get them to understand that being male or female is more than the pill that you take,” Madden said. “Gender’s a cultural term . . . whereas sex is your plumbing, what you were given when you were born.”

Figuring it out

Before Caitlyn Jenner and the internet, many transgender people felt confused and isolated, living in an era where they weren’t accepted.

The first recorded instance of a transgender patient was in the 1930s, although doctors and experts believe there were many more before then.

Jack Turco, an endocrinologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon who started the state’s first transgender clinic, said it took many of his early patients 10 or more years to figure out what they were feeling.

“They knew something was different,” Turco said.

Some of those patients first expressed themselves as gay men because they were fearful they could not live openly as transgender women.

“They acquired a lot of baggage,” Turco said. A common theme he heard from patients was, “I know I’m not (male), but culture won’t accept me, so I’ll force myself to live as male.”

Turco started seeing transgender patients as a young resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock back in the 1970s. He remembers the hospital getting a call from a man named Tricia who said he wanted to live as female. No one knew where to send Tricia, until someone looked at Turco and said, “(He’s) a pretty open-minded person.”

“That’s when my education started,” Turco recalled.

More than 30 years later, “it’s clearly the most satisfying part of my practice,” he said. “I’ve done some good for some people.”

There are a handful of practices in the state that cater to the medical needs of transgender people, including Madden’s, Turco’s and the Equality Health Center in Concord. The number of doctors interested in providing hormone therapy and surgical options for transgender patients at Turco’s clinic is growing, he said.

“The medical community has an onus on them. We’ve got to make medical care trans-friendly, not be an obstacle,” Turco said.

A personal process

Jennifer Madden was born with her father’s name, Henry Joseph Madden Jr. When she started transitioning at 48, she was married with two children.

Madden had felt like a female since an early age but continued to live as a male for decades.

“You can’t see it with your eyes,” she said. “You struggle with what’s going on in your head for many years trying to understand it. I used to tell my therapist that there were two people inside of me, one male and one female. I still feel that way.”

Her biggest fear was how coming out was going to affect her relationships with her family and friends.

“That was definitely a struggle for me, I always kept my focus on being positive and trying to show people I was happy,” she said.

Madden has two grown sons; her transition came as a surprise and was tough for one son to process, but she said she still has a good relationship with both.

“I think it’s made him a stronger person,” she said. “They are fine young men now, and I am very proud of them.”

Still, her journey had its twists and turns.

Madden describes the process right after transitioning as going through a “second puberty.”

Picture your middle school years, a time of experimentation with clothes and styles, Madden said. “You probably wore some pretty outlandish outfits and (your) makeup was a mess.”

That’s a little bit like what rediscovering the world as a different gender is like in the early stages.

“When you’re first coming out, you want everyone in the world to know, you want to tell everyone,” Madden said. “You want to be up-front about everything.”

It took some time for her to realize that not everyone wanted to hear the story of her transition, blow-by-blow.

“Sometimes you want to talk about your transition a lot,” she said. “You’re so focused on yourself, this is such a big deal, that you forget you need to focus on other people.”

Madden used to be much more of an activist a few years ago, even publishing a book about her life experiences. But being so visible caused her to struggle with depression and fears she was being too narcissistic.

“People either admired me for my courage or hated what I stood for,” she said. “It didn’t often seem that there was a middle ground.”

These days, Madden lives a quiet life. On top of her busy schedule at her family practice, she loves doing all the girly things she could not do openly for the first 48 years of her life.

“I like that I can be myself, wear a funny hat, listen to Abba or take a ballet class,” she said. “No one looks at me twice about that anymore.”

Coming out was at times a painful, but Madden said it has made her a better person and strengthened her relationships.

“My parents and I have found new ways to love each other, and I like to think that I’ve taught my children some important lessons about how best to live one’s life,” she said.

Madden’s work as a doctor has been one of the ways she’s tried to help other transgender individuals in New Hampshire.

“Over the years, I have found that focusing on other people’s lives, rather than my own, is most important,” she said. “The best way to influence other people is to let them see that you care about them, that you’re fair-minded, and that you believe in their inherent goodness.”

The philosophy she tries to apply in her personal and professional life is one of positivity.

“Next year I’ll be 60, and so I figure I only have 20 years plus or minus before I die,” she said. “That’s not a long time. I’d like to use that time to accomplish some good.”

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Rochester school district to consider transgender policy

August 22, 2016 by admin
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Putting truth out there: A Bow family’s transgender journey

August 22, 2016 by admin

By ELODIE REED
Monitor staff

Click here to read the full article on the Monitor’s website.

Carefully applying eyeliner in the mirror, Kae Mason said her makeup isn’t about covering her face.

“Want to know a little secret?” she said. “I like it.”

Mason, 49, says she’s an open book. She readily explains that until a year and a half ago she went by Keith. She shares details about her male-to-female gender reassignment surgery in Thailand less than a year ago. She talks openly about her home life with her wife, Monica, and three of their five children in Bow.

Sitting at home beneath a photo of her family and of herself before she transitioned, Mason said, “I’m very comfortable.”

She feels no inner turmoil about her identity – as far as she is concerned, she is not transgender. She’s a woman.

“I’m not transitioning,” she said. “For me that’s over. . . . I live my life as a girl now.”

In that life, Mason is still a parent and still sees herself mainly as a family person.

“We’re as close as we’ve ever been,” she said. “That was my biggest focus.”

Mason quickly acknowledges that she has been “blessed” to have had such a good experience. She knows not everyone is as fortunate.

“I just see a lot of suffering, a lot of instability,” she said. “It’s sad.”

Given her own, stable situation, Mason has become an activist in the community. She mostly sees the struggles of other transgender people at her Concord business, Salon K, where she does trendy styling and advertises transgender-friendly services. When people sit down in her chair, Mason listens to them, points them toward resources and gives them support – and a good haircut.

Just the other week, she said a mother told Mason about her 4-year-old son who was showing outside signs of identifying as female, such as wearing tutus.

“It reminds me of me,” said Mason, her eyes tearing. She talked to the mother about her son possibly being transgender, and explained how the mother could support her child.

The mother later texted, “You made me feel lighter as I walked out of your salon.”

In addition to creating a safe space in her salon, Mason has been sharing her story with news outlets, posting her transition journey on social media, and she recently organized a vigil for the victims of the Orlando Pulse LGBT night club shooting.

Mason does all this, she said, because she feels there’s a need for resources in the transgender community, and she’s in a position to help.

“Most people start, where do I even get hormones?” she said. “They don’t even know.”

Navigating a transition

Mason said her transition was fairly straightforward. She always had feminine preferences, and once she fully understood she was transgender in her late 40s, she had the ability to pay for the gender reassignment surgery, at a pricey $17,000 several continents away. The closest clinic in the U.S. is in Boston as of May, and before that, in Pennsylvania. There, Mason said, it would have cost her $45,000.

She’s also had moral support from her family, her neighbors and her salon clients. Mason said she hasn’t experienced any harassment around Concord, just curious stares.

“There was no confusion for me, there was no rockiness,” Mason said.

The woman whom Mason married 16 years ago, however, had more trouble navigating the process. Monica Mason said she wasn’t prepared when, one night, her husband walked through the door and into their dining room, with a wig on.

“She was like, ‘Do you like my hair?’ ” said Monica. “None of us knew anything.”

Mason eventually sent her wife an email, with a link to a gender reassignment surgery website complete with photos of pre- and post-surgery. That, Monica said, was the first time she realized, after perhaps some denial, that something bigger was happening.

“That was hard,” said Monica. “You think your life is going to go one way . . . (then) you do a 180.”

At first, Monica said she felt left out of Kae’s transition, like when Keith changed her name to Kae without any warning, or when Kae told their 14-year-old son at the time, Kyle, that she was transitioning without letting Monica know first.

“I was very upset,” Monica said. But when Kae wanted to tell their twin daughters, 9 years old at the time, the couple did it together, in their kids’ bedroom, sitting on the carpeted floor.

“Kae was so beautiful the way she said it,” Monica said. “I just teared up.”

In the meantime, Kae began wearing women’s clothing and makeup as she took hormones and scheduled her surgery. There was one time when, walking in the mall, Monica said her spouse was heckled by a man, in front of their children. And that was difficult, too.

“It makes me so angry,” Monica said.

These days, Monica said that doesn’t happen anymore, and their children “are fine.” Their friends readily accept Kae, and they haven’t experienced any bullying due to the change, much to the relief of both parents.

For herself, Monica didn’t know of any resources for the spouses of transgender people, and she’s connected with just one other through Kae’s salon. Monica said she relied heavily on the other families in the neighborhood to get through the process, and continues to do so now.

“Everyone watched the transition,” Monica said. “I don’t have to explain anything to anyone here.”

Monica decided to stay with Kae, she said, because she felt her spouse had been unselfish for many years taking care of the family, and not living 100 percent as herself, as Kae.

“It’s really hard to not get caught up in yourself – how is this affecting me?” Monica said. “Now I think it’s my turn to, not live unhappily, but to think about everything else.”

Monica and Kae’s relationship has changed due to the transition. They are no longer romantically involved, though they live in the same home and work together to raise the three children they still have living there.

Kae said, “It changes the dynamic a little bit. But we’re still soulmates and we still love each other.”

The teamwork they have in parenting, their friendship, and trust and respect for each other, Monica said, is unaltered. She said that she’s not exactly sure what the future holds, though for now, has no plans of leaving or moving on.

“That’s not where I’m at,” Monica said.

Out in the open

Whatever ends up happening, Monica knows the conversation with her spouse will be an honest one. Like Kae, Monica is up front about what she thinks.

So when Kae put on a small crop top for work one recent morning, Monica, who describes her style as more “conservative,” raised her eyebrows.

“You think I crossed the line?” Kae asked, standing in their joint bathroom.

Monica said she thought it was revealing, but didn’t impose. “Don’t change because of me,” she said.

Kae didn’t – she put on a necklace to complete the ensemble – and then finished her makeup and hair. She poked her head in the doorway of Kyle’s bedroom – he’s now 16 – before leaving the house. Monica stood in the doorway, waving to her spouse as Kae backed out of the garage in a sporty blue car.

Monica said her family isn’t perfect, just like any other. The difference is, everything is now out in the open for all to see.

“I don’t think people put truth out there,” Monica said. But for the Mason family, she added, “Kae’s walking out in a dress, there’s no way to hide it.”

Monica said Kae’s entire transition process forced her own “coming out” process, where she had to get up the courage to tell other people what was happening.

“The first few times, it takes your breath away,” Monica said. The more she talks about it with others though, the easier it is and happier she said she is.

“Now it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, my husband is a woman,’ ” Monica said. “All of a sudden it’s not a thing anymore.”

Knowing herself

For a long time, the true Kae Mason was hidden from all of her family – and maybe herself, too.

Mason was around 7 or 8 when she said she first recognized she liked feminine things. “I would sneak into the bedroom when nobody was looking and try my sister’s clothing on,” she said. “I felt really great with them on.”

She had those small, stolen moments, but for much of her childhood, Mason said she was sexually abused. In young adulthood, she also experienced homelessness for a time, and she had two children in her late teens and early 20s.

She was living in Washington state and managing a car dealership in 1996 when she met Monica, one of Mason’s employees at the time. The pair would marry four years later. They had three children together, moving to Wyoming and then to New Hampshire six years ago.

From childhood to the middle of her life, Mason said, “I was foggy. Living as someone I wasn’t, but wanting to take care of my family, loving my family.”

She didn’t have the chance to figure out who she really was, or even to identify as transgender, until a few years ago. She thought she might be gay for a long time, but didn’t feel attracted to the same gender.

She finally went to her doctor and explained what she was feeling. Mason said the doctor told her, “I don’t think you’re gay. You don’t present gay, you present trans.”

She went home and did some research on transgender identity, and then she saw herself clearly for maybe the first time.

“I said, ‘Oh my God,’ ’’ Mason said. “Nailed it.”

She began visiting the transgender clinic at Dartmouth and started on hormone therapy soon after her “big ah” moment. She changed her name from Keith to Kae in January 2015, began dressing more consistently as woman, used laser surgery to take away facial hair, and then nine months ago, took the final step.

“I had my sex change surgery in Thailand,” she said. Alone, in a sterile white room on an operating table, Mason said she felt no fear about surgery to her chest, face and genitals.

“I was just so excited to wake up,” she said. She added of the lower body surgery, “Good riddance.”

Mason said that prior to her transition, she was depressed for many years. Once she realized she was transgender, it was “demoralizing” to shave her face, or to look down at her “bump” in shorts or a bathing suit while on family vacation.

Now, she said, “it’s an absolute joy to have clarity. It’s a beautiful thing if you know who you are.”

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Becoming visible: Where to find transgender resources in New Hampshire

August 22, 2016 by admin

By ELODIE REED
Monitor staff

Read the full article on the Monitor’s website.

When people in New Hampshire realize they may be transgender, it’s not immediately clear where they should turn first.

There’s a smattering of organizations, coalitions, and medical clinics here and there. Social media groups create gathering spaces for the internet savvy, and once a month, PFLAG-NH holds three support groups in Concord, Rochester and Keene for the LGBT community.

Christen Bustani, a PFLAG-NH co-chair and Transgender New Hampshire (TG-NH) steering committee member, admitted, “It’s not as active as I’d like it to be.”

Bustani said that while there’s been a dramatic change in the visibility and acceptance of transgender people over the past four or five years, (and consequently, a decline in secretive support groups meeting in hidden locations), resources are still hard to find in a place like New Hampshire. Fewer than 5,000 people, about one-third of 1 percent, identify as transgender according to a Williams Institute report.

“The things that makes it difficult in the state of New Hampshire for coordinating is distance,” Bustani said. Without a major city or metropolitan area to draw people, PFLAG-NH, for example, tries to reach out by holding its regional meetings.

No organized meetings are regularly scheduled in the Lakes Region or northern parts of the state, though PFLAG-NH representatives are available there.

And even if people were willing to travel, Bustani said they don’t always have the money to do so.

“People don’t have the ability to jump in a car,” she said. “We suffer from that.”

To try to reach as many people as possible, TG-NH has an online resource page with doctors and clinics, organizations, support groups, therapists, churches and other resources listed in most parts of the state.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s transgender clinic, for example, has become a center for individuals to consult about hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery, and general physical and mental health challenges related to gender identity.

TG-NH’s website also has a dedicated page to SOFFAs (Significant Other, Friend, Family Member or Ally of a transgender person) with explanations and advice on how to handle the transition of a loved one.

When it comes to legal questions for the transgender community, GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Defenders and Advocates) provides a hotline called “GLAD Answers.” The group advocates for anti-discrimination and equal rights legislation, and it assists people working through gender identity-related challenges posed in the workplace, school or in public.

GLAD spokeswoman Carisa Cunningham said at the moment, GLAD has arranged for advocates to help a Lakes Region transgender teenager who wants to run on her high school’s cross-country team as well as another transgender woman who was fired from her job based on her gender identity.

Cunningham said the organization is also trying to educate more attorneys in transgender family law.

“We definitely are aware of the lack of lawyers we can refer people to,” she said.

GLAD, PFLAG-NH, and transgender leaders like Dr. Jennifer Madden in Amherst have joined to create the New Hampshire Coalition for Transgender Equality, an education campaign stretching into all sectors of the state. The coalition is intended to be a source of public support for the transgender community, though its Facebook page, for instance, hasn’t been active in over a year.

More Granite Staters are making individual efforts to provide support to the transgender community. Concord salon owner Kae Mason, for instance, offers transgender-friendly services at her business, and she also shares her own male-to-female transition experience with clients who are questioning their own or a family member’s gender identity.

Linda Rodgers, a 65-year-old Epsom resident, also has transitioned and now is looking for ways to be an activist for the transgender community.

“Because it is so marginalized it is not particularly strong,” she said. “I think the actual resources in the community are actually sort of weak.”

During her transition journey, Rodgers said she gained support from the medical community, people close to her, and from her membership at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Concord.

Now, she’s returning the favor by joining the Greater Concord Interfaith Council, and she’s looking for more organizations to join and champion equality for all people.

“These are people taking up the transgender cause,” she said.

As the transgender community becomes more visible in New Hampshire and elsewhere, TG-NH’s Bustani said it’s something to celebrate, but total acceptance and equality is the goal.

“People feel like they can go out and simply be themselves, which is huge,” Bustani said. “I think there are more resources more available than there were, and I think people are finding they don’t need them so much.”

Instead of banding together as the so-called “transgender community,” Bustani – who made her own transition and now blogs about it – said people are more interested in having equal rights, feeling safe in embracing their true identity, and just living life.

“There’s a need to just want to connect with people based on who you are as a whole,” she said. “You just want to live your life.”

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Adjusting to life as a transgender woman, Mikayla Bourque still fears ridicule

August 20, 2016 by admin

By ALLIE MORRIS
Monitor staff

Click here to read the full article on the Monitor’s website.

Mikayla Bourque guarded military outposts in Germany while serving in the U.S. Army. She rushed into burning buildings as an Allenstown firefighter and EMT. But these days, what makes Bourque most uncomfortable is walking into a public bathroom.

Bourque transitioned from Mike to Mikayla eight years ago, becoming a transgender woman at the age of 46. The process helped Bourque shed the depression she battled for years.

“Talk about night and day,” said Bourque, whose cherry-red dyed hair hangs in loose waves down her back. “Imagine for the first time actually being who you are to other people, and people actually see you.”

But over the last few months, Bourque has been fearful that someone emboldened by the current political climate may lash out verbally or even physically.

A nationwide battle over transgender rights erupted after North Carolina passed a law this year mandating people use public bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate.

While awareness is increasing as high-profile figures like Caitlyn Jenner transition before the public’s eye, New Hampshire’s transgender residents say they still face hostile and insensitive comments in person and on social media.

“I feel more unsafe than I have in years,” said Bourque, of Laconia. She plans her visits to the movie theater based on a film’s length and whether she can avoid using the women’s restroom.

“The amount of people that say they hate transgenders, or they make the assumption that I am a pedophile, without even knowing who I am, it’s very hard for me to laugh that off,” said Bourque.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England, and one of more than 30 nationwide, without a law protecting transgender people from discrimination.

A legislative proposal to create one was defeated unanimously by the state Senate in 2009.

But such discrimination was banned recently within state government, when Gov. Maggie Hassan signed an executive order in June.

The policy won’t be fully implemented until next month, but it’s already having an effect.

Bourque has worked for New Hampshire Employment Security for more than 20 years, and was among the first openly transgender state employees.

Bourque is hoping to become the first state worker to get gender reassignment surgery covered by the state’s insurance plan.

The procedure has always been out of her reach. The $35,000 price tag, too high. The closest qualified doctor in Pennsylvania, too far. And the most affordable option, an $8,000 operation in Thailand, too risky.

The state’s health insurer doesn’t have to cover the surgery until January under the Affordable Care Act, but Anthem is offering the benefit to state workers early, in line with the executive order.

Bourque is meeting with her councilor next month to get a signed letter saying the surgery is medically necessary. She plans to put herself on the 100-person waitlist at Boston Medical Center, which in May announced it will begin performing male-to-female genital surgery.

When Bourque says the word, “surgery,” a smile spreads across her round face.

Once it’s complete, Bourque will be able to go to Maine, where she was born, and scrub away the last legal remnant of Mike: the male gender mark written on her birth certificate.

“It doesn’t change who I am, but to me it’s like the last step,” she said. “Then I’ve done everything I wanted to do with my life.”

Screaming for help

Growing up in Concord, Bourque knew the boys in her family played in the blue room with trucks. Her sisters stayed in the pink room with dolls.

Bourque always felt a longing to join the girls; she loved needle-point and baking. But her mother said no when Bourque repeatedly asked to wear a princess costume for Halloween.

By age nine Bourque knew that something was different, that her body wasn’t proper, the lump between her legs wasn’t right.

The feeling intensified during high school in the 1970s, when Bourque, a track athlete at 5 feet 10 inches, felt weak standing in the locker room’s open showers at Concord High School.

“I knew something was wrong, I shouldn’t be in front of the other guys,” she said. “I didn’t express it to anyone.”

Bourque couldn’t put a name to the feeling, but eventually she came to understand herself as a cross-dresser. She started slipping on women’s bras, and skirts in secret. Her strong male-oriented upbringing helped her hide the tendencies, in the military, as a firefighter.

Bourque told her first wife; their relationship disintegrated into divorce four years later.

“I was just screaming out for help . . . this is what I want to be,” Bourque said. “Here I am trying to appear as a male, when I have always had this feeling I was in the wrong body.”

Bourque’s brother committed suicide in 2005, she said, after telling his wife he was transgender. Before his death, the siblings had never discussed it.

After three sessions with a grief councilor, Bourque began to wonder, then accept what she had felt all her life: she was transgender, too.

“I was depressed because I couldn’t express who I am,” she said.

The transition

It was two years before Bourque showed up to work at the Laconia employment security office as Mikayla, dressed in the brown peasant blouse and skirt she had picked out the night before.

In the lead up, Bourque prepared. She told her second wife, Lisa, and their three daughters. While the oldest and youngest accepted Mikayla, the middle child couldn’t part with Mike. When she put on a graduation gown and walked across the stage to accept a diploma from Hopkinton High School, Bourque sat at their Contoocook home, unwelcome at the ceremony.

Bourque spent $5,000 on a new wardrobe, trading slacks and button-ups for flowing skirts and pink blouses. She learned to sit like a woman, with her ankles crossed, and she tested out different colored hair dyes and blue eyeshadow.

Pushing her voice to a higher, more feminine pitch was exhausting and sounded phoney, like a call center operator, so she accepted her masculine tone.

She legally changed her name, from Michael Marcel, to Mikayla Jennifer.

And she began taking hormones to get breasts and soften her skin. The treatment was covered by insurance, but the hours of counseling were not.

For the first year, Bourque couldn’t look at herself in the mirror, seeing her old body, paired with her new self.

Outwardly, Bourque shined.

Her family started to embrace Mikayla.

“A lot of people talk about losing my father, but for me, it honestly was like gaining a so much better connection with her,” said Ashley Janvrin, Bourque’s oldest daughter. “When she was Mike she wasn’t a happy person.”

Facing work

Before Bourque showed up to work as Mikayla, the head of Employment Security sent an email to workers telling them they should call Bourque by her new name and use feminine pronouns. Bourque was to use the single-stall bathroom.

The July morning in 2008 when Bourque reintroduced herself to coworkers as Mikayla, she lingered outside the office door for several minutes. She adjusted the red wig that covered her still-short hair and made sure she hadn’t left her purse – an unfamiliar accessory – in the car. She wondered whether her colleagues would laugh at her, or stop taking her seriously.

“It was fear of the unknown,” Bourque said. “It’s like the first day of school . . . I felt like I was a brand new employee.”

The day was uneventful, Bourque recalled, and later her colleagues told her they didn’t want to offer congratulations or make a big deal at risk of making her uncomfortable.

Bourque did face growing pains when she transferred to the Manchester office about a year later. In Laconia, Bourque had quickly begun using the women’s room, which had multiple stalls and sinks.

In Manchester, Bourque’s new boss requested she use the single-stall restroom near the office kitchen. She refused.

At an office training in Conway the same year, a supervisor put up a sign on the bathroom door for Bourque to flip when she was inside. Some coworkers were uncomfortable, he explained.

“Well, they are going to have to get used to it,” Bourque said she fired back, settling the debate.

She has continued to push for transgender rights.

With a doctor’s note, Bourque changed the “M” to an “F” on her federal passport. Then using that document, she got the DMV to switch the gender mark on her state driver’s license, during a time when the division required proof of gender reassignment surgery to make the change. (Since 2014, they no longer do).

Bourque used the government issued ID cards to convince her local gym to continue to let her use the women’s locker room after a few complaints arose.

“I have sat and watched this,” she said. “It’s been exciting.”

It hasn’t all been rosy. Bourque left her part-time job at a coffee shop six months after she publicly transitioned because her manager said the customers didn’t like “dealing with a transgender.”

Bourque testified in favor of the failed 2009 bill to bar discrimination based on gender identity or expression. The measure passed the House by a single vote, then met a crushing 24-0 defeat in the Senate.

Much of the debate then centered around bathrooms. Then-Rep. Nancy Elliott, a Republican, called the proposal a “complete violation of our citizens’ rights.” Writing an opinion published in the House calendar, she said: “To make the entire 1.3 million residents of our state uncomfortable and afraid in the restroom is unconscionable and an example of the tyrannical minority pushing around the majority.”

The current debate around bathroom-use has frightened Bourque. The last two times she saw a movie in Gilford, patrons told her she was in the wrong bathroom. At Wal-Mart, a pack of teens followed her through the aisles while she shopped, calling her a “man in a dress.”

Bourque relies on her roommate, Sandy, and her wife, from whom she is now separated, for support. She is hopeful a law will pass, to ensure rights for all.

“It all boils down to the restroom,” she said. “That’s the final frontier.”

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N.H. transgender community ‘in the shadows’

August 20, 2016 by admin

By ALLIE MORRIS
Monitor staff

Read the full article on the Monitor’s website.

Police don’t track crimes against transgender people.

The national census doesn’t collect data on gender identity.

Businesses continue to grapple with bathroom rules.

Schools with policies specific to transgender students can be counted on two hands.

Transgender people in New Hampshire say they face discrimination in employment, housing and public settings. But there’s little data to shed light on the scope and nature of the problem, or even how many transgender people are living in the Granite State.

Besides anecdotes, it’s tough to get a clear picture on the bias or acceptance they face.

A transgender man from Concord said the school district was welcoming and encouraging when he transitioned to male as a teen.

A Concord business owner says she gets some strange looks, but she feels safe here.

A woman from Laconia says she’s wary of using public restrooms because of the threat of harassment.

An Amherst doctor says most physicians are at a loss when faced with a transgender patient.

Transgender people are those whose gender identity differs from that assigned at birth.

Estimates show roughly 1.4 million adults identify as transgender in the U.S., or about 0.6 percent of the population, according to the most recent figures from the Williams Institute, a think tank that focuses research on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Between 2,700 and 7,362 transgender adults live in New Hampshire, less than 1 percent of the population, estimates show. The bulk of them are between ages 25 to 64.

Most often data isn’t collected. Even when it is, transgender people fear coming forward and being counted over concern they will open themselves to scrutiny, advocates say.

Seventy-one percent of transgender people reported hiding their gender or gender transition in an attempt to avoid discrimination, according to a 2011 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“They are in the shadows,” said Christen Bustani, of Transgender New Hampshire. “There’s just so many things I could have lost, I was afraid of losing, because of coming forward. . . . It’s easier to try to play a theater acting role.”

While at least 19 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, New Hampshire does not.

A legislative effort to change that in 2009 fell flat, and no further attempts have been made.

Democratic state Rep. Ed Butler, of Hart’s Location, is considering filing a bill this session to prohibit discrimination against transgender people, but he said he won’t make up his mind until after the November election.

The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights investigates complaints of discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing, but has received few cases related to gender identity in recent years.

Commission statistics show that during the 2015 fiscal year, one transgender discrimination allegation was filed at the federal level and none were submitted at the state level. The most recent state complaint was filed in 2012, according to executive director Joni Esperian.

Most of the commission’s calls on transgender issues come from employers, Esperian said, who ask questions about accommodations, such as which locker room transgender people should use.

“If someone is fully transgender then they should be using the restroom that they feel most comfortable with and if it’s with their gender they associate with, that’s appropriate,” Esperian said. “That’s what all of the medical literature is telling us.”

Bustani said the commission’s complaints, or lack thereof, aren’t representative because transgender people may be reluctant to file.

“I don’t think it’s an accurate picture,” she said. “But we can’t say otherwise.”

The 2011 national survey of 7,500 transgender people across the country found respondents faced double the rate of unemployment than the general population. One quarter reported losing their job over being transgender. The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force report also found:

Almost 20 percent of those surveyed reported they were refused a home or an apartment because of their gender identity.

More than half of those surveyed said they were verbally harassed or disrespected in public places of accommodation, including restaurants and hotels.

Ninety percent of respondents said they experienced mistreatment, discrimination or harassment at work.

New Hampshire is wading into the debate over the national transgender rights. Gov. Maggie Hassan signed an executive order in June that prohibits discrimination against transgender people within state government. The policy will take effect in mid-September, and hasn’t yet been released.

It will “include guidance for agency supervisors and human resource administrators in assisting transgender employees with transition, as needed, as well as providing basic education for coworkers and resources for all state employees,” said Hassan’s spokeswoman, Erica Eshman.

New Hampshire’s attorney general also signed onto a brief supporting the Obama administration’s guidelines on transgender bathroom use. The guidance, released in May, requires public schools let transgender students use bathrooms that match their chosen gender identity. The rules faced backlash and now are being challenged in court by several states that labeled the policy an overreach and a misinterpretation of anti-discrimination laws.

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Transgender policy advances to school board

August 19, 2016 by admin
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