Students Take the Lead In Crafting New Transgender-Inclusive Policy for Dresden Schools

The Valley News Editorial Board has endorsed the Dresden School District’s decision to adopt transgender-inclusive non-discrimination policies, as developed by a group of local students.

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The board goes on to write that the Dresden School District’s commitment to inclusion can serve as a model for the rest of our society: “The Dresden district…has reached a good end that will afford transgender students dignity, respect and an acknowledgement of their right to be included fully in school life. We look forward to the day when our entire society matches these ideals.”

The new policy requires that participation practices relating to extracurricular activities, including sports, “be free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” It was crafted to meet non-discrimination guidelines set by the New Hampshire School Boards Association, which are themselves based on U.S. Department of Education guidelines for how schools must treat transgender students.

In 2014 the Department of Education announced that Title IX’s protections against gender-based discrimination applied to transgender students. That means schools that receive any federal funding can’t single students out for disparate treatment—such as what sports they can play or facilities they can use—because of their gender identity. Schools that don’t adhere to the DOE’s guidelines risk having their federal funding pulled.

This new policy will have an immediate positive impact on the day-to-day lives of the Dresden School District’s transgender students. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 78 percent of transgender students report being harassed at school—a situation that can damage a student’s self-esteem and hurt their GPA. It can also have severe physical consequences: Transgender students are between 2 and 3 times more likely than their peers to be depressed, anxious and contemplate suicide, largely because of the treatment they face in school.

With this proactive policy update, the Dresden School District joins nearly two dozen K-12 school districts and four universities—which collectively serve 1.5 million students—that have implemented explicit nondiscrimination policies modeled on the DOE’s guidance.

And in this case, it was students who led the charge to update the school district’s policy. Talk of enacting district-wide protections for transgender students started when a Hanover High School sophomore raised the concern. The student-controlled school council took up the issue, and the policy changes were passed largely with no objections from the school board.

The incredible student and district support for transgender-inclusive policies to ensure ALL students can participate fairly and equally at school is just one example in a trend of mounting support for the fair and equal treatment of transgender people across New Hampshire.

If you stand with the Valley News editorial board, Dresden School District, and Hanover students in support of transgender equality, add your name to our pledge today.

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Editorial: A Wise Policy in Dresden School District

September 22, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the original article on Valley News.

With the body politic in a constant state of agitation, so much so that we’re not sure how its members will hold themselves together until November, it is with a sense of appreciation that we comment on a controversy that wasn’t: the Dresden School Board’s adoption of a policy regarding transgender students’ access to bathrooms and sports teams — and their right to be treated respectfully.

That this came to be without rancor gives a glimmer of hope about progress on this issue, which is lagging in certain hot spots of resistance, such as North Carolina. Last spring it banned students from using bathrooms that don’t match the gender assigned to them at birth. There is a history of conservative legislatures embracing “culture war” issues in election years, even though they are losing the battles and the war as well.

Students at Hanover High School have been discussing this matter for several years in a relatively low-key fashion. Staff writer Rob Wolfe recounted how Hanover grad Lilly Cadow, now a college student, initiated the talk when she felt her sophomore year health class didn’t provide enough information about non-heterosexual sexuality. That inspired her to enlist others to seek change.

The new policy, developed by high school students, “requires that all programs, activities and employment practices be free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” It meets guidelines set by the New Hampshire School Boards Association, the U.S. Department of Education and the Obama administration. When the School Board adopted the policy earlier this month, it drew only one question from a board member: whether it would create any conflicts regarding school athletics. The answer was in the negative — it is in line with the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s policies.

The new policy requires that students respect their classmates’ identities, including using the pronoun they desire. While policies cannot control what people believe in their hearts, young people seem to be ahead of society in general in embracing differences, something that cheers us about the future.

Henry Lang, a Hanover senior and moderator of the school council, which is mostly comprised of students, said there was lots of student engagement on the issue. “I think our whole school learned a lot about acceptance and understanding,” he said.

At least a couple lessons stand out from this successful policy shift. First, since it originated with students, they had an opportunity to discuss the issue from the earliest stages. That’s an ideal way to initiate change — something applicable to people of all ages.

Second, change often takes time and commitment. In this age of social media, many expect to settle matters with a thousand likes on Facebook. But lasting change is still a grinding process that can test the patience of advocates.

In the Dresden district, that process has reached a good end that will afford transgender students dignity, respect and an acknowledgement of their right to be included fully in school life. We look forward to the day when our entire society matches these ideals.

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Dresden OKs Transgender School Policy

September 16, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the original article on Valley News.

By Rob Wolfe

Hanover — The Dresden School Board this month adopted a policy that gives transgender students access to bathrooms, sports teams and athletic facilities corresponding to their gender identities, and requires other students and staff to respect their wishes.

Students at Hanover High School developed the measure, which “requires that all programs, activities, and employment practices be free from discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

“The goal is to ensure the safety, comfort, and healthy development of the transgender or gender nonconforming student while maximizing the student’s social integration and minimizing stigmatization of the student,” the policy states.

(Gender nonconforming, as defined in the newly adopted measure, refers to people “whose gender expression differs from stereotypical expectations, such as ‘feminine’ boys, ‘masculine’ girls, and those who are perceived as androgynous.”)

The transgender policy follows guidelines set recently by the New Hampshire School Boards Association, the U.S. Department of Education, and by extension the Obama administration, according to SAU 70 Superintendent Frank Bass.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Bass said the Hanover High Council, a governing body mostly comprised of students, drafted the measure and shepherded it to adoption.

“It speaks volumes to the quality and foresight of our student body in seeing that there had to be some recognition of those issues,” Bass said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

The School Board ratified the policy in a unanimous vote during a Sept. 1 meeting.

Board members, who had seen the policy before, asked Hanover High Principal Justin Campbell only one question, which was whether the proposal would comply with rules set by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association.

School Board member Dan Rockmore sought assurance, according to a recording of the meeting, that “if our team shows up somewhere … however our team is comprised, then the other schools will play them, and has to play them.”

Campbell said the transgender policy was in line with NHIAA’s own, recently revised, policies, and said the state athletic organization had a process to establish team rosters that include transgender students.

After the vote, School Board Chairman Neil Odell thanked the student council members for their work, including the student representative to the School Board, junior Jasper Meyer.

“It’ll be a big moment for a lot of people in the (student) body,” Meyer said.

Hanover High graduate Lilly Cadow conceived of the motion after taking a health class her sophomore year and feeling dissatisfied with the amount of information offered on non-heterosexual sex.

Cadow, now a student at the Manhattan School of Music, sought to help educate her peers, and eventually, with the help of a gym teacher and the school’s Rainbow Alliance — a club founded to support LGBT students — put together the policy.

“After all the time I spent writing the motion, researching it, and working with various people on it, and all the time council spent working on it, I am overjoyed that the Dresden School Board has passed protection for students of all genders,” Cadow said in an email on Thursday. “The two most important things to me in this whole process were educating the school community and protecting all students so that nobody faces gender discrimination or feels unsafe because of their identity or expression.”

Henry Lang, council moderator, said the gender policy had been “definitely the biggest motion we talked about last year” in terms of engagement from students.

“I think our whole school learned a lot about acceptance and understanding — that it’s OK to ask questions and not be afraid to mess up because the concept is unfamiliar,” Lang, a senior, said in an interview.

Because the policy was adopted by the Dresden School Board, which oversees both Hanover High and Richmond Middle School, it will apply to both institutions.

Although the Hanover School Board, which covers the Ray School, and the Norwich School Board, which is responsible for Marion Cross, have not yet embraced such a standard, Bass said residents should expect discussions on gender identity to happen there, too.

In addition to establishing transgender and non-conforming students’ rights, the policy requires that other students respect their classmates’ identities, including using the appropriate pronoun.

“The intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student’s gender identity) is a violation of this policy,” the measure states.

Asked whether students found in violation could receive punishment, and if so, what kind, Bass said he wouldn’t use the word “punishment.”

“It’s a means of indicating to folks that there is a proper way to address and respect folks who are in our building, and we take that very seriously,” he said. “And if you continue to disrespect those folks, we would have to respond.”

Campbell, who would have a more direct role in enforcing the policy, wrote in an email, “I expect all students and staff to use appropriate language toward one another. This expectation certainly includes that we all use names and pronouns that fit each other. It would be inappropriate for any member of our community to intentionally and continually use the wrong name or pronoun — were this to occur, my office would intercede firmly and fairly.”

Among other recommendations, the policy also directs teachers to avoid segregating students by gender.

Campbell said schools elsewhere in New Hampshire already have begun to address transgender identity in their policies, but added that he was unaware of any other such policies in the Upper Valley.

Dresden’s decision comes during a nationwide discussion on the rights of transgender students. The debate has ranged from North Carolina, where a new law this spring banned pupils from using bathrooms that don’t match the gender assigned them at birth, to nearby Chester, Vt., where in May counter-protests broke out after the superintendent for Green Mountain Union High School announced a policy opening bathrooms to transgender people.

In May, the Obama administration through the U.S. Department of Education released guidelines similar to what Dresden adopted this month.

They say that schools “must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity,” and must give transgender students equal access to programs and facilities.

Since then, at least 20 states have sued to block implementation of the directive, which ties compliance to access to federal funding. Vermont and New Hampshire, however, have voiced support for the Obama administration’s move.

Minutes for the Hanover High Council show that students have been discussing the new set of guidelines since at least February.

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Anti-Transgender Law Costs North Carolina 7 NCAA Championships, Millions in Revenue

September 14, 2016 by admin

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced last night that it will relocate 7 championship tournaments out of North Carolina because of the state’s discriminatory HB 2, which effectively banned transgender people from using public restrooms.

The law also overturned local LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances, like the kind that existed in Charlotte and are currently supported by 8 cities here in New Hampshire.

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In a statement posted to its website, the NCAA made clear that the organization has a serious  “commitment to fairness and inclusion,” which is in direct conflict with North Carolina’s attempts to discriminate against LGBT people. As a result, it would be forced to relocate championships scheduled to be held in Cary, Greensboro and Greenville between December 2016 and May 2017. The decision comes a little over a month after the NBA announced it would take steps to move its 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte due to HB2.

With its decision to relocate upcoming collegiate events, the NCAA sent an important message that transgender Americans deserve to be treated fairly—just like everyone else. Furthermore, it’s proof that protecting all people from discrimination isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a smart business move.

Last night’s announcement is just the latest chapter in a saga of economic turmoil that has roiled North Carolina since HB2 was passed in March.

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce estimates HB2 has cost the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region at least $285 million in lost economic investment, and that’s on top of the more than $100 million lost from the NCAA games. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau says the law has cost their region more than $40 million—a number likely to grow as the losses to Cary, a suburb of Raleigh that was scheduled to host 4 of the 7 cancelled championships, become more apparent.

North Carolina’s experiences with HB2 have made it clear: In order for states to compete for these high-grossing games and other lucrative opportunities, they must build a state reputation for being inclusive and welcoming off all. New Hampshire is no exception to this rule.

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ACC announces it’s moving all championship games from North Carolina

September 14, 2016 by admin
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Durham Family Says Raising Their Transgender Daughter in New Hampshire Has Been ‘A Gift’

September 13, 2016 by admin

hegartyChristy and Boyd Hegarty, the proud parents of three girls, knew there was something different about their middle child from the time she was a toddler. Lia was born a boy—however by the time she was three years old, she started to express herself in more feminine ways.

Christy and her husband figured Lia was a little boy who really liked girls’ things, something they figured wasn’t surprising of a boy with two sisters.

“We weren’t too concerned but assumed it was a stage that she was going through and that it was harmless for her to explore and play, as she was only in preschool,” Christy said. But as Lia got older, her preferences only got stronger.

According to the Hegartys, by the time Lia was four she would get frustrated if she got boys’ toys or clothes as gifts.

“She wasn’t miserable, but it became very clear to us and her sisters that if given the choice she would choose girls’ things over boys’ things.”

This was also the year that Lia wanted to have a princess-themed birthday party. Christy and Boyd granted her wish, and threw a party complete with barbies and princess costumes.

“Our family and friends were thoughtful in asking us if it was okay to buy Lia ‘girl’s’ toys for her birthday and we thought that was awesome.” Just after her birthday the Hegartys moved to New Hampshire from Indiana.

Lia’s first year in New Hampshire, she was still in preschool and was happy to inherit lots of dress up clothes and old dance costumes from her next door neighbors. Christy bought lots of boy costumes for Lia but they were always passed over. “She’d wear boys’ clothes to school but as soon as she got home she’d strip down and slip into one of her favorite gowns.”

“In kindergarten she started to get more dysphoric—she didn’t like her body and was depressed and frustrated,” Christy explained. “Getting dressed was a real challenge. She would ask me ‘Why can’t I just be a girl like my sisters? I feel like I’m a girl in my head and in my heart.’

“We were listening.”

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But Christy and Boyd still didn’t really know what to do. Then, one night, Christy was watching the news and caught a documentary featuring a transgender child. It opened her eyes to what was really going on with Lia, and spurred her to do more research.

The Hegartys found a doctor in Boston who studies gender and lead a group for parents of gender variant children. Lia’s transition happened gradually from then on. In the first grade, she started wearing girls’ clothes at school and requesting that her classmates call her Lia, instead of her birth-name.

Christy says that by third grade, Lia’s dysphoria and anxiety had diminished and she was living happily as the girl she had known herself to be since she was three years old.

Now, Lia has gone off to middle school. She plays soccer on the travel team. Christy says that so far, Lia hasn’t been questioned or singled out because of her identity at school or in her extracurriculars. But she worries that might change as Lia gets older. Christy says she knows some families in the state who have had to fight uphill battles to have schools allow their transgender child to participate in competitive sports. And others have horror stories about bullying and verbal harassment. Christy also knows transgender adults who faced barriers to entering the workforce.

hegarty2She would like to see New Hampshire take steps to protect trans people from discrimination in employment and all walks of life so that Lia will have the same rights as her sisters when she enters the workforce and wants to buy a home.

Despite her worst fears, Christy and Boyd agree that the people of New Hampshire have been very supportive of their daughter.

“Raising our transgender daughter has been a gift. Living in the Seacoast of New Hampshire has been a blessing. We are aware that many families living in other states have had to work so much harder to protect their transgender children from ridicule and hate. It’s quite scary. We are grateful that our daughter has been able to enjoy living in New Hampshire and feels free to be who she is: a happy, healthy 11-year-old girl.”

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NCAA pulls postseason events out of N.C. over LGBT law

September 13, 2016 by admin
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Denied Service and Humiliated at The DMV for Being Transgender

September 8, 2016 by admin

morris-family-3Jennifer and Kenzo Morris are proud to call New Hampshire home. Between work, family, and their social lives — the Morrises keep very busy. Jennifer works in human resources, while Kenzo is a full time stay-at-home dad to their twin four-year-old daughters. They are also active members in their church, runners and musicians — their band has opened for music icons Pat Benatar and Blondie.

When the two were looking for a place to call home, they picked Gilmanton, New Hampshire.

“It’s really beautiful here,” Jennifer said. “We live in a quiet neighborhood. It’s just a great place to raise to family.”

While they love their community, Jennifer and Kenzo haven’t always felt welcomed and accepted. Kenzo is a transgender, black man and when asked if they’ve ever faced discrimination, both Kenzo and Jennifer sadly said “yes.”

“We have several stories of discrimination,” Kenzo replied.

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One example happened in 2014. Shortly after Kenzo transitioned, he went to the Concord Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license. Being transgender, Kenzo never expected the process of updating his important paperwork and documents to reflect his true gender to be simple, but he never believed getting a new driver’s license would turn into a embarrassing nightmare.

“It was a terrible experience,” Jennifer stated.

Kenzo provided documentation to the DMV clerk showing that he underwent surgery, but it wasn’t enough. The DMV worker raised her voice, laughed and pointed at Kenzo for being transgender. She denied him a driver’s license that accurately reflected his gender because he did not have all the surgeries required by the New Hampshire DMV.

morris-family-1“I was extremely ashamed and humiliated,” Kenzo said, but he didn’t give up. Instead, he took his fight directly to the DMV, and he won.

Thanks to Kenzo’s fight, the New Hampshire DMV changed their policies and now allow transgender people to obtain a new license reflecting their gender identity with no surgical requirement whatsoever.  Now gender can be changed by simply providing confirmation from a physician, a social worker or a mental health counselor of being transgender.

“No one should have to go through this type of discrimination,” Kenzo noted. “We just want to live our lives peacefully like everyone else.”

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New Hampshire transgender coalition pushes for protections

September 8, 2016 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the original article at the Concord Monitor.

By ELODIE REED

A new coalition launched Wednesday with a goal of securing equal rights for New Hampshire’s transgender residents.

Freedom New Hampshire is working with partners in local law enforcement, business, education, the American Civil Liberties Union, PFLAG-NH and Transgender New Hampshire to build grassroots support for equal and fair treatment of transgender people.

“It is born out of many years of hard work of organizations on the ground,” said JeanMarie Gossard, the coalition’s public education campaign manager Thursday. She said the coalition’s steering committee is made up of many transgender leaders in New Hampshire.

Those leaders are profiled on Freedom New Hampshire’s new website. One of the leaders is Dr. Jennifer Madden of Amherst, a transgender woman profiled by the Monitor in a recent five-day series called “Living Transgender.”

In Freedom New Hampshire’s first blog installment posted Sept. 7, the coalition pointed out that transgender Granite Staters are becoming more visible, even as no statewide laws provide them specific protection from discrimination.

New Hampshire is the only New England state without such a law banning discrimination based on gender identity.

“Our primary work is spreading awareness about lack of statewide protection,” Gossard said.

With thousands of the country’s 1.4 million people identifying as transgender living in New Hampshire, Freedom New Hampshire is pushing against other, grim statistics: 1 in 4 transgender people in the U.S. are fired from their jobs because of their identity, 78 percent of the country’s transgender students report being harrassed, and 41 percent of the American transgender population report attempting suicide.

In its beginning stages, Freedom New Hampshire is asking anyone to sign a pledge for “equality for all.” The website is also calling for volunteers from the business community and faith leaders.

Gossard added, “A big part of our work is collecting the stories of transgender folks and sharing those.”

To learn more, visit freedomnewhampshire.org.

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Transgender Doctor Uses Personal Experiences to Connect With Patients

September 7, 2016 by admin

Madden2To many of her patients, Dr. Jennifer Madden is more than just your typical family practitioner.  She’s also a social worker, a therapist, minister and a friend—especially to her transgender patients and those questioning their gender identity.

“People come to me to explore transitioning, and sometimes I’m the first professional person that they open up to. I have a lot of transgender patients that come to the office,” Madden said. “I provide counseling, prescribe hormone therapy, and help them with surgical decisions; I basically try to provide good medical care. I want people to be happy, to live productive lives, and to contribute to society.”

It’s no question why her patients open up to her.

After growing up in New England, Madden entered the United States Air Force, then attended community college, earned her bachelor’s degree, and then went to medical school. After graduating from medical school, she moved to New Hampshire.

Despite living as a man for much of her life, and struggling with her identity, since transitioning and living as her true self, a whole new world has opened up for Dr. Madden. She is currently enrolled in ballet classes, piano lessons, she has learned to sew, and has become a writer.

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“I never would have taken a ballet class before my transition. I didn’t even think of taking one until after I transitioned. After I did, I found all these avenues of things that I enjoyed that I wouldn’t have found otherwise,” Madden said. “It was a big change for my family, but when they see me at recitals and see that I’m happy, that’s all they care about.”

Dr. Madden says she is fortunate to have a strong support system, including loving parents, two sons, her colleagues and her faith community. Unfortunately, not all transgender people in the Granite State are as fortunate. Currently, transgender individuals have no explicit protections from discrimination in housing, employment or public services in New Hampshire. That means transgender person across the Granite State often fear being evicted from their home, be fired from their job or kicked out of a restaurant just because of who they are.

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“I try to spend as much time with my patients as I can to help them. I try not to have them focus too much on the big picture, but to try to take it a week or month at a time. It can be overwhelming once someone figures out what the process is like, how slowly the changes can occur, and how much of a struggle they will have with family, work and friends. My own experiences help me guide them,” Madden added.

Dr. Madden is proud to call New Hampshire home and wants nothing more than to help her patients live the happiest and truest version of themselves.

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Introducing Freedom New Hampshire, A Statewide Coalition Working to Promote Transgender Equality

September 7, 2016 by admin

As issues surrounding transgender equality are increasingly becoming more visible in the public eye, transgender people themselves are also more visible than ever before. They are telling their stories about what it means to be transgender and the challenges they face, like the challenge to be treated fairly and equally under the law—including here in New Hampshire.

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These challenges include being singled out and harassed at work like Matt Aversa, a retired social worker living in Keene, or even fired after choosing to come out at work, like Merrimack resident Gerri Cannon. Transgender children in New Hampshire, even when they encounter supportive local school environments, still have to fight for the ability to do something as basic as use the restroom, like West Ossipee teenager Sarah Huckman and her family did.

That’s because right now, there are no explicit statewide laws in New Hampshire that ensure fair and equal treatment of transgender people.

With the launch of Freedom New Hampshire, we’re bringing together local businesses, community leaders, schools, people of faith and other grassroots supporters in an effort to grow support for transgender equality by raising awareness about who transgender people are. And we’re not unique; people across the country are quickly realizing the importance of treating our transgender friends, neighbors and coworkers with dignity and respect.

According to groundbreaking research from the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, 1.4 million adults living in the United States identify as transgender. And thousands of those transgender adults live in New Hampshire. The same research also shows that young people are more likely than older generations to openly identify as transgender, meaning the transgender population will continue to grow as more people feel comfortable living each day as their authentic selves.

Young people are also more unified in their support for transgender equality. Nearly two-thirds of millennials, according to a USA Today poll, believe transgender people should be able use public facilities that correspond to their gender identity. And even among the general population a clear majority—53 percent—oppose legislating how transgender Americans use the restroom, according to a recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. Personal connections are likely driving this shift in public perceptions: In the last year, the number of people who say they know someone who is transgender has more than doubled.

This growth and greater visibility of the transgender community has spurred many states and local governments to strengthen legal protections for transgender people. Recently, New Hampshire’s southern neighbor Massachusetts became the 18th state in the country to fully protect transgender people from discrimination in public places. And eight local governments in New Hampshire already provide non-discrimination protections for transgender people in employment, housing and public places.

But that still means that people who move between cities, commute to their jobs, or do any traveling in New Hampshire could face discrimination. Transgender Granite Staters should not be forced to navigate a patchwork of legal protections from town to town in order to do their jobs or live their lives. They deserve the same freedoms as everyone else—and that means fair and equal treatment under the law.

If you agree and would like to see New Hampshire move toward providing greater equality for our state’s transgender residents, join Freedom New Hampshire by signing our pledge for equality.

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Challenges of Being Transgender Sparked Navy Vet’s Life of Public Service

September 6, 2016 by admin

For this United States Navy veteran, linguist, and avid outdoor enthusiast, gender transition was a matter of life and death—and it sparked a career in public service.

Born male in a small town in Ohio, Rachael’s earliest memories are of stargazing and wishing upon every shooting star that her body would be different. She spent early childhood running up to drinking fountains after her girl classmates in hopes of “catching” whatever it was that made them girls—as she describes it, like “cooties” (but the good kind).

It was a feeling Rachael hoped would go away with age, a wife, children and time in the service. But it didn’t: She could never shake the feeling that she was female, living life in the wrong gender.

After high school, Rachael joined the Navy in hopes of finding herself and seeing a world beyond rural Ohio. She worked as a foreign language interpreter and communications technician and served her country for 9 years.

After 40 years of fighting her inner struggle, Rachael almost gave up but a good friend talked her through a dark, suicidal period, making her realize that she had to make the change she’d always dreamed of. She understood now that it was less about courage and more about the conviction that this change would save her life.

She told her employer she’d be transitioning. And to her surprise, a complete stranger in her place of work said, “I will put my job on the line before I will let this company discriminate against you in any way.”

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“I’ve learned that there are a lot of people in the world who see and love others for who they are … and not what they want them to be,” Rachael said. “It gives me hope for the human race.”

Now Rachael, inspired to serve her community and ensure that transgender young people know they can achieve their dreams.

After finding the love of her life, settling down in rural New Hampshire, Rachael and her wife are celebrating 21 years together, riding motorcycles and canoeing on the weekends and sporting two beautiful wedding rings they swear will never come off.

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While Rachael loves her life in New Hampshire and has clearly overcome hurdles to achieve her confident, determined outlook, she knows that many transgender people in the Granite State continue to struggle each and every day. In New Hampshire, there are no explicit statewide protections from discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, or public accommodations—and that needs to change. No one should face discrimination for being who they are. That’s why people across the state are coming together, sharing their stories and underlining the many reasons that fair and equal protections are so vital.

Everyone should be given a fair shot at achieving their dreams—that’s what Rachael is working on right now. But without explicit laws protecting transgender people from discrimination, our transgender loved ones are too often singled out, disadvantaged, and cast aside just for being who they are. It’s time for that to change—it’s time for full transgender equality in New Hampshire.

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