School Districts Take Note: 7th Circuit Court Affirms Federal Non-Discrimination Protections for Transgender Students

In a groundbreaking decision out of Wisconsin, a 3-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This is a historic step forward for transgender Americans. It’s the first time ever that a federal appellate court has applied these particular federal non-discrimination protections to transgender students, setting groundbreaking legal precedent in favor of fair and equal treatment for transgender youth at school.

The 7th Circuit case exemplifies some of the worst kinds of discrimination that transgender students can face on a daily basis. Seventeen-year-old Wisconsin student Ash Whitaker brought the case, Whitaker v. Kenosha, after his school denied him access to the boys’ restroom and subjected him to other forms of discrimination, like isolating him from his peers and refusing to use his proper name and pronouns. At one point, the school even considered requiring all transgender students to wear green armbands in order to closely monitor their bathroom usage.

The court’s ruling on the side of Whitaker guarantees his right to use the boy’s restroom. It also  bolsters the case for schools to enact district-wide policies that ensure transgender students can participate fully, in compliance with Title IX guidelines.

Right now, in New Hampshire, there are 17 school districts in the state that explicitly protect protect them from discrimination as a matter of district policy. And because the 7th Circuit’s decision this week only applies in practice to its three-state jurisdiction area—Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois—New Hampshire students will rely on district policy to protect them until and if a similar case applies these protections to the Granite State.

This patchwork of protections leaves students outside of these 17 districts in a precarious situation regarding their ability to feel safe at school.

Meanwhile, one of the 17 school districts—Candia—is, at this very moment, considering a repeal of their transgender non-discrimination policies. This isn’t just a shameful denial of the dignity and humanity of transgender students, it is in direct conflict with the 7th Circuit’s interpretation of Title IX, which makes anti-transgender discrimination illegal.

Tomorrow, on June 1st at 6PM, the Candia School Board will hold a public hearing to debate the proposed repeal—and to hear from the public about why these types of non-discrimination protections are so vital to the success and freedom of transgender students.

Of the five-member board, three are pushing to repeal the district’s non-discrimination policy—but the community is fighting back. Tomorrow’s meeting is open to any and everyone who wants to voice their opinion about the importance of ensuring transgender students have a fair shot at success.

Our grassroots movement is mobilizing to get supporters of transgender non-discrimination out to the meeting—click here to let us know you’ll be there.

And no matter if you can join us there or not, take a couple minutes to email the Candia School Board to let them know you are against repealing non-discrimination protections for transgender students.   

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Undecided Lawmakers Bring Open Mind to Exeter House Party

May 30, 2017 by admin

When we decided to host a house party tour in cities across New Hampshire we had a vision: Give transgender Granite Staters, their families and communities the platform to talk about their experiences and we can change hearts and minds on the issue of transgender non-discrimination.

Exeter is proof—our plan is working.

Last week, Lisa Bunker and her partner, Dawn Huebner hosted the 5th in the house parties series. In attendance were two legislators—Reps. Michael Vose of Epping and Ken Weyer of Kingston—and eight attendees who came forward to share their stories with them.

Boyd Hegarty, whose daughter Lia is transgender, told lawmakers that he really worries about the kind of life his daughter will have as she gets older. As long as there is no statewide law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against transgender people, Lia could face hurdles as she enters the workforce or attempts to reach other life milestones, like buying a home.

He said he knows lawmakers may have trouble looking at this from the perspective of a transgender person, so instead he asked them to look at it from his perspective as a parent. This seemed to really resonate with lawmakers, especially Rep. Vose.

Jessica MacFadzen shared her story of being a transgender woman on the New Hampshire State Police force. She said that even though she was subjected to cruel jokes and harassment at her job after coming out as transgender, one of the things that gave her strength was the state’s implementation of transgender non-discrimination protections for state employees.

She implored Reps. Vose and Weyer to work on making sure all transgender workers can access these protections—by passing #TransBillNH.

After hearing these stories, Reps. Vose and Weyer seemed to bring a more open mind to the issue of transgender non-discrimination. Because at the end of the day, transgender Granite Staters just want the same freedoms afforded to their non-transgender peers: The ability to work hard, find a home, and contribute to their New Hampshire communities.

The house party tour isn’t over yet. We’ll continue hosting lawmakers at homes statewide to help elevate the experiences of transgender people and build understanding of the need for non-discrimination protections.

If you would like to host your own house party—or attend one already happening in your community—let us know by signing up.

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Participants at transgender forum vow to keep fighting for anti-discrimination bill

May 25, 2017 by admin

CLICK HERE to read the original article at Concord Monitor.

By ELLA NILSEN

Activists in the transgender community may not have gotten the law they wanted this legislative session, but they are not done trying to spur change in New Hampshire.

A House bill that would have banned discrimination against people for their gender identity was tabled this year, despite strong backing from the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee.

“This bill had nothing to do with reasonable accommodation or public accommodation,” Mikayla Bourque of Laconia said at a forum at Red River Theatres on Wednesday. “All it was was to have it on the books this year, that’s all we wanted.”

Even though they expressed frustration that the bill was tabled for a year, advocates remained hopeful.

“By tabling instead of going against it, (legislators) showed how uncomfortable they were with going against it,” said J.J. Smith, the public policy co-chair for the New Hampshire Public Health Association.

Smith also noted support in the state Senate for the measure.

“I don’t think we have any question that we will get through the Senate on this stuff when we come back,” Smith said.

Panelists and audience members expressed frustration with the public’s fixation on bathroom bills, saying many other issues around discrimination and stigmatization, including trans people not being referred to by their preferred name or gender, or not being able to play sports because of their gender identities, are more pressing.

And while they said the past few years have brought an incredible amount of awareness and progress, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“I can’t express the amount of people that come into my salon that are going through transition and the absolute pain I see in so many eyes,” said panelist Kae Mason, a transgender woman and the owner of Salon K in Concord. “This reminded me we can’t do enough. The suicide rate is still catastrophic, it is so high right now.”

The panel discussion included Mason and Bourque, who were both featured in a five-part Monitor series called “Living Transgender.” The panel also included Monitor reporter Allie Morris.

The discussion followed a screening of the film Real Boy, which follows a young transgender man in California named Bennett “Ben” Wallace.

Following Wallace through the start of testosterone injections and eventual top surgery to remove his breasts, the film also focuses on the relationship between him and his mother, who is initially hesitant to accept her son’s transition from female to male.

Eventually, Wallace’s mother comes to terms with the change and embraces it, showing up to his surgery and crying and confiding in another mother of a trans teenager in the parking lot of the surgical center.

However, Wallace still struggles for acceptance from his father and older sister.

The family dynamics in the film hit home for many of the panelists.

Bourque broke down as she started speaking after the film was over.

“I’ve seen this three times, it’s very emotional for me,” she said. “I live a lot of this.”

Of her three daughters, Bourque said, one still does not accept her as a transgender woman.

“As a parent, you’re trying your best to raise your daughters,” she said. “There’s a feeling of, you want to be the best for your children, but you also want to be the best for yourself.”

Mason said she is lucky enough to be part of a loving and supportive household and is accepted by her wife and children.

“I am the mother of five kids, and yes, I did father them, but I consider myself their mother,” she said. “One of the things I noticed about the movie, it was really disturbing to see the lack of sibling love and parental love, if you will.”

Laura Morrison of Concord spoke as the mother of a transgender woman who came out a few years ago.

“We were confused and surprised at first, but very accepting,” Morrison said. “We always wanted our kids to be their authentic selves. Since she came out as trans, she’s just her authentic self.”

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Campaign to Pass #TransBillNH Moves Full Steam Ahead with Two More House Parties in Weare & Claremont

May 23, 2017 by admin

Transgender Granite Staters, allies and elected officials met again last week for two more house parties aimed at growing legislative support for #TransBillNH.  

The first, hosted by Nancy and Art Brennan of Weare, featured a large group and lively discussion with Reps. David Pierce, Gary Hopper, and Neal Kurk. The other house party, in Claremont, was a smaller gathering of community advocates only, though there were some great stories shared as well as some strategizing on how to get elected officials more involved.

In attendance in Weare were two transgender Granite Staters who shared their stories with the hope of driving lawmakers toward a better understanding of what it’s like to live under the threat of anti-transgender discrimination.

One was JJ Smith, a public health advocate who uses her experiences as a transgender woman to educate members of the medical community about the specific health needs of transgender people. Community outreach was also covered at the Claremont meeting by Toni Maviki, a transgender woman from Danbury who runs cultural competency trainings at medical centers, colleges and churches, as well as for police and civic organizations.

The Weare gathering also featured a recent graduate of John Stark High School, who asked that he not be named because he fears he’ll be discriminated against at work. As a student though, he was out to classmates, and spoke at length about how hard it was to come out at school, and how he faced some harassment and bullying.

Now that he’s graduated and entered the workforce, the stakes are much higher. He could be taunted, bullied and harassed—and then lose his livelihood, since there is no statewide law that explicitly protects him from being fired because of his gender identity.

Parents of transgender and non-binary children were also on hand to discuss the ways in which their children are left vulnerable, and the steps they’re taking to cope in the absence of a statewide, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination law.

One was Cheryl Pyles, whose transgender son Mitchel was denied medical care because of his gender identity. Mitchel was at the doctor’s office for a routine sinus infection, but was turned away because the doctor didn’t want to treat a transgender person. Under #TransBillNH, this kind of refusal would be prohibited. Neil Allen, a transgender man from Charlestown, shared at the Claremont meeting how his non-binary daughter was advocating to make her sorority at Keene State transgender inclusive.

Jessica Smith is another Weare parent who’s concerned about sending her daughter into the local school system. Currently, Weare is not one of the 17 New Hampshire school districts that have district-wide policies that protect transgender students from discrimination.  Because of this, Jessica says she’s looking at private schools or possibly moving to Maine or Massachusetts—even though she loves her community, and wouldn’t move if she had a choice.

These house parties have been a great success at building community and moving the dial on legislative support for #TransBillNH. And there are more planned. Sign up here to let us know if you can host or attend a house party in your community.

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Your Reps in Concord: Too many legislators vote by fear

May 22, 2017 by admin
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For Mother’s Day, Celebrating Two Families Who Need #TransBillNH to Keep Their Loved Ones Safe

May 14, 2017 by admin

Families come in many different shapes and sizes, and no one knows that better than families with a parent or child who is transgender.

These families deserve to be celebrated on special days when we recognize everything that parents do to help their children, and our society, thrive. That’s why for Mother’s Day we’re sharing the stories of two families who are not only working to make the best life possible for their kids, but are also speaking out to help pass #TransBillNH.

Stephanie Cawley & Her Children, Kay, Parker & Samuel | Sandwich

For more than 60 years, Stephanie Cawley did the same thing whenever someone asked her if she was transgender—she lied. Keeping that part of herself private seemed like the safest choice, be it at work, with friends, or out in public.

But one thing Stephanie swore she’d never do is lie to any of her three children. So when her oldest, Kay, asked her straight out, “Have you ever wanted to be a girl, Dad?” Stephanie knew the time had come do something different.

Kay asked Stephanie what was holding her back. A sea of worries—but mostly, the thought of losing her family to divorce. Stephanie worried too about facing discrimination, including financial hardship, because of New Hampshire’s lack of statewide non-discrimination laws. But Kay had a one-word answer for all of that.

“Yolo, Dad.”  

She told her son Parker next. He wasn’t prone to verbal displays of affection, but after Stephanie let him know she was transgender—and after Parker had pulled up his jaw that had bounced hard off the floor—there were hugs, and six reassuring words: “I love you Dad. It’s okay.”

“‘Will you still be my Dad?’ asked Samuel.  ‘Yes,’ Stephanie explained. ‘I will always be your Dad. I may look different than the other Dads, but I will always be your Dad.'”

Samuel, Stephanie’s youngest, got an incredulous look on his face, and didn’t hold back with his most pressing question: “Will you still be my Dad?”

“Yes,” Stephanie explained. “I will always be your Dad. I may look different than the other Dads, but I will always be your Dad.”

Stephanie, now living as the woman she’s always known herself to be, still values the ways that she was “Dad” to her children before her transition. Sometimes, her children still call her that. But they’ve started using a new term for the special day that celebrates the innumerable ways mothers enrich our lives, a combination of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day that Stephanie says was coined by transgender academic Jennifer Finney Boylan.

They call it, “Maddy’s Day.”

***

Christy Hegarty & Her Daughter, Lia | Durham

Christy Boyd is the proud mom of three girls. At a very young age her middle child, Lia, started to express herself in very feminine ways.

“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, however, she grew more insistent that she be treated like a girl, not a boy.

 “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.’”

Christy and Boyd wanted desperately to help their daughter through whatever she was facing—but they didn’t have the words to even explain their daughter’s situation until one night, Christy happened across a documentary about transgender children.

After that, Christy knew what to do.

Her and Boyd found a Boston-area doctor who could guide them through what Lia was experiencing, and joined a local support group for parents of transgender children. In first grade, they started letting Lia where girls’ clothing to school, and requested that her teachers call her by her chosen name: Lia.

“Christy says raising Lia in the Granite State has been ‘a blessing’ and that she knows many parents have to work much harder to ensure their transgender children are protected from discrimination.”

By third grade, Christy says, Lia’s dysphoria had disappeared, and she was living happily as the girl she had known herself to be since she was three.

Christy says raising Lia in the Granite State has been “a blessing” and that she knows many parents have to work much harder to ensure their transgender children are protected from discrimination.

She knows, though, that without statewide non-discrimination protections, things could get more difficult as Lia gets older. That’s why she’s hoping lawmakers will act quickly to pass #TransBillNH next session.

You can show your support for transgender mothers, and the moms of transgender children on Mother’s Day today by adding your name in support of #TransBillNH, too.

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Ruling addresses gender bias: Federal court extends Title VII protection to sexual orientation

May 12, 2017 by admin
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Another House Party Success As Transgender Granite Staters Gather in Gilmanton to Share Stories With Lawmakers

May 11, 2017 by admin

Transgender Granite Staters and allies came together again yesterday evening, this time in Gilmanton, to share their stories with lawmakers who are on the fence about passing #TransBillNH.

Last night, that was Representative Carol McGuire and Senator John Reagan. Sen. Reagan is a co-sponsor of #TransBillNH and strong supporter of transgender non-discrimination protections. But by the end of the night, Rep. McGuire also seemed more receptive to updating the law to protect transgender Granite Staters from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, after hearing how that would change their lives.

Jen and Kenzo Morris hosted the house party, and Kenzo shared his own story of being discriminated against as a transgender man.

Shortly after Kenzo transitioned, he went to the Concord Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license—an unwelcome chore for most people, but an embarrassing nightmare for Kenzo. When he presented his documentation, the DMV worker laughed and pointed at Kenzo for being transgender. Then, she denied him a new license.

Shortly after Kenzo transitioned, he went to the Concord Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license—but when he presented his documentation, the DMV worker laughed and pointed at Kenzo for being transgender. Then, she denied him a new license.

Linda Rogers, Jessica MacFadzen and Lisa Yesse also shared stories from their perspective as transgender women who have had to make difficult choices at their jobs because of the lack of employment protections for transgender people.

In 2003, Linda moved to New Hampshire to advance her career, but because the new position required a strict security clearance, she had to work under the male identity listed on her birth certificate. It was only after Linda retired that she was able to live authentically in all areas of her life—and that’s a trade-off she doesn’t want other transgender workers to have to make.

In 2003, Linda moved to New Hampshire to advance her career, but because the new position required a strict security clearance, she had to work under the male identity listed on her birth certificate.

Jessica recently finished her 27th year with the New Hampshire State Police. But a few years ago, she didn’t know if she’d make it that long. A co-worker outed her as transgender to fellow employees, and rumors began to spread—she became the butt of cruel office jokes and the target of incessant derogatory comments. She started to dread coming to work and sank into a deep depression.

She was starting to feel totally hopeless until one day, another co-worker expressed concern over her mental health. This gesture of kindness and caring helped to pull her out of her deep depression and give her the will to consider her options. After that, she decided to fully transition.

One thing that really helped Jessica make this choice was the state’s implementation of a transgender non-discrimination policy for public employees. She says the legislature must pass #TransBillNH, though, so that other workers who are not covered by workplace policies don’t face similar discrimination.

Lisa Yesse also decided to come out at work—but her transition was pretty seamless, thanks to an understanding manager who supported her. That’s not the case for many workers, however, And worry crept into her life again when she bought a condo in Goffstown, since there are no housing non-discrimination protections in New Hampshire.

Lisa’s home-buying experience went well too, but for many, it does not. No one should have to worry about this kind of discrimination when they’re at work, buying a house, or trying to access government services. That’s why passing #TransBillNH is so important.

Last night’s meeting shows how sharing personal stories with legislators can make a real difference. If you’d like to tell your story by hosting or attending a house party, sign up here and someone from Freedom New Hampshire will be in touch.

If you can’t attend a house party but would still like to share your story, sign up here and someone from Freedom New Hampshire will be in touch.

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Transgender Granite Stater Gets Personal to Build Support for Comprehensive Non-Discrimination

May 10, 2017 by admin

Mitchel Pyles has lived in New Hampshire for more than 25 years. Mitchel is proud to call the Granite State home—even though, as a transgender person, Mitchel cannot access many of the non-discrimination protections afforded to fellow citizens.

Mitchel hopes that will change someday soon: Just this year, a bipartisan group of New Hampshire lawmakers took major steps to advance legislation that would add gender identity to the statewide law against discrimination.

Now, Mitchel is speaking out to both lawmakers and more widely on social media with the goal of making transgender people and the challenges they face more visible. That kind of visibility, Mitchel says, is what spurs change.

***

In a video posted to Facebook as part of the #EveryoneWelcome campaign, Mitchel describes what it was like growing up without transgender role models—another public blind spot Mitchel hopes to remedy by being more vocal. Mitchel wants to say to all people that are transgender: “You have value and are important members of our communities. Being transgender has made my life more rich and given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.”

 

WATCH Mitchel’s full video:

#EveryoneWelcome is a public education campaign dedicated to sharing the stories of transgender Americans and the people who support them in an effort to shore up broad and urgent support for transgender-inclusive non-discrimination protections. Nearly 100 people all across the country have filmed videos as part of the campaign, including members of Congress, LGBT advocates, celebrities, and athletes. The campaign is a partnership between several organizations, including the Ally Coalition, Athlete Ally, Freedom for All Americans, GLAAD, the Transgender People of Color Coalition, the Trans [email protected] Coalition, and Trans United Fund. Learn more here.

***

Earlier this year, Mitchel illustrated how vital these non-discrimination protections are, and highlighted why more education is so sorely needed. In a hearing concerning the transgender protections bill in New Hampshire, Mitchel shared a story of being at the doctor’s office for a routine sinus infection but being turned away because the doctor didn’t feel comfortable treating a transgender person.

Mitchel has also been discriminated against by state agencies, at one point being denied a court filing and turned away from the DMV when while attempting to change drivers license information.

Updating statewide non-discrimination laws to include protections based on gender identity would make what happened to Mitchel—and what happens to countless other transgender people on a daily basis—illegal. Though an update to the law was narrowly defeated this year, Freedom New Hampshire—the diverse nonpartisan coalition working to pass #TransBillNH to ensure transgender Granite Staters are protected from discrimination under state law—is already ramping up a broad-reaching storytelling campaign aimed at building support among lawmakers and the general public for a renewed push to pass the bill next year.

Raising awareness of the discrimination that transgender people face through personal storytelling is an important tool that advocates in New Hampshire and around the country are using to make the case for statewide non-discrimination protections, as well as expand general public understanding about transgender people.

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President Trump Signs Order That Could Open the Door to Anti-Transgender Discrimination

May 4, 2017 by admin

Today President Donald Trump signed and executive order that the LGBT community fears could open the door to discrimination—and faith leaders in the Granite State are pushing back.

The executive order pertains to religious freedom, one of the founding values of our country and modern democracy. It’s one thing almost all Americans agree on: Religious freedom should be protected. And it is: In the First Amendment to the Constitution.

But religious freedom should never be used as justification for discrimination. And that’s why today, New Hampshire’s faith community is seizing the opportunity to speak out against discrimination in the name of religion—and in support of the transgender community here at home.

Reverend Emily Heath, who preaches at the United Church of Christ Congregational Church in Exeter, is making the case that religious freedom and freedom from discrimination go hand-in-hand:

“I am a Christian pastor. No one’s religious liberty is being threatened by LGBTQ people being treated as equal. In fact, it is an affront to Christian faith to use the Gospel to deny all of God’s children their rights. That’s why I strongly oppose any efforts to allow discrimination, and I fully support legal protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people in New Hampshire.” –Rev. Emily Health, UCC Exeter

Reverend Mary Westfall, the senior minister at the United Church of Christ Community Church in Durham, reiterated that sanctioning discrimination goes against what it means to be a Christian. All people—and that means transgender people, too—are “created in the image of God” and must have their humanity respected, both by faith and by the law.

“As a religious leader I take seriously the biblical understanding that all people are created in the image of God. The teachings of Jesus are unequivocal – God loves all, we are to “do to others as we would want done to ourselves.” Standing with my LGBTQ persons, particularly right now those who are transgender, I strongly oppose any federal or state laws that would make it permissible to discriminate against any person, as we are all created in the image of God, and instead strongly encourage increasing protections against the ugliness of discrimination.” –Rev. Mary Westfall, UCC Durham

Although today’s order stops short of setting a broad license to discriminate against the LGBT community under the guise of promoting religious freedom, there’s still concern that such an action could materialize in the coming days or weeks.

And it could further fuel an increase in anti-LGBT rhetoric and policies that are on the rise nationwide—and right here in New Hampshire. Earlier this year, Currently, the Candia School District is on the verge of repealing policies that protect transgender students from discrimination, a move that’s being driven largely by opposition to #TransBillNH.

Today’s order underscores how crucial it is that New Hampshire take steps to ensure all Granite Staters are protected from discrimination, including transgender people.

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Transgender Granite Staters, Allies and State Representatives Ignite Momentum for #TransBillNH in Sandwich

May 2, 2017 by admin

Last night, Sandwich residents gathered for the first of a series of house parties Freedom New Hampshire will be hosting across the state to grow support for statewide non-discrimination protections.

The party was a smashing success, thanks to the hard work of the party’s host, Shana Aisenberg, as well as the state representatives who donated their time to listening, and the transgender Granite Staters who graciously shared their personal stories.

A common theme among those who shared their stories was family—what it’s like to parent a transgender child, and what it’s like to be a transgender parent. One speaker, Stephanie Cawley, spoke about how her family celebrates Mother’s Day. Another speaker, Dan K., has an 11-year-old son who is gender non-binary. Tom Huckman, whose transgender daughter Sarah was profiled last year by Freedom New Hampshire, spoke specifically about the uncertainty Sarah has faced in trying to compete on her school’s track team because of her gender identity.

Shana, the host, spoke about starting her job at the Community School three years ago, and how it made her feel safe and respected to know the school has a workplace policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Now, she is working to help pass #TransBillNH to ensure these same workplace protections are extended to every transgender Granite Stater across New Hampshire.

A board member from the Inter-Lakes School District, Duncan Porter-Zimmerman, also attended. The school is working on a transgender-inclusive non-discrimination policy and could soon be the 18th New Hampshire school district to enact such a policy.

Everyone at the meeting agreed they were ready to support #TransBillNH during the next legislative session, and urged the two state representatives in attendance—Reps. Karel Crawford and Bill Marsh—to work with their colleagues to bring the bill forward again as soon as possible.

Last night’s meeting made it clear that the momentum for #TransBillNH is strong and growing—and that advocates won’t quit until the law protects all Granite Staters from discrimination. If you’d like to host or attend a house party, sign up here and someone from Freedom New Hampshire will be in touch.

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