Join Us on Oct. 4th at Our First Volunteer Action Night for #TransBillNH!

The next legislative session is only three months away, and lawmakers are already introducing bills and planning the legislative calendar. We need to activate our network of supporters now if we want to have a chance of passing #TransBillNH in 2018.

That’s why next week, we’ll be hosting our first Volunteer Action Night. If you want to take action with Freedom New Hampshire but don’t know where to start, come meet with us on Wednesday October 4th from 6–8PM at New England College in Concord.

We’ll have all the resources on hand that you need to get started as a volunteer with us, whether you’re a seasoned volunteer or completely new to our movement to protect transgender Granite Staters from discrimination. Light food and beverages will also be available.

Around 6PM we’ll start off with an in-depth training on how volunteering with us usually works. Then, you’ll be able to put these new skills to the test in one of three ways, depending on what feels most comfortable to you:

  • Making phone calls to supporters in key districts to ask them to meet with their representative for coffee,
  • Helping plan an educational event like a documentary screening in a public library,
  • Following up with businesses that have expressed interest in endorsing our campaign.

Volunteering with us is a great way for you meet new friends, build power in your community, and of course, help ensure that transgender people are protected from discrimination in New Hampshire.

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DHHS Hearing on Transgender Medicaid Access Shows Overwhelming Support for Removing Discriminatory Barriers to Care

September 14, 2017 by admin

Yesterday evening, a New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) committee met to discuss adding gender affirmation surgery coverage to our state’s Medicaid program. The committee collected testimony and will make a final recommendation in the coming weeks.

Right now, Medicaid rules prohibit coverage of gender affirmation surgery, even though it is essential care for many of the transgender people who are among the 180,000 Granite Staters covered by Medicaid.

But fair-minded Granite Staters understand that Medicaid patients deserve to have the health care they need determined by a doctor—not political maneuvering or bureaucratic rules. That’s why at yesterday’s hearing, twice as many people testified in favor of lifting the prohibition as testified against it.

Transgender Granite Staters were front and center.

Lisa Bunker, a local author, spoke passionately about her personal experience and how gender affirmation surgery dramatically transformed her life for the better.

Mikayla Bourque, who chairs the SEIU’s 1984 Lavender Caucus, highlighted her 26 years of work as a public servant, and how being able to receive essential health care had allowed her to in turn care for her community.

And Toni Maviki, an LGBT educator and consultant from Danbury, spoke about the urgent need to decrease transgender suicides. Ensuring that transgender people can receive comprehensive medical care drastically reduces this risk of suicide, she said.

Lisa Hall, who serves as the Medical Services Coordinator at the Equality Health Center in Concord, was among those who testified. The health center is a prominent provider of health services for transgender people, and as such, Lisa sees on a daily basis the positive impact on transgender people when they can access gender-affirming care without barriers.

“What our clinic sees is an affirmation of what scientific evidence-based research informs us: Individuals who are able to access these critical medical services are in a better position to lead healthier, more productive lives, contributing more to their communities and society at large.”

She also addressed a common concern: Cost. She says that many insurers worry that covering a comprehensive range of transgender health care services creates a financial burden. But, she says—citing a study from The Williams Institute—that’s just not true. It actually lowers the cost of treating transgender people, since such care allows them to take better care of themselves and and makes it less likely they’ll suffer more serious medical problems.

“What our clinic sees is an affirmation of what scientific evidence-based research informs us: Individuals who are able to access these critical medical services are in a better position to lead healthier, more productive lives, contributing more to their communities and society at large.”—Lisa Hall, Medical Services Coordinator at the Equality Health Center in Concord

Another medical professional who spoke was Dr. Paul Cote, a licensed psychologist, gender specialist and member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. He urged decision makers to change the rule in order to conform New Hampshire’s Medicaid program to generally accepted standards of care.

Dawn McKinney, the policy director with New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA), testified to the legal implications of failing to change the Medicaid prohibition on gender affirmation surgery. This coverage, she says, is actually mandated by the Affordable Care Act. 

“Medicaid coverage includes hospital and physician services, such as those required by a Medicaid beneficiary in medical need of gender transition services,” she testified. “Under the nondiscrimination section of the Affordable Care Act, Section 1557, Medicaid cannot discriminate against individuals who need medical care for gender transition.”

“Medicaid coverage includes hospital and physician services, such as those required by a Medicaid beneficiary in medical need of gender transition services,” she testified. “Under the nondiscrimination section of the Affordable Care Act, Section 1557, Medicaid cannot discriminate against individuals who need medical care for gender transition.”—Dawn McKinney, Policy Director with New Hampshire Legal Assistance

Failing to remove the prohibition could theoretically open the state to legal action if someone is denied coverage. Devon Chaffee, Executive Director of the New Hampshire ACLU, and Janson Wu, Executive Director of GLAD, also spoke to this current exclusion under Medicaid violating both state and federal law.

Freedom New Hampshire would like to thank everyone who came to the hearing yesterday to support this much-needed rule change. However, yesterday’s meeting isn’t the end of the road. DHHS will make its recommendation in the coming weeks, and depending on the outcome, we will provide an update from there.

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Two Parents Share Hope & Worry As Their Transgender Children Return to School

September 14, 2017 by admin

This month, children are getting back into the swing of school across the Granite State. That includes transgender children, who might find their acceptance in class harder or easier, depending on how receptive school administrators are to protecting them from discrimination.

That’s because, although New Hampshire has statewide guidance instructing schools to have policies in place that protect transgender students’ freedom to learn in a safe environment free from the threat of discrimination, each school has adopted these policies at their own pace.  

Currently, 16 school districts in New Hampshire have explicit policies—but they’re also under attack, most recently in Candia, where anti-transgender scare tactics pushed the Candia School Board to repeal its transgender-inclusive protections

It’s this situation that leaves Dan Kusch and Andrea Valiante feeling lucky. Both have children in school who are gender non-conforming, and who have experienced (and overcome) unique challenges because of that. But both also live in school districts that have been overwhelmingly cooperative and understanding. But they also worry that won’t be the case outside the classroom, since New Hampshire has no explicit statewide nondiscrimination protections for transgender people. 

Dan Kusch’s son Gus is genderfluid—meaning he doesn’t identify as male or female, but expresses characteristics of both. While many people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth express themselves by wearing androgynous clothing, Gus’s inherent sense of gender is something fluid, in between or outside of male or female.

He wears his hair long, and dresses in more feminine clothing. He’s fielded the occasional taunt from a classmate, including the question, “what are you?” But Gus, confident in who he is, just shrugs it off with that perennial teenage catchphrase: “Whatever.”

“Folks in Gus’s school have been so great to say we need to put these policies in place for Gus,” Dan says. “But the school district also knows it already has many gender-creative kids in it at all age levels. This isn’t just about Gus. It’s about making a gender-safe school district for everyone.”

That’s why he’s happy to report that the school district just began the process of codifying its nondiscrimination policy—with overwhelming school board support—and that it has been well received by the community.

“Folks in Gus’s school have been so great to say we need to put these policies in place for Gus,” Dan says. “But the school district also knows it already has many gender-creative kids in it at all age levels. This isn’t just about Gus. It’s about making a gender-safe school district for everyone.”—Dan Kusch

Andrea says the same about Ben’s school in Derry. After expressing himself as male throughout toddlerhood—Ben was assigned female at birth—he told his mom that he’d always been a boy, and even sometimes asks, ”Mama why did you ever think I was anything else?”

So Andrea opened a dialogue with the school district, to let them know that Ben was transgender. His public transition, between fourth and fifth grade, was smooth and seamless—thanks, largely, to the compassion and understanding of school administrators in Derry.

“Our school district has been amazing,” Andrea says—though she knows that’s not always the case for parents and transgender children.

“I have local friends in New Hampshire that have had very challenging, heartbreaking experiences,” when they’ve tried to get their local school districts to affirm their children the way the Derry School District affirmed Ben. “Their children have been bullied, pulled from school, and homeschooled. That’s not OK.”

It was these experiences of other transgender children, as well as their worries about what happens when their children leave school grounds or graduate into the adult world, that led both Dan and Andrea into the movement to update New Hampshire’s Law Against Discrimination so that it protects transgender people from discrimination.

Both Andrea and Dan worry their children won’t find the same acceptance they’ve found at school. If #TransLawNH isn’t passed to protect transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations, discrimination could put the brakes on their futures.

“When you move into adulthood, life opens up, you’re really involved with so many more facets of society. What happens to Ben in those situations? When he goes to apply for a loan, get a job, rent a place?”—Andrea Valiante

“He has a lot of hopes and dreams,” Dan says of Gus. “He’s only a few years away from his first job, and the idea that he might not be received as an applicant, or not chosen for an interview because of bias is heartbreaking.”

Andrea echoes these concerns.

“When you move into adulthood, life opens up, you’re really involved with so many more facets of society. What happens to Ben in those situations? When he goes to apply for a loan, get a job, rent a place?”

There are so many more situations he’ll be navigating alone, she says. So before that day comes, #TransBillNH needs to be in place.

If you’re a parent, educator or anyone who agrees with Andrea and Dan that all Granite Staters should be protected from discrimination, sign the Freedom New Hampshire pledge to support #TransBillNH.

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Mom of Transgender Son Wants Him to Be Protected from Discrimination Outside the Schoolhouse

September 7, 2017 by admin

When he was still a toddler, Andrea Valiante began to notice that her son Ben—who was assigned female at birth—always wanted to be the boy character when they would play make believe, or dress up as his favorite TV characters.

She encouraged his creativity, but initially had no reason to think there was anything more to it. But then Andrea, who is a high school math teacher, had transgender students in class. It was  then that she started to think Ben might be transgender too.

“The first couple transgender students I had I was literally in awe of them,” she says, describing how one day, a teenager just walked up to her—within moments of meeting her—and explained outright that they were transgender. “They were such brave advocates for themselves, and already so independent, to be able to explain such a powerful part of their story to a stranger.”

“The first couple transgender students I had I was literally in awe of them. They were such brave advocates for themselves, and already so independent, to be able to explain such a powerful part of their story to a stranger.” —Andrea Valiante

Soon, Ben wanted to have his hair cut like a boy, and start dressing as a boy all the time. Now, he says he’s always been a boy, and even sometimes asks, ”Mama why did you ever think I was anything else?”

His public transition, between fourth and fifth, was smooth and seamless—thanks, largely, to the compassion and understanding of school administrators in Derry.

“Our school district has been amazing,” Andrea says. She considers herself lucky, because she knows that’s not always the case.

“I have local friends in New Hampshire that have had very challenging, heartbreaking experiences,” when they’ve tried to get their local school districts to affirm their children the way the Derry School District affirmed Ben. “Their children have been bullied, pulled from school, and homeschooled. That’s not OK.”

It’s the experiences of other transgender children, as well as her worries about what happens when Ben graduates into the adult world, that led her into the movement to update New Hampshire’s Law Against Discrimination so that it protects transgender people from discrimination.

“I have local friends in New Hampshire that have had very challenging, heartbreaking experiences. Their children have been bullied, pulled from school, and homeschooled. That’s not OK.”

“There’s no promise that the person on the receiving end of an interaction with you or your child is informed and compassionate. People deserve to feel safe walking into every setting. That’s why I believe [#TransBillNH] is so important.”

Under current law, that’s not the case—there is no explicit statewide law that prohibits discriminating against transgender people in employment, housing or public accommodations—places that serve the public, like restaurants, banks and doctor’s offices.

“When you move into adulthood, life opens up, you’re really involved with so many more facets of society,” Andrea says. “What happens to Ben in those situations? When he goes to apply for a loan, get a job, rent a place?”

There are so many more situations he’ll be navigating alone, she says. So before that day comes, #TransBillNH needs to be in place. If you’re a parent—or anyone who agrees with Andrea that all Granite Staters should be protected from discrimination—sign the Freedom New Hampshire pledge to support #TransBillNH.

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My Turn: Trump’s position on transgender troops is a disgrace

September 5, 2017 by admin
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