‘Ask A Trans Person Anything’ Panel In Portsmouth Draws Receptive Crowd, Spurs Community Conversation October 12, 2017

Dozens of people packed the room last night for the Portsmouth Public Library’s “Ask a Trans Person Anything” panel, an opportunity for anyone who may have questions or concerns about transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws or other issues to have their questions answered by a member of the transgender community.

Panelists fielding the questions included Michael Phoenix, a local musician, AliciaAlec Dufield, who works at a domestic violence and sexual assault crisis center, and Joelle Ruby Ryan, a professor of gender studies at the University of New Hampshire.

Also on the panel was Somersworth school board candidate and former tech-industry worker Gerri Cannon, who has previously shared her experience with anti-transgender employment discrimination with Freedom New Hampshire.

Audience members were able to ask questions either by a show of hands or by or anonymously submitting notecards. Nothing was off limits, and big topics of discussion included experiences with religion and family, dispelling common misconceptions, and next steps for political action at the state level to ensure transgender people are protected from discrimination.  

“It’s a dicey time, but a time for opportunity. We should be ashamed that we are the only state in New England without transgender non-discrimination protections.” —Professor Joelle Ruby Ryan, UNH

Professor Joelle Ruby Ryan also took a moment to call out the recent decision by the Department of Justice to no longer consider transgender Americans protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to Ryan, that decision is “a wake up call for New Hampshire legislators” that must spur serious legislative action on #TransBillNH in 2018.

“It’s a dicey time, but a time for opportunity,“ Ryan said. “We should be ashamed that we are the only state in New England without transgender non-discrimination protections.”

The tone was consistently respectful, even when audience members admitted they were unfamiliar with the issue. That response means these conversations are having an impact. One of the most effective ways to move lawmakers and community members to action on #TransBillNH is for transgender Granite Staters to have open, honest conversations with community members.

As more people speak out, it becomes clearer why New Hampshire must update its Law Against Discrimination to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and public spaces. 

If you’re a transgender Granite Stater or an ally who supports #TransBillNH, take a moment to share your story with Freedom New Hampshire.