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.
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.