Guest Blogger

Is Transphobia Rearing its Ugly Head in New Hampshire?

Filed By Guest Blogger | April 29, 2014 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: constitutional amendment, New Hampshire, nondiscrimination, trans inclusion, trans rights, under the bus

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Barbra Casbar Siperstein was the first transgender member appointed and confirmed to the Democratic National Committee, and is currently a member of the DNC Executive Committee and the deputy vice chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. In addition to being the president of the New Jersey Stonewall Democrats, she's a published author, small business owner, veteran, and a grandparent.

Just when we thought we were making progress bringing the LGBT community together -- all of us working together in common cause -- another prominent gay politician, state senator David Pierce of New Hampshire, has allowed his apparent transphobia to rear its ugly head and drive us T's further away from the LGB's, pushing trans people, who still lack basic rights in New Hampshire, further to the back of the bus of equality.

new_hampshire_map.gifEarlier this month the AP reported on a proposed amendment to New Hampshire's constitution that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The amendment divided gay activists because it does not cover transgender individuals.

It appears that the proposal was ramrodded through the state Senate unanimously, but it clearly got mixed support from witnesses testifying at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Most argued there is no clear definition of sexual orientation and said the proposal needs to be studied before being put before voters.

The New Hampshire constitution currently prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, and national origin. This amendment would add "sexual orientation" and make New Hampshire the first state to single out gays for constitutional protection.

David Pierce, the measure's prime sponsor, argued that the amendment would not grant special rights to gays as some critics contend. "Equal means what is common to everyone. No one is raised above anyone else," said Pierce (D-Hanover).

Ironically, New Hampshire is only state in New England that does not have a simple law banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. Yet for David Pierce, it is more important to further enshrine sexual orientation protections than to include trans people and provide us with basic human rights.

I love the way some cisgender men once again honor heroes from the Stonewall revolution to the memories of Sylvia Riveria and Marsha P. Johnson... by basically saying "Go to Hell!"

However, there is reason for hope, for common sense, for bringing LGBT people together. New Hampshire House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Chairman Ed Butler, who is gay, testified against the proposal because it did not have the full support of the gay and transgender community.

Butler is a longtime activist for LGBT rights, a co-sponsor of New Hampshire's marriage equality law, and a prime sponsor of the ill-fated transgender rights legislation that should have passed a few years ago when Democrats had control but which failed. It appears that New Hampshire Democrats and the local and state trans advocates were woefully unprepared for the right-wing "potty police attacks" and the Democratic caucus did not hold. Was there no learning curve from the experiences (good and bad) in other states?

Now in 2014, Butler stated that he could not support an amendment that referred solely to sexual orientation since that definition does not commonly include transgender individuals. He said, "New Hampshire's anti-discrimination law does not protect transgender individuals either and more work needed to be done to protect them statutorily."

Former state Rep. Mo Baxley, another gay rights activist, agreed with Butler that the proposed amendment was too narrow. "The term 'sexual orientation' alone, without the inclusion of gender identity and expression, is not acceptable," she said.

Perhaps intelligence, common sense, and a sense of fairness is still alive in New Hampshire?

Now, for more troubling news from that state: according to HRC, transpeople are protected in New Hampshire!

While gender identity is not explicitly included in the state's anti-discrimination law, the New Hampshire Superior Court ruled that transgender individuals can pursue an anti-discrimination claim under the law's disability discrimination category.

As far as I'm concerned this court decision is infuriating, because it stigmatizes transpeople as being "disabled." Indeed, we have a "disability," but only because of widespread societal ignorance and bias against us. As in New Hampshire, we face a continuous loop, a treadmill that feeds and maintains that stigma.

We need a clear statement that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression is morally wrong, is unacceptable in the 21st century, and that transpeople are fully able to succeed and thrive if and when those societal barriers are broken.

We will not allow that small yet influential elitist cadre of cis gay men and women to ignore the people who risked all to assert all LGBT peoples' basic civil rights -- whether at a lunch counter in Philadelphia, Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco, or at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

Hell no, we will not forget, and you will not keep our gate closed!

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