How to contact your NH legislators.
On January 31, some friends and I drove down to Concord to join many, many other people in advocating in favor of HB 1319, which would add gender identity and gender expression to New Hampshire’s nondiscrimination laws. The House Judiciary Committee was taking up the question of whether to recommend the bill for consideration by the full house. There were far too many people to fit in the chamber, which appeared to be similar to the chamber they used last year. So they adjourned the committee and reconvened in the State House, where the House of Representatives meets to debate and vote. We did a pretty good job of packing that, too.
This year, no out-of-state professionals testified against. Testimony in favor completely overwhelmed testimony against. Notable among the speakers was Chief Anthony Colarusso of the Dover Police Department. He said that he had been an officer for 33 years, and Chief of Dover for the last 11. He said that the NH Chiefs of Police, as an organization, support the bill, as does he. He said that he kept hearing about how this bill might make women or children unsafe, because people who were not trans might pretend to be trans in order to gain access to women’s spaces. (Yes, that’s an argument the opposition actually makes.) He pointed out that this is an antidiscrimination bill, and that the idea that it would open the doors to cisgender predators is “a bogeyman”. He said, as best I could transcribe it, “When I was investigating sexual assault, I didn’t have to worry about trans people. I had to worry about neighbors and other people who volunteered in order to put themselves into the position to predate.” He had no fear that this bill will make his children or grandchild less safe. In fact, he said, it is the trans kids at school who bear the brunt, because they are bullied.
The paltry few members of the opposition made counterarguments to the bill which were largely laughable. Doug Rollins of Goffstown, for instance, suggested that trans people “seek professional help to overcome deep interior trauma” — apparently ignorant that people who are transitioning or have transitioning have all “sought professional help” … because a therapist’s letter is required to access appropriate medical care. You can’t transition without “seeking professional help”.
People like Doug Rollins should perhaps know their topic better before putting their ignorance on blast in front of the entire State House of New Hampshire.
The best moment of the hearing came when Joseph Mendola, of Warner, NH, said that he opposed the bill. He said that “children have enough stress. We don’t need to add the stress of having a student of the opposite sex entering the locker rooms and bathrooms.” He said that in his own school, there are two children who “lean toward this transgender situation” out of 1800. He said that we should not lose local control, on this issue, but should let it be done by local school boards. He said that his school board met last year, when HB 478 was under consideration in 2017, to discuss how they would handle it.
One of the committee members (I did not catch his name, but he had white hair and was balding), asked if his school district did an effective job of dealing with the 2 children out of the 1800, and if there was anything in the current bill which would make that harder.
Mendola replied, “We didn’t have to deal with it. The bill was tabled.”
Rep. Alscholler asked, “So you chose not to protect these children because it was not required by law?”
The gallery applauded.
And Mendola replied, “There was no reason for protection. The bill was tabled.”
Mendola beautifully illustrated why HB 1319 is needed. He could not have done a better job if he’d been in favor of it himself.
The hearing did not fit into the day, and was continued on February 13. Some friends and I drove down again.
Among the speakers on this occasion was Karen Young, the Chief Inclusion Officer at Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare. She said, “We know that when trans & nonbinary people receive non-inclusive healthcare, they receive substandard care.” In a survey of their constituents, 18% of respondents did not see a doctor when they needed to, for fear of being harassed. She said that a consistent statewide standard is necessary to protect people whose health is negatively impacted by harassment.
Several other medical professionals spoke. They all spoke in favor. They testified that being trans is not a choice, and that trans people face literally overwhelming discrimination.
I had not planned to speak, but I decided to do so, and drafted my statement as others spoke. Here is what I said:
My name is Grace Alden. I have lived in Plainfield, NH for almost 20 years. My wife and I raised our children there.
I am a retired police officer. I retired after 21 years of service to the State of New Hampshire, most of it in Lebanon, NH. During my career I worked as a field training officer, a firearms instructor, a use-of-force instructor, a patrol supervisor, a traffic accident Reconstructionist, and a tactical operator. As far as I know, I am the only female trans officer to continue to serve as a tactical operator after I transitioned, while serving, in 2012.
When I [transitioned], my City Manager found it necessary to pay a lawyer to do the legal research to determine whether, in fact, the City of Lebanon had a sound legal footing in the event that some wanted to make an issue of my continued employment. That cost was ultimately borne by the taxpayers of Lebanon. They would not have had to pay for that legal research if HB 1319 had been law at the time. This is the concrete practical effect of having clarity in the law.
During my decades of service, I investigated thousands of complaints and made many hundreds of arrests. Not one of them involved a trans or gender nonconforming person behaving criminally or even inappropriately in a bathroom or locker room.
I did, however, hear slurs from members of the public because I was trans.
I did have coworkers avoid me as much as they could, which complicated the provision of police services to the people of Lebanon.
That situation was tremendously stressful to me. It was a significant part of my decision to retire.
The residents of Lebanon should not have had to lose a proven and experienced officer.
Trans and gender nonconforming people are not a threat to cis people. Those cis people who let themselves be governed by fear and ignorance, however, are demonstrably a threat to trans and gender nonconforming people. We need HB 1319 to become law.
Thank you for your time and attention.
With the testimony overwhelmingly in favor of the bill, and with most of the opposition appearing ignorant and sometimes unhinged, and often making the case accidentally for the supporters, I was cautiously optimistic.
On February 27, I learned that the House Judiciary Committee had just voted 10-to-8 that the bill “Ought to Pass”.
It was that close.
Now the bill is winding its way through the Senate, and is being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. I just called my Senator, Martha Hennessey, who is on that committee, and I asked her to recommend that the bill pass.
Please, contact your Senator.
How to contact your NH legislators.