Trans athlete and conversion therapy bills stopped in New Hampshire House

  • Frida Maxwell, 9, stands with others at the State House on Wednesday morning, in opposition to HB 1180, that would add new gender-related language to New Hampshire’™s birth records law. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Frida Maxwell, 9, stands with others at the State House on Wednesday morning, March 16, 2022 in opposition to HB 1180, that would add new gender-related language to New Hampshire’€™s birth records law.The legislation would allow public schools to ban transgender girls from playing on girls’€™ sports teams, something LGBTQ rights activists say it i€™s discrimination. Federal Title IX laws protect transgender athletes from discrimination at school. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Frida Maxwell, 9, stands with her father, Jake, and others at the State House on Wednesday morning, March 16, 2022 in opposition to HB 1180, that would add new gender-related language to New Hampshire’€™s birth records law.The legislation would allow public schools to ban transgender girls from playing on girls’€™ sports teams, something LGBTQ rights activists say it i€™s discrimination. Federal Title IX laws protect transgender athletes from discrimination at school. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Protesters stand outside the State House on Wednesday morning, March 16, 2022 in opposition to HB 1180 and HB 1077. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • State Representative Gary Woods from Bow gives the thumbs up sign to the protesters outside the State House.

  • Protesters stand outside the State House on Wednesday morning in opposition to HB 1180.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/16/2022 6:27:03 PM

Nine-year-old Frida Maxwell stood with a crowd of activists outside New Hampshire statehouse Wednesday morning, holding a sign, decorated with a border of tiny trans pride flags, that said “let me play.” Her father Jake Maxwell stood beside her, wrapped in a pride flag.

Maxwell and her parents are speaking out alongside many New Hampshire LGBTQ activists this week to oppose two bills that were both tabled by the New Hampshire House of Representatives late Wednesday, one that seeks to limit transgender girls from playing girls’ sports and another that would have repealed the state’s ban on conversion therapy.

“When people try to make laws saying I can’t play sports, I feel mad and scared,” Frida Maxwell said at a press conference Tuesday. “I should be able to play on sports teams with other girls and be who I am. Playing sports makes me feel happy.”

It’s not the first year the Maxwells have shown up to oppose legislation seeking to limit trans athletes. The same legislation was proposed in 2021 and 2020, failing each time. On Tuesday Abi Maxwell, Frida’s mother, called the bill an act of bullying and exclusion.

“My daughter has a good happy childhood, but she does not have an easy one,” Maxwell said. “She lives with the knowledge that some people will not like her because of who she is. She knows that her rights are never a given. This is a lot for a nine-year-old to carry.”

The bill, HB 1180, which representatives voted 175-167 to table at the end of Wednesday’s session, would have added new gender-related language to New Hampshire’s birth records law by saying public entities — like school athletic departments, jails or public bathrooms — can differentiate people by their sex assigned at birth instead of by their gender identity.

The bill had been passed by House’s Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee earlier this month with an 11 – 10 vote.

“The committee felt it is a matter of basic fairness to allow an evaluation of biological sex when determining eligibility,” Rep. Dennis Acton wrote on behalf of the majority. “Allowing a biological male who simply identifies as a female to compete in women’s sports can be viewed as a violation of the rights of the female competitors.”

The legislation would have allowed public schools to ban transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams, something LGBTQ rights activists say is discrimination. Federal Title IX laws protect transgender athletes from discrimination at school.

“Transgender students can only succeed if we give them the opportunity to do so,” GLAD attorney Chris Erchull said Tuesday. “It says that the government merely ‘reserves the right’ to exclude transgender girls from sports. But that doesn’t change the fact that the bill contradicts state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination in schools.”

Another bill was tabled in a House vote late Wednesday that sought to repeal New Hampshire’s ban on “conversion therapy” for minors, a discredited practice that seeks to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity to heterosexual or cisgender. Conversion therapy has been illegal in the Granite State since 2018 when Gov. Chris Sununu signed RSA 332-L.

The now-tabled repeal had passed in House’s Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee earlier this month with a vote of 13-7. Across the U.S., 20 states have fully banned conversion therapy, including all of New England. 

Medical experts say conversion therapy is not effective at changing a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity and can be harmful for the patients involved. LGBTQ people who have undergone conversion therapy are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to the LGBTQ people who haven’t, according to a study by the UCLA Williams Institute.

On Tuesday Harvey Feldman, a Concord-based licensed clinical mental health counselor, said repealing the ban would only increase risk and vulnerability for LGBTQ youth amid what he called the “parallel pandemic” of the youth mental health crisis.

“The risks are not ambiguous. They are not unclear,” Feldman said. “The results of conversion therapy are significantly increased mental health disparities, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide. My role as a therapist is to help families understand that the most protection they can offer their youth is family acceptance, and family affirmation.”

Proponents of the bill had argued that with an amendment that was added in early March, the bill would only have allowed conversion therapy for those who consent to receive it.

“Counseling where someone drops a person off at the office of a professional with the instructions to ‘fix him/her’ against that individual’s will or desire remains forbidden,” Rep. Mark Pearson wrote for the majority of Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee. “Should this bill become law it will send a clear message to each client that the professional is there to work with and not against the wishes of the client regarding sexual attractions.”

But LGBTQ rights activists like former ACLU-NH organizer Palana Hunt-Hawkins argue that children don’t have the ability to consent at all.

“This is a consent that minors do not legally have and it creates a loophole for guardians to endanger youth with discredited therapy practices,” Hunt-Hawkins said.

Photo editor Geoff Forester also contributed to this report.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.



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