Opinion: Pass protective and inclusive legislation

Published: 5/21/2022 7:02:14 AM
Modified: 5/21/2022 7:00:17 AM

Taylor Largmann is a rising third year at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and president of Lambda, the school's queer advocacy group.

Today, I wear a few hats. One as an openly gay man, another as a New Hampshire transplant with long familial ties to the Granite State, and finally, as the president of Lambda, the queer advocacy group at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

I’m writing to condemn HB 1431, known as the “parental rights” bill, for the damaging impact it would have on young, queer people if it passes the New Hampshire legislature.

I’m writing also from the perspective of my former self — a young, queer person struggling with my identity during elementary school while my peers stripped me of my agency to come out on my own terms before I was ready. Yet, I consider myself lucky because I am still alive and not a statistic, as the CDC recently reported that 1 in 4 queer youth attempted suicide in the first half of 2021.

Even the bill’s best intentions, notifying parents so they can “help” their child, falls short. While queer people need a hand to hold when they decide to come out, they need an accepting community and world beforehand, so they know they can show up safely in public spaces as their authentic selves. When you strip that autonomy from a young, queer person, you demean them.

While queer people may need help in finding and maintaining self-acceptance, even once they formally come out (something straight people never experience), they need inclusive curriculums in schools that empower them; they need to understand the history underlying their new or emerging community.

When you out someone, however, you create a hostile environment where queer people feel exposed, whether in the classroom or in the workplace. That’s what this bill ultimately achieves.

The rhetoric in bills like this signal to queer people, especially youth, that they neither belong nor matter. For me, in law school at age 27 was the first time I came to the first day of school as a self-accepting gay person, and that’s largely because my previous communities publicly humiliated me, having the adverse effect of sending me further into the closet where I felt extremely alone.

The children throughout New Hampshire going through this profound process of self-discovery and self-acceptance do not deserve to be treated inhumanely. I hope this bill fails and the legislature shifts its focus, passing protective and inclusive legislation that will enhance queer peoples’ mental health and remove any stigma associated with queerness.

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