State Rep. Joseph Stallcop: Price of discrimination is one we all pay

For the Monitor
Published: 4/19/2018 12:20:04 AM

When I was elected state representative in 2016 and took the oath to protect the citizens of this state, I pledged to do all I can to serve the state of New Hampshire. That’s why I was proud to vote for House Bill 1319 because I believe that protecting transgender people from discrimination is what’s best for our state – not just for transgender Granite Staters and their families, but for all taxpaying citizens.

Watching my aunt, the first openly transgender individual I knew, fear discrimination just because of who she is sparked a passion in me to stand up against the tyrannical forces of oppression. This experience helped me discover that the burden of discrimination doesn’t end with those who are fired or refused housing and amenities simply because of who they are – it spreads upon all taxpaying citizens. Our nation has a long history of combating discrimination within our communities, so it is essential that we update the laws that are already on the books to include the amazing transgender individuals who complete our families, friendships and communities.

When my aunt first started transitioning, I learned a lot about what it meant to be transgender. It was heartbreaking to think that she could be fired, denied an apartment or denied service just for being her authentic self. I know not everyone has this kind of personal connection to transgender people. With my personal connection, it may be easier for me than others to support the right of transgender individuals to live their lives free from the constraints of hateful oppression. While I believe we should all foster such connections in our personal lives and communities to better understand this, the social and moral impact of discrimination is only a single piece of the prejudice pie. One doesn’t even need to support these amazing people to consider the cost we all pay when discrimination takes place. The reality is that ignoring and enabling discrimination puts a financial burden on our state and our taxpayers.

When someone is fired from their job, has their hours cut or is denied a job because they are transgender, they may be unemployed for a long stretch of time. Unfortunately, this individual may end up needing to apply for governmental benefits and food assistance in order to stay alive, which takes money out of your wallet every year.

If they can’t receive benefits or housing, homelessness is often the next step. While your town or city will try to alleviate this by spending some of your income to expand their already overcrowded shelters, this person may still be rejected and forced into a desperate situation: taking up an illicit profession in order to make money and keep themselves afloat. Your police department and legal system will take some more dollars off the top of your bank statement to make sure this individual is locked away, further damaging their chances of getting work and housing, pushing them further into a cycle of expensive incarceration and governmental assistance.

Even if well-sustained on your tax contributions, this person could fall into depression and hopelessness. With the opioid crisis in full swing, it’s unsurprising that factors such as this lay the foundations of addiction. I’ve gotten to know incredible transgender people who have struggled with mental health and substance abuse, and understand that the oppression that harms both them and our state is better prevented than expensively managed.

That’s why I was proud to vote in favor of HB 1319, which updates existing law in New Hampshire to ensure that all Granite Staters, including those who are transgender, won’t face discrimination that quite literally taxes us all. A strong majority of my honorable colleagues also voted in favor of this bill, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to do the same; because at the end of the day, no one should be charged for the cost of discrimination.

(Rep. Joseph Stallcop, a Keene Libertarian, represents Cheshire District 4 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.)

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