Editorial: Let’s protect transgender people from discrimination

Published: 1/19/2018 12:05:04 AM

Lawmakers are once again debating whether to update the state’s nondiscrimination laws by adding protections for transgender people. We have long argued for such a measure, and we know well the argument of those who oppose it. The challenge for the Legislature is to sort through facts and testimony to determine who faces a greater threat in this state: those who come into contact with transgender people or transgender people themselves.

Under current law, the state protects people from discrimination based on age, sex, race, creed, color, marital status, familial status, physical or mental disability, and national origin. House Bill 1319 would add the words “gender identity” to that list.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey provides guidance on why such a change is necessary. Of the 225 transgender people in New Hampshire who responded to the survey, 15 percent said they had lost a job because of their gender identity or expression. One in 5 reported being fired, denied a promotion or not hired based on their gender identity. Twenty-three percent said they had faced some form of housing discrimination. More than half said they avoided using a public restroom because they feared a confrontation. Many respondents also cited examples of discrimination involving education, health care and law enforcement.

We understand that there are many people in New Hampshire who have a difficult time wrapping their mind around the idea that a person can feel as though they were born in the wrong body. It is no small feat to see the world through the eyes of another, to experience their fear and pain as your own. We also understand that there are those who worry that somebody will use the protections proposed in House Bill 1319 in a way that could pose a danger to the public, especially women and children. But again, we ask lawmakers to consider what is more likely to happen: that without explicit protections many of the estimated 4,500 transgender people in New Hampshire will continue to face discrimination or that some bad actor will find a way to use those new protections to harm others.

As New Hampshire once again debates this important issue, we hope that all involved take the time to listen to those with whom they disagree and that logic overrides fear.

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