This week the Trump administration made the decision to rescind protections for transgender students in public schools nationwide, to which many states and schools have responded with policies and declarations of support for transgender people within their communities.
Here in New Hampshire, lawmakers are seriously considering passing a bill that would ultimately serve to protect transgender individuals in our community by including them in the state’s anti-discrimination laws. As WMUR reports, the bill’s proposal was largely supported, but a member of the conservative group Cornerstone Action has argued that there is not enough proof that this amendment is necessary.
However, Sen. David Watters from Dover argues that it is very clear from the accounts of transgender individuals that he has spoken with that people who are transgender are still discriminated against in New Hampshire when it comes to housing and employment as well as in public schools.
Though the joint guidelines stated under the Obama administration in May 2016 are commonly referred to as “transgender bathroom guidelines,” they encompass much more than bathroom usage. Participation on gendered sports teams, access to groups or clubs that are exclusive to one gender (Girls, Inc., etc.), and general anti-bullying and harassment sentiments all fall under the rights of transgender students these guidelines were meant to protect.
At Keene State College, all members of faculty and students received an email from the Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Dottie Morris in light of the Trump administration’s decision which firmly expresses the campus administration’s dedication to making sure that any and all transgender members of the KSC community are treated with respect and decency.
The email includes a list created by the campus Safe Space Facilitators that outlines some tips for working to create an inclusive environment for transgender students and faculty. These tips include some things such as normalizing introduction of pronouns for everyone (not just those who are transgender), not asking transgender people what their “real” name is (also sometimes referred to as a “dead name”), and not “outing” members of the transgender community who may not feel completely comfortable and may be selective in disclosing their identity.
The email also reiterates Keene State’s Preferred Name policy, which acknowledges that there are students and staff who use names other than their legal names to identify themselves and allows for the use of chosen names in regards to school issued email accounts, class rosters, residential life, and other official school documentation.
It is important to protect transgender members of our community and to help them to feel safe and supported in this time of nationally based discrimination. President Trump has stated that he feels there are issues best left to state government. If this is the case, New Hampshire will certainly stand strong in the face of discrimination against transgender members of our community and work toward more protection for those who may face discrimination or harassment in the Granite State.
If you would like to be better informed about what you can personally due to combat violence and discrimination against members of the transgender community, here are some resources that provide more information:
Keene State Preferred First Name Policy http://www.keene.edu/campus/diversity/preferred-first-names/
Original Guidelines Instated by the Obama Administration
Keene State Safe Space Manual (as of 2016)
Emma Simpson is a Women’s and Gender Studies major currently in her junior year at Keene State College. She is the vice president of her campus a cappella group and involved with Planned Parenthood as a volunteer.
Tori Tucker was born and raised in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She is a student, author, and activist, and is currently in her senior year at Keene State College where she is finishing her English-Writing BA. In addition to being a writing student Tori also is pursuing minors in music and German.