Dads of Transgender Teens Urge Lawmakers To Vote Down Discriminatory Bills

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Paula Tracy photo

From left are Maura Willing, Liz-Anne Platt, Linds Jakows and Deb Jacobowski at the State House in Concord earlier this month.


CONCORD – A father from West Ossipee and another from Windham who have experienced life as parents of transgender teens spoke about the harm that could come if bills are passed related to restricting them from sports teams and certain medical care this week in the Senate. 

On a video press call, Tuesday hosted by Inclusive NH, Scott Callahan of Windham, Tom Huckman of West Ossipee and Chris Erchull, a lawyer for a trans rights group in New Hampshire, said the proposed measures are discriminatory, hurtful to families and could be potentially struck down as illegal.

They asked lawmakers to educate themselves first and listen to fathers like them before they do harm to kids and families by singling them out in these bills.

They also asked Gov. Chris Sununu to veto the measures if they reach his desk and reaffirm his 2018 position signing into law the addition to anti-discrimination measures laws protecting LGBTQ+ individuals.

Callahan of Windham said, “These bills target transgender teens, limiting access to medical care, limiting access to sports, discriminating against them because people don’t understand what it means to be transgender. And people are afraid of what they don’t understand. I get it. The unknown is scary. I see it all the time when I tell people about my hobby.”

Callahan said he “likes guns” and has a machine gun collection. He said he likes shooting and finds when people express concern that a little education goes a long way to better reduce fear and gain understanding and acceptance of him and his passion. 

As a father, a crane operator and a baby boomer he said he knew nothing of the subject of transgender youth until one of his children, at age 7, told him they did not want to live in their body and that the gender that he assumed they were was wrong.

“I really didn’t understand what my child was feeling and knew I had to do to help them…as only a parent can,” Callahan said. 

He said his worst fear was that they would not be around in the future.

“I was terrified for them,” he said and “I wanted to be a good Dad.”

Callahan said he saw a joy return to his child at age 15 as hormone therapy gave new hope for their future. But now, he said he feels the fear returning with potential for such discrimination.

Tom Huckman of West Ossipee said he considers himself a fiscal conservative and was once a Republican who has supported LGBTQ+ rights.

He said he thought they had fought and won the battle in 2018 when the state extended non-discrimination rights to the LGBTQ+ community and recalled a chance meeting with Sununu on the ski slopes at King Pine in Madison where he thanked him for signing the 2018 bill into law, protecting his child.

He said Sununu told him it was “the right thing to do” and that has resonated with him, and he said Sununu “has been known to do the right thing.”

But now, Huckman said, he and other families like theirs are worried that the bills going through the legislature could undermine the progress made.

The governor has been non-committal on the bills as a whole and said he would wait to make a decision.

Huckman said Sarah’s passion for sports and ability to play was an extremely important part of her education and while she is now graduated and out of school, she would have been “devastated” to be excluded from the girls’ teams by such a ban.

House Bill 1205 relative to girls’ school sports is supported, however, by another father, state Sen. William Gannon, R-Sandown.

He has maintained that it is unfair for girls to have to compete for scholarships and playing opportunities with trans girls and could in fact be hurt.

The bill would restrict participation in girls’ sports from grades 5 to 12 for those whose birth certificate shows they were born female. It would also extend to private schools that want to compete with public schools.

It has already cleared the House on a vote of 189-182 and the Senate Education Committee with a recommendation ought to pass on a 3-1 vote. A link is here

Huckman said if passed it would have “devastated” his daughter and deprived her of the many important life lessons taught as being part of a team. 

He said when she came out, the kids were overwhelmingly supportive and adults, including teachers and parents, were largely supportive.

He said it would be regressive of the state to pass that and the other bills.

Huckman suggested legislators watch “Changing the Game” in which Hackman’s daughter is featured. It includes videos of her testifying in Representatives Hall on a similar bill when she was 17.  

A trailer for the movie is here and includes segments where athletes are being “booed” by adults at a track event, with one woman shouting, “That is so unfair! Male biology” and a man shouting at another event that the athlete should instead take up violin rather than wrestling.

One trans teen says there are a lot of things she wants as a kid but “the main thing that I was is to just be accepted as me.”

The NHIAA’s current handbook, available on its website, governs the eligibility for transgender athletes.

It reads:

“Sect. 21: Policy Statement and School Recommendation Regarding Transgender Participation 

The NHIAA is committed to providing transgender student-athletes with equal opportunities to participate in NHIAA athletic programs consistent with their gender identity. Hence, this policy addresses eligibility determinations for students who have a gender identity that is different from the gender listed on their official birth certificates. 

“The NHIAA has concluded that it would be fundamentally unjust and contrary to applicable State and Federal Law to preclude a student from participation on a gender specific sports team that is consistent with the public gender identity of that student for all other purposes. Therefore, for purposes of sports participation, the NHIAA shall defer to the determination of the student and his or her local school regarding gender identification. In this regard, the school district shall determine a student’s eligibility to participate in a NHIAA gender specific sports team based on the gender identification of that student in current school records and daily life activities in the school and community at the time that sports eligibility is determined for a particular season. Accordingly, when a school district submits a roster to the NHIAA, it is verifying that it has determined that the students listed on a gender-specific sports team are entitled to participate on that team due to their gender identity, and that the school district has determined that the expression of the student’s gender identity is bona fide and not for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage in competitive athletics. 

“Students who wish to participate on a NHIAA gender-specific sports team that is different from the gender identity listed on the student’s current school records are advised to address the gender identification issue with the local school district well in advance of the deadline for athletic eligibility determinations for a current sports season. Students should not be permitted to participate in practices or to try out for gender specific sports teams that are different from their publicly identified gender identity at that time or to try out simultaneously for NHIAA sports teams of both genders.”

House Bill 1205 would require changes.

It “requires schools to designate athletics by sex and prohibits biological males from participating in female athletics.  This bill further creates various causes of action based on violations of the provisions in the bill,” according to its explanation.

“For purposes of this subdivision, the sex of a student for the purpose of determining eligibility to participate in an interscholastic sport activity or club athletic team shall be determined by the student’s biological sex on the student’s official birth certificate or certificate issued upon adoption…If a birth certificate provided by a student pursuant to paragraph III does not appear to be the student’s original birth certificate or does not indicate the student’s sex upon birth, then the student must provide other evidence indicating the student’s sex at the time of birth.  The student or the student’s parent or guardian must pay any costs associated with providing the evidence required.

“The state board of education, each local school board, and each governing body of a public charter school shall adopt and enforce policies to ensure compliance with this subdivision in the public schools governed by each respective entity.”

Chris Erchull is a New Hampshire attorney representing GLAD.

He participated in the virtual press conference and noted that in April, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a West Virginia law that bans transgender girls from student athletics. 

The law was used as a template of sorts for HB 1205, he said, and if passed into law might not be able to stand on appeal.

He gave a brief outline of the other trans bills up for a vote soon in the Senate. House Bill 619 would limit certain surgical procedures for trans people under age 18, and bars doctors from making certain referrals. He said that has free speech implications. House Bill 1660 would ban certain treatments from being provided under state Medicaid for those under 18. He said next week, HB 396 which carves out certain aspects of the 2018 non-discrimination law as it relates to accommodation, is also up for a full Senate vote.

Supporters of these measures include Cornerstone Action.

Shannon McGinley, executive director, has testified on a number of the bills and on its website issued a call to action on House Bill 396 which is related to public accommodation based on biological sex.

“Several pieces of legislation seeking to address the issue of protecting women’s sports are being considered by the New Hampshire General Court with one, HB 396, uniquely positioned for passage. HB 396, permitting classification of individuals based on biological sex under certain limited circumstances, narrowly survived the House and is now headed to the Senate.

“While other pending legislation focuses on sporting events alone, HB 396 provides for broader application by allowing ‘any person or organization, public or private’ the opportunity to make a classification based on biological sex. This level of classification flexibility and protection is not present in any of the other bills.

“HB 396 provides the most expansive framework to address these issues and has the greatest success of becoming law in New Hampshire. It is of vital necessity that the Senate pass HB 396, unamended in any way, as an important first and needed step in clarifying the state’s ability to differentiate based on biological sex. This bill will pave the way for any person or organization, public or private, to protect women in the areas of sports, prisons and places of intimate privacy.”

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