A unanimous vote by the Keene City Council added transgender protections to the city’s employee handbook.
This move was made on Thursday, April 20 and means Keene is the 11th New Hampshire community to enforce this policy. However, it only protects city employees. New Hampshire House Bill 478 would have a wider spread effect. This House Bill (HB) aims to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, however, it was tabled back in March of this year.
Here at Keene State College (KSC), there are students who find this troubling.
President and founder of Keene State Activists and KSC senior Maggie Mason stated in an e-mail that she finds HB 478 to be just like any other any other bill discussing human rights. “Transgender rights are just as important as any other human right and they have been ignored for so long. I feel as though it’s even more important for there to be legal actions addressed now that we have the president we do. It’s important that we get protection rights for minorities,” she stated.
Mason stated there is much to be learned from passing bills such as these. “I think that the more bills that are passed such as this one, the more tolerance will increase in our society. It’s so important for people in this country to recognize and embrace different identities,” she stated. “For whatever reason, we as a society discriminate greatly towards minorities, and in order for our society to improve, we need to increase our overall tolerance and inclusion of one another.”
She acknowledged there are steps anyone can take to get more involved, ranging from reaching out to local legislators by writing or making phone calls or by signing petitions and by becoming an ally to those in LGBTQ+ communities. “The more supporters of LGBTQ rights, the more likely protection bills and rights bills will be passed,” she stated.
Mason stated she finds there is quite a bit of support in Keene, especially with the recent passing of the action in protecting Keene city employees. “Honesty, it’s reasons like this that I love Keene so much. I am almost always pleasantly surprised with how progressive Keene is and I believe the more positive actions that we take, the more influence we can have on other cities and states as well,” she stated.
KSC sophomore Sarah Hale said she finds at KSC, people don’t discriminate against others, including transgender individuals. “I’ve never seen anyone discriminated against,” she said. “I have a couple of friends who are transgender and everyone’s always been nice to them.” Hale said personally, she finds that individuals should be allowed to be themselves. “People shouldn’t be discriminated against,” she said. Hale said she was happy to hear about Keene’s recent initiative.
Program Support Assistant for LGBTQ+ Students Hunter Kirschner was also in support of the move, especially since it directly affects him since he identifies as a transgender male. “I think it’s a positive step and a great way for our community to protect and highlight our values and the culture we’re trying to create,” he said. However, he acknowledged that more work can be done.
He said he hopes this city initiative can help pass HB 478. “It’s an acknowledgment and awareness of harassment against transgender folks. We have to help mitigate that kind of debate,” he said.
Kirschner said the reason for the pushback may be that some companies that have a more public presentation may worry about transphobia from their clientele or investors. “It’s easier not to hire someone than it is to educate others because it creates a lot more work,” he said.
However, he noted that this fear or confusion in not entirely understanding isn’t something new. “The same thing happend with homesexuality….school integration of races….interracial marriages,” he said. “Somebody had to be the first one. It’s hard being the first, then the second and third, but the more people getting involved makes it more accepting,” he said.
Kirschner also acknowledged that it’s not about society welcoming these changes with open arms. He said, “If we wait for society and culture to really accept us as all equals, we’ll never get there.’
Dorothy England can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org