Challenges of Being Transgender Sparked Navy Vet’s Life of Public Service September 6, 2016

For this United States Navy veteran, linguist, and avid outdoor enthusiast, gender transition was a matter of life and death—and it sparked a career in public service.

Born male in a small town in Ohio, Rachael’s earliest memories are of stargazing and wishing upon every shooting star that her body would be different. She spent early childhood running up to drinking fountains after her girl classmates in hopes of “catching” whatever it was that made them girls—as she describes it, like “cooties” (but the good kind).

It was a feeling Rachael hoped would go away with age, a wife, children and time in the service. But it didn’t: She could never shake the feeling that she was female, living life in the wrong gender.

After high school, Rachael joined the Navy in hopes of finding herself and seeing a world beyond rural Ohio. She worked as a foreign language interpreter and communications technician and served her country for 9 years.

After 40 years of fighting her inner struggle, Rachael almost gave up but a good friend talked her through a dark, suicidal period, making her realize that she had to make the change she’d always dreamed of. She understood now that it was less about courage and more about the conviction that this change would save her life.

She told her employer she’d be transitioning. And to her surprise, a complete stranger in her place of work said, “I will put my job on the line before I will let this company discriminate against you in any way.”

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“I’ve learned that there are a lot of people in the world who see and love others for who they are … and not what they want them to be,” Rachael said. “It gives me hope for the human race.”

Now Rachael, inspired to serve her community and ensure that transgender young people know they can achieve their dreams.

After finding the love of her life, settling down in rural New Hampshire, Rachael and her wife are celebrating 21 years together, riding motorcycles and canoeing on the weekends and sporting two beautiful wedding rings they swear will never come off.

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While Rachael loves her life in New Hampshire and has clearly overcome hurdles to achieve her confident, determined outlook, she knows that many transgender people in the Granite State continue to struggle each and every day. In New Hampshire, there are no explicit statewide protections from discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, or public accommodations—and that needs to change. No one should face discrimination for being who they are. That’s why people across the state are coming together, sharing their stories and underlining the many reasons that fair and equal protections are so vital.

Everyone should be given a fair shot at achieving their dreams—that’s what Rachael is working on right now. But without explicit laws protecting transgender people from discrimination, our transgender loved ones are too often singled out, disadvantaged, and cast aside just for being who they are. It’s time for that to change—it’s time for full transgender equality in New Hampshire.