For Transgender Exeter Woman, Living in NH Has Been Perfect. But Discrimination Could Change That in An Instant April 5, 2018

Exeter resident Lisa Bunker spent decades looking for her lucky break as a writer. She doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the break came soon after she came out as a transgender woman. “I had this big unspoken thing,” she says. “It cluttered up the work. When I finally sorted out my gender identity, at last I could just have fun as a writer.”

For Lisa, being a writer is as integral to her sense of self as being transgender. “I just am a writer. I was born to make stories for people. Just like I was born with a female sense of self.”

For 30 years, Lisa worked in public broadcasting, most recently as a Program Director of the community radio station in Portland, Maine. Like anyone, she has enjoyed freedom to choose her work. But she can’t choose whether or not she’ll face discrimination because she is transgender. That’s why comprehensive non-discrimination laws are important.

Maine has such a law, so she was protected when she lived and worked there. When anti-transgender activists tried to repeal the portion of Maine’s law that protects transgender people in public accommodations like restaurants, retail shops and hospitals, Lisa took action.

“That was one of my early advocacy engagements,” she says. “I went and testified, and we defeated it.”

“Get to know someone. We transgender folk, we’re just regular human beings. We are no danger to anyone. Fear grows out of newness and not knowing. It’s a lot easier to talk back to your fear once you see someone as human.” —Lisa Bunker

Now, she’s speaking out again, to urge lawmakers to update New Hampshire’s law against discrimination to afford transgender Granite Staters the same protections. She’s also running for state representative. If elected, she hopes that while representing her constituents she can be also represent for transgender people within the halls of power.

The years since Lisa moved to New Hampshire have been “… as perfect as life can be.” She says she would hate to see that happy ending marred by discrimination. That’s a real concern as long as New Hampshire law lacks explicit protections for transgender people.

But the key to updating the law isn’t only transgender people like her speaking out—it’s lawmakers and other Granite Staters taking the time to listen.

“Get to know someone. We transgender folk, we’re just regular human beings. We are no danger to anyone. Fear grows out of newness and not knowing. It’s a lot easier to talk back to your fear once you see someone as human.”