Lack of Statewide Non-Discrimination Protections Leave Trans High Schooler Nervous for the Future October 5, 2017

Riley—a student at Mascoma High School in Canaan, New Hampshire—began questioning her gender two years ago, at the age of 14. She first came out as gender fluid, but later realized she identified much more as a transgender girl.

While attending a summer leadership program, The NH Teen Institute, she met Reagan Murphy, a student at Southern New Hampshire University who competed in Miss NH beauty pageants with a platform of working for gender, sexual, and romantic minority advocacy. Riley was excited to learn that the Miss NH organization was inclusive of transgender girls competing, and was happy to have Reagan’s mentorship.

“Reagan let me borrow her dresses, did my makeup- everything a big sister would do,” said Riley. “When I got to my first pageant, I was nervous that people might not include me, but in reality, everyone was super nice and accepting.”

Riley won “People’s Choice”—meaning she received the greatest number of votes from the crowd—at her very first competition, the Miss Littleton Area/White Mountain Regions Outstanding Teen competition.

“All my teachers and the staff use the right pronouns for me, but I still can’t use the female restrooms—I have to either use the male or gender-neutral restrooms. It doesn’t feel right to be singled out and treated differently like that,” said Riley. “Hopefully that’s something the school board will vote to change before I graduate.”

“All my teachers and the staff use the right pronouns for me, but I still can’t use the female restrooms—I have to either use the male or gender-neutral restrooms. It doesn’t feel right to be singled out and treated differently like that,” said Riley. “Hopefully that’s something the school board will vote to change before I graduate.” —Riley, Mascoma High School, Canaan

Still, Riley is looking for additional support in her high school community.

“All my teachers and the staff use the right pronouns for me, but I still can’t use the female restrooms—I have to either use the male or gender-neutral restrooms. It doesn’t feel right to be singled out and treated differently like that,” said Riley. “Hopefully that’s something the school board will vote to change before I graduate.”

But unfortunately, Riley’s worries don’t end at school. New Hampshire is one of 32 states without explicit non-discrimination protections for transgender people—which for Riley, poses a lot of very real concerns. Will she face discrimination if she applies for a job? What if she’s kicked out of a restaurant or a local retail shop when she’s out with her family and friends?

The sad reality is, without a statewide law ensuring non-discrimination protections in employment, housing and public spaces, these are real, daily concerns for transgender Granite Staters like Riley. And because New Hampshire is the only New England state without these protections, Riley thinks it’s past time for our state lawmakers to act.

“I just want to live my life and know that I am protected like everyone else in this state.”

“I just want to live my life and know that I am protected like everyone else in this state,” she says.

Riley spends most of her time being a normal teenage girl, with dreams of going to medical school. Next month, she’s even competing for Miss Berlin-Gorham outstanding teen on November 4th.

But she also knows that her story and her lived experiences have the power to change hearts and minds. Beyond her experience at school, she’s also making the case to her elected officials that these protections must be secured statewide.