When he was still a toddler, Andrea Valiante began to notice that her son Ben—who was assigned female at birth—always wanted to be the boy character when they would play make believe, or dress up as his favorite TV characters.
She encouraged his creativity, but initially had no reason to think there was anything more to it. But then Andrea, who is a high school math teacher, had transgender students in class. It was then that she started to think Ben might be transgender too.
“The first couple transgender students I had I was literally in awe of them,” she says, describing how one day, a teenager just walked up to her—within moments of meeting her—and explained outright that they were transgender. “They were such brave advocates for themselves, and already so independent, to be able to explain such a powerful part of their story to a stranger.”
“The first couple transgender students I had I was literally in awe of them. They were such brave advocates for themselves, and already so independent, to be able to explain such a powerful part of their story to a stranger.” —Andrea Valiante
Soon, Ben wanted to have his hair cut like a boy, and start dressing as a boy all the time. Now, he says he’s always been a boy, and even sometimes asks, ”Mama why did you ever think I was anything else?”
His public transition, between fourth and fifth, was smooth and seamless—thanks, largely, to the compassion and understanding of school administrators in Derry.
“Our school district has been amazing,” Andrea says. She considers herself lucky, because she knows that’s not always the case.
“I have local friends in New Hampshire that have had very challenging, heartbreaking experiences,” when they’ve tried to get their local school districts to affirm their children the way the Derry School District affirmed Ben. “Their children have been bullied, pulled from school, and homeschooled. That’s not OK.”
It’s the experiences of other transgender children, as well as her worries about what happens when Ben graduates into the adult world, that led her into the movement to update New Hampshire’s Law Against Discrimination so that it protects transgender people from discrimination.
“I have local friends in New Hampshire that have had very challenging, heartbreaking experiences. Their children have been bullied, pulled from school, and homeschooled. That’s not OK.”
“There’s no promise that the person on the receiving end of an interaction with you or your child is informed and compassionate. People deserve to feel safe walking into every setting. That’s why I believe [#TransBillNH] is so important.”
Under current law, that’s not the case—there is no explicit statewide law that prohibits discriminating against transgender people in employment, housing or public accommodations—places that serve the public, like restaurants, banks and doctor’s offices.
“When you move into adulthood, life opens up, you’re really involved with so many more facets of society,” Andrea says. “What happens to Ben in those situations? When he goes to apply for a loan, get a job, rent a place?”
There are so many more situations he’ll be navigating alone, she says. So before that day comes, #TransBillNH needs to be in place. If you’re a parent—or anyone who agrees with Andrea that all Granite Staters should be protected from discrimination—sign the Freedom New Hampshire pledge to support #TransBillNH.