Transgender Vet Protected Her Community, Even While Denied Explicit Non-Discrimination Protections November 9, 2017

Growing up in Nashua, Dusty Fiero didn’t see anyone living openly as an LGBT person. That caused Dusty—who was aware from an early age that she was not the boy she was being raised as—to keep her transgender identity mostly to herself.

And New Hampshire’s Law Against Discrimination doesn’t include protections for transgender people, meaning that transgender Granite Staters who are open about being transgender can be denied housing, employment or service in public spaces like restaurants and retail shops just because of who they are. If #TransBillNH passes in 2018, however, that would change.

An Eagle Scout, Dusty was raised with a strong sense of responsibility and duty to her community—even if, as a transgender person who isn’t protected under current law, her community sometimes doesn’t reciprocate.

“I grew up with the idea that enlisting and serving your country was part of being a citizen.” —Dusty Fiero

Growing up she also heard a lot of her grandfathers’ stories from World War II. That experience, coupled with her sense of duty, made it seem like a good fit for her to enlist in the Marines in 1993, after graduating from high school.

“I grew up with the idea that enlisting and serving your country was part of being a citizen,” she says.

During her years on active duty, Dusty met transgender people throughout world, and counts that period in her life as one of the most fulfilling, both personally and professionally.

“I still have a hard time letting go of my service,” she says. “In many ways, that was the best time of my life.”

In 1998, Dusty was medically retired from the Marines because of a severe hand injury.

It was at that point, right after leaving the Marines, that Dusty first met a transgender person living openly in Nashua. Unfortunately, it was also one of her most memorable experiences with anti-transgender discrimination.

“I stopped into a pizza place on Main Street in Nashua and saw a young trans person,” she says. “People were laughing at her, and I wanted to talk to her, but I was afraid because of how everyone was treating her.”

That incident spurred a realization in Dusty: She needed to transition to female in order to be happy, but felt at a loss for resources. Things only got more complicated from there.

“I stopped into a pizza place on Main Street in Nashua and saw a young trans person. People were laughing at her, and I wanted to talk to her, but I was afraid because of how everyone was treating her.”

For 5 years after being discharged from the Marines, Dusty continued to fulfill her duty to her community by serving as a police officer. But after being put into a situation in which she would have to come out in order to keep her job, she chose to quit. She was worried about navigating a transition while serving on the police force.

After leaving the police force, Dusty started her own business and was happily self-employed for 10 years. In 2016 she started her transition. Currently she’s working at UPS as a package handler and as an independent carrier delivering newspapers. She finally feels comfortable living openly as the woman she has always known herself to be—even though that decision was still not risk free and has had negative repercussions on her life.

Dusty says that some of her co-workers initially reacted negatively to her wearing women’s clothing. But after she explained that she was transgender, her coworkers become more accepting.

If lawmakers pass #TransBillNH next year, it would protect transgender Granite Staters from this kind of discrimination, even in companies and communities that are less accepting. Click here to join our campaign to pass these critical protections 2018.