Today, we released a startling new report showing that in New Hampshire, two-thirds of public school students go to school without any comprehensive policy protections for transgender students. Although New Hampshire has done much to advance lived equality for transgender and gender non-conforming identities over the past decade, there is much more work to do.
In 2018, New Hampshire became the 18th state to enact comprehensive gender identity non-discrimination protections. That victory was preceded and followed by many important changes, particularly to policies and guidance around transgender students in public schools across the state. For example, just over a year after the passage of the 2018 legislation, New Hampshire successfully extended gender identity non-discrimination protections to public schools, in 2019.
Despite this progress - which has been replicated in a number of other states - individual school districts continue to be a sticking point when it comes to trans equality.
Transgender and gender non-conforming students are no longer a hypothetical for most New Hampshire school districts, and yet, without policies in place, those students are left to advocate for themselves as they seek respect and understanding throughout the school day.
GLSEN New Hampshire estimates that half of trans students across New Hampshire still face some kind of discrimination at school, and with an organized national effort underway to enshrine discrimination against trans students into law, the importance of every school district adopting a transgender and gender non-conforming student policy is imperative.
When a school administration does not stand strong with transgender students, those students are at a heightened risk for harassment - but it doesn’t have to be that way.
In the five years since the New Hampshire School Boards Association introduced its model trans student policy, called JBAB, 48 of New Hampshire’s 196 active school districts and charter schools adopted a transgender and gender non-conforming student policy, covering just one-in-three (57,728) public school students. Moving forward, if just the ten largest districts without trans student policies adopted one, New Hampshire would move from just under 33% to over 60% of public school students enrolled in a school district with a trans student policy.
The JBAB policy also provides critical guidance on intramural and interscholastic athletic participation. Trans students participate in sports for the same reasons other young people do: to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and be part of a team. The New Hampshire School Boards Association and New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletics Association policies, issued in 2010 and 2015 respectively, agree that excluding trans students from participation deprives them of opportunities available to their peers and sends the message they are not worthy of a full and social life.
When a trans athlete succeeds, their success is often overly publicized and politicized, to the point of suggesting that all trans athletes are inherently better than all cisgender athletes and the only reason for the athlete’s success is the fact that the person is trans. Neither is true, and the fact that an occasional trans person succeeds in sports should not be used to exclude all trans athletes.
Our report, The Case for Lived Equality in the Classroom, examines the history of trans rights in the Granite State, challenges still posed to transgender students, and proposes solutions for moving forward—most critically, calling upon school districts in New Hampshire without a policy to adopt one.