A Day at the New Hampshire State House

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 is not a day I shall soon forget.  The day was spent at the New Hampshire State House in Concord, New Hampshire assisting in efforts to bring about an educational understanding of what it means to be transgender and the challenges we face within the state as a result.  Our ultimate goal is one which will help to illuminate the necessity of creating state legislation which would make it illegal to deny someone who is gender variant, the opportunity for housing or public accommodation or to fire someone from their job.  The basic human rights which we all, as citizens, are entitled to, should not be denied simply because of personal or perhaps religious claims of bias

It was a huge day for me, a week prior, when I was asked by a prominent staff attorney from GLAD in Boston to do this, I almost thought to say "no!".  You see, as a male, I was always very shy and introverted.  Public engagements were a very difficult proposition for me.  Panic attacks were the norm on a daily basis for many years and decades.  I was told, however, that I was well respected as a potential for this endeavor and that I had an innate ability to assist in making this a pivotal event.  At the time I did not quite realize the potential magnitude of the outcome this in fact would be, but I was soon to reap, in many ways, what lay beyond that only partially perceived horizon.

There was little sleep for me on the night before as I imagined, in a semi-lucid state somewhere between wakefulness and sleep, any number of possible failures and fears on my own part.  A bedraggled look awaited me when I awoke in the morning after a toss and tumble night.  Trying to put myself and my wardrobe together was a matter of rote recall but I still found I had my mind on segments of the speech I would give.  Granted it was nothing technical and certainly an easily fluid free speech that would pose little problem; but it was the unknown of who I was delivering this to, my audience, that had me a bit unnerved.  The whole concept of a staunch and stuffy senate which one might envision if they ever watched C-SPAN or any other of the political access channels came to mind.  I could envision scolding looks of stern faces in visual disagreement to my verbal outpouring.

I was so worked up over this that after J styled my hair, I left the house hurriedly without even putting my “cleavage assistants" in.  Granted that there seems to be enough filling out at this point to only now half warrant their use, it was still a first for me to forget them.  Interestingly, I never noticed my omission until about half way through my drive home when looking down quizzically and then feeling what "wasn't" all there...thinking about it for a moment, and ultimately realizing it was totally unimportant. Still, there was a chuckle at the fact that I had been discombobulated enough that morning to have forgotten what I would have considered an essential aspect to my "Some assembly required" routine.

Arriving at the state house in Concord, NH, I found myself circling the capitol twice hoping to find some street parking nearby.  I was wearing comfortable low pumps but still didn't want to have to traipse multiple blocks in them.  It seemed that when a space opened up, the car ahead of me would suddenly grab the spot.  It quickly became obvious that we were a caravan of cars all circling on the same reconnaissance mission to find a home for our vehicles.

Finally giving up in my circulatory pattern orbiting the capitol building, I grabbed a space in the garage, which turned out also to be completely full on all 4 levels.  While making a U-turn at the top level, I began to ask myself what the population of this small city was because it seemed to me to be more like downtown Boston than sleepy New Hampshire.  On my way back down through the levels, luck looked upon me as a vehicle pulled out allowing me to grab their space.  I alighted from the car and clip-clopped my way the two and a half blocks to the Legislative Building and entered. 

The room was not quite so intimidating as I had imagined and was simply two very large conference rooms (with the dividers rolled back) to present to large U-shaped geometric layouts.  We were early, as it turned out, as the sessions were still on-going and bills were still being voted upon.  This gave enough time for us to introduce ourselves to each other and to indulge in some delicious sandwiches which were provided for the occasion as a timely enticement.  We would be speaking to the democratic representatives for the state which, from what I was made to understand, already had a relatively positive stance in regards to the transgender related challenges in the state.  That certainly put me at ease as well.

When the sessions broke, about 30 or so representatives filtered into our combined dual conference room and took up residence.  I noted quite a number NOT coming in but rather moving past in the hallway beyond.  The lunchtime break, as it turned out, allowed for a host of other possible venues for the representatives to "elect" to join and so some decided to attend elsewhere.  The immediate surmise of this realization was that our audience was here because they wanted to be and not by obligation.  this, on the one hand, set my mind at ease but as well too, made me feel that we had a lot of work to do if we were to obtain an audience with those who might challenge our viewpoints and perspectives.  I was assured that there would be future "educational outreach" session to attempt to create those connections, but for now, this was turning out to be a much more benign encounter.... and very welcome for my first foray into this field.

I'm not going to drop names here, since I don't have express permission to do so, but the first opening remarks and introduction were provided by the hosting Democratic Rep who had organized and was facilitating this event.  His introduction led nicely into the stories which followed.  We heard from several professionals both 'male to female' as well as 'female to male' regarding various highlights, concerns and simple affirmations regarding their own journeys.  One of the most poignant and touching presentations was made by a father and his adopted daughter, who was transitioning at age 13 towards womanhood.  She was so independently capable of painting not only her own story in vivid detail, but had such a command of her own thoughts and her own self-omniscience and self-awareness, that it touched my heart to listen to each word she spoke.  Her father was able to elegantly evoke a complementary dialog which was distinctly separate from her daughters but which provided a holistic and fluid complete picture.  Each of us, as speakers, painted a portion of a larger yet ultimately interconnected picture which, at a base core level, depicted us all as humans.... humans like anyone else who desired the same things out of life and maintained the same aspirations as we all do sharing this planet as humans.

My own turn to speak was relatively early on and, standing to address the audience, I provided what I thought would be an enlightening story of my own journey of discovery and my own coming of self-awareness.  I never jumped into the political realm of asking or declaring what was needed and what I or "we" as transgender individuals required within the human rights realm.   Instead, the delivery was an impassioned speech filled with allegories which I hoped and felt others who were not transgender might relate to on a very core and basal level.  The metaphoric references worked extraordinarily well as I would find out later in my outtakes in one-on-one discussions.  In front of the audience, I immediately felt comfortable orating a strikingly passionate and gesticulative outpouring of emotive words and imagery. It was no less than wonderful to feel the power of being able to captivate and hold the attention of a large, dignified and highly intelligent audience that in all respects held me in a humble and auspicious respect for them.

The tail end of the presentation was where we had a wrap-up and tie in of our personal journeys along with a short treatise made of the greater scope for needed legislation.  This summation was provided by a staff attorney from GLAD in Boston who did an excellent job in relating our stories to that of the greater realm of challenges we all, as transgender individuals face.  A question and answer period followed where we were asked intelligent and non-invasive questions.  Informational packets were provided to all attendees which illustrated additional life-stories, a handout of terminology, a glossary of definitions and information relevant to the GLAD Organization in general.

The BEST take-away from the entire day, however, was the personal one-on-ones which transpired after the event.  I'm glad I fed the meter for a few extra hours of time because even as I was donning my pocketbook, I was met by one representative after another who seemed eager to talk with everyone and, surprisingly, with me.  The outpouring of affirmation was simply amazing and each hand shook was met with either great endearment or quickly replaced by a wonderfully warm hug.  Apparently, as they told me, my story touched them in how it was presented.  The generally consensual commentary was that I was a a highly intelligent and articulate woman who had great ability to draw in an audience in an affirming way.

Well, it didn't stop there.  A number of representatives corralled me and introduced themselves and offered a welcoming gesture for me to consider running for an open seat for representative in Grafton County.  It would be an understatement to say that I was floored that they not only would consider me, but more-so that they wouldn't take a "NO" for an answer.  To be honest, it would be an amazing opportunity to be able to work within this realm and to utilize it as a transitory platform to introduce myself as a transgender person to many of the state representatives who have never met one and who may have ill-conceived prejudices as a result.  Unfortunately, the time commitment would be well beyond what I could reasonably supply, owing to the fact that I still hold a full-time 40 hour per week job that pays the bills.

In closing, I did relate that I would make myself available on a consultancy basis should they find need of whatever services or assistance could be offered  There were quite a few email addresses exchanged and the promises that we would be back to entertain this arena again in the future.  It was amazing that even in working my way downstairs to the lobby, I was met by other representatives who had missed the chance to say hello and who wished to thank me for coming.  I will not soon forget today, for even if it was miniscule in the larger picture of what still needs to be accomplished, it gave me confidence in my own sense of self and skills, reaffirmed it through the glowing and positive remarks and embraces by so many others and gave me hope in humanity that there are those who really wish for us all to live in harmony, as altruistic as that may seemingly be.  One thing is for sure:  As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, "I'll be back!"

In case anyone might be wondering what I decided to wear to this occasion, the link follows to the outfit:



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