A bill at the New Hampshire State House would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Meanwhile, President Trump has rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use school bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities.
While politicians debate, some transgender rights advocates push for equal rights. Among those advocates is fifteen year-old Emily Fishbaugh. She's transgender and she lives in North Hampton New Hampshire.
Emily joined NHPR's Peter Biello to talk about the current debate over transgender rights and protections in the state and nationally.
On the national stage, this issue has been referred to as the bathroom debate, but I imagine for you this issue is more than just the bathroom one chooses to use. Is that correct?
Yes, it’s more just about being treated equally. I don’t want to be defined by what’s between my legs, you know what I mean? I’ve definitely struggled with people understanding who I am. A lot of people have been confused by my gender identity and just the way I act because a lot of people just can’t wrap their head around it.
What do you do to help people wrap their head around it?
I explain my story and how when I was younger, I was so miserable being called a boy and dressing like a boy and just looking masculine because I didn’t feel masculine at all. I just tell people imagine you being put in the wrong body, too, just like my situation.
Do you find some people think it’s a choice?
Some people do ask my when I chose to be transgender, and I tell them I didn’t choose to be trans, it’s just how I feel. I am a girl and that’s how I identify.
President Donald Trump has rescinded some protections that were granted under the Obama administration. What is it you would like President Trump to know about transgender people and what they have to go through?
All trans people are like everyone else and we deserve to be treated just like every other human because we are just like everyone else. We go to the bathroom just like everyone else. And that’s all we do in the bathroom, we mind our own business.
That seems to get at the argument some have made against the legislation that’s being debated in the House, that sexual predators could use this as a cover to do their nefarious things they want to do. What do you think when you hear that argument?
Sometimes it sickens me because I’ve heard people say like I don’t want a man in the bathroom with me. And I just think, do I look like a man? Do I seem like a man? Because I know if anyone saw me in the bathroom they wouldn’t say anything, they wouldn’t know.
You recently testified in favor of a bill here in New Hampshire that would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. What was that experience of testifying like for you?
At first I was kind of nervous just because this is a huge thing, it could affect New Hampshire as a whole and it’s definitely a positive thing for me because I don’t want to be discriminated against at work or in housing or anything like that. I don’t want to be kicked out of anywhere just because of my gender identity.