Op-ed: Anti-trans laws are a threat to NH agriculture

Op-ed: Anti-trans laws are a threat to NH agriculture

Farming Couple And Their Child Near Harvester Machine

By Rev. Ariel Aaronson-Eves

July 3, 2024

As residents of New Hampshire, we live and work within a vibrant and diverse landscape, our agriculture dominated by small and adaptable farms. The resiliency of those farms relies on both the ingenuity and perseverance of individuals, along with the support farmers give each other, which comes in innumerable forms. I am calling on that support now, to protect this vibrancy and diversity, which is currently under threat from legislation on its way to Governor Sununu’s desk.

As the coordinator of the New Hampshire Queer Farmer Network, I hear powerful stories from queer farmers in New Hampshire and beyond. One theme that has frequently emerged is that of challenging gender norms and having work that is affirming to one’s body. Work on the farm, for many, including myself, invites opportunities to explore one’s gender expression and to learn to love a body that had once been a source of discomfort.

This is one of many ways that farming can be a source of healing for queer and trans folks. Yet there remains a dominant narrative of queer life: that we leave rural places, where we are not welcome, for cities, where we can find community and ourselves. Certainly, this is the experience of many, but it can come at great spiritual cost, severing relationships to land and place. 

Part of the work of the New Hampshire Queer Farmer Network is to counter this narrative, to build community and affirm the presence of queer farmers, who have always been here, even if many of them were and are too scared to come out. I have talked with farmers from other states who are considering moving to New Hampshire in part because the existence of a network of queer farmers suggests that they may find community and be welcome here.

That welcome is threatened by four pieces of anti-trans legislation that have passed the State House and are now on their way to Governor Sununu’s desk. HB 396, would roll back the 2018 nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public spaces that was signed by Governor Sununu. HB 1205 would ban transgender girls in middle and high school from finding belonging with other girls on girls’ sports teams, with the extreme requirement of being forced to “prove” their gender. HB 1312 would require a two-week notice and opt-out options for LGBTQ curriculum in public school classrooms and define it as “objectionable content.” HB 619 would ban certain healthcare for transgender teen girls, even referrals out of state.

It is imperative to call on the governor to veto these bills! But while the governor has the power to determine if these bills will become law, we the people have the power to shape culture. Our culture and communities are threatened by these pieces of legislation, and we need a cultural and community response.

One place where businesses in the food system can most likely make the greatest difference is in response to HB396, which rolls back protections in public spaces, but has gotten the most attention as the “bathroom bill.” One of the impacts of this is that trans people, as well as anyone who does not fit traditional gender presentations, is vulnerable to state-sanctioned harassment in public facilities. This has a profound impact on both who will want to live and work in New Hampshire and who feels safe traveling through New Hampshire, especially the rural parts of the state. That’s why New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility’s sign-on letter against all anti-LGBTQ bills has received widespread support from across the state. If you have a business, I encourage you to sign on to this letter.

If you have restroom facilities, for the public or for employees, make a public pledge that you will not discriminate around who uses those facilities. In so doing, you communicate to current and potential employees and customers that they are safe and welcome, whatever their gender or gender-presentation. You also communicate to the state government that this bill does not reflect your interests.

The future of farming is queer. According to the 2022 National Young Farmers survey, nearly 25% of farmers under 40 identify with a sexuality other than heterosexual, and we are only beginning to collect useful data around gender identity. In New Hampshire, queer people are leading some of the most innovative farms, businesses, and community building efforts – which support thriving and vibrant communities and ecosystems that benefit all who live, work, and travel here. If you hope for a thriving agricultural future for New Hampshire, it is essential that you support welcome and inclusion on the farm, in the community, and at the State House. Together we can care for a community where people can live free to explore, express, and embrace their true identities.


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