DERRY, Nh. – A New Hampshire state Representative may have made false and defamatory claims about two drag queens when speaking at a committee hearing in support of his bill requiring public libraries to vet employees and volunteers with background checks to protect children.
During Feb. 10 House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing for the legislation, H.B. 1529-FN, Rep. David Love (R-Derry) said he “decided to go forward with this bill as a result of a ‘drag queen story hour,’ they called it.”
Love alleged that Michael McMahon, who goes by Clara Divine in drag, performed inappropriately in front of children at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, New Hampshire, last June. The event was initially supposed to occur at a public library, then a park, but “outrage” caused moved the event to the private venue.
“This individual was dancing with kids, rubbing butts, just really going way too far, and there was never a background check done on him,” said Love, who did not attend the event.
However, McMahon told the Manchester Ink Link, none of that happened.
“I had over 500 people in attendance and they can all vouch that none of those things happened,” McMahon said. “Literally, he’s making up something. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Republican Derry Town Councilor Jim Morgan, a gay man, wrote a letter to the committee, refuting Love’s claims.
“I find it distasteful that an elected member of the House would blatantly lie to the committee to provide a sense of reason to pass such a flawed bill,” Morgan wrote, according to the publication.
Another Derry Town Councilor, Joshua Bourdon, said he and his wife and children attended the show, calling it a positive experience with no inappropriate behavior.
“I was disappointed to hear that Rep. Love lied to his peers,” Bourdon said, according to the Ink Link. “Nothing like that was there.”
The owner of Tupelo Music Hall also spoke to the online news site, denying that McMahon performed inappropriately and suggesting that “maybe David should go to some of these shows, and learn something about love and inclusion.”
During the hearing, Love also said he heard of a similar drag story hour at a public library in Nashua, New Hampshire, at a public library. He said it was later alleged that the drag queen at the show, Monique Toosoon, “was a convicted sex offender.”
But Robert Champion, who performs as Monique Toosoon, completely denies the claims.
“I’ve been in the public eye for probably 20 years for being a drag queen, and I have never ever been accused of being a sex offender,” Champion told the publication, adding that he wouldn’t have been able to complete an adoption in 2019 if he was a registered sex offender.
Both Champion and McMahon are seeking legal counsel about the potentially defamatory claims, according to the publication.
Love told the Ink Link that constituents told him about McMahon “rubbing butts” with children and said he remembers reading about Champion in a newspaper.
“I don’t know if it was a Boston Herald or the Union Leader or what,” Love said. “I’ve done more research on that and haven’t found it.”
But he still doesn’t think drag is appropriate for children.
“All things aside, it’s adult entertainment. … I don’t know why we’re going to this extreme, societally-wise. But to me it’s not right,” Love said. “If you want to do it as adult entertainment, have at it. But for kids, leave it alone.”
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New Hampshire council moves to ban all art after LGBTQ mural
Town board has also taken aim at local theatre company production of La Cage Aux Folles, the 1983 Tony Award-winning musical
By Rob Salerno | LITTLETON, N.H. – Picturesque Littleton, New Hampshire frequently ranks near the top of lists of the best or most quintessential small towns in America, thanks to its bustling main street, fine dining options, and local arts scene.
But the anti-LGBTQ animus of the town’s small Board of Selectmen is threatening to destroy that hard-won reputation, and it’s all because of a small mural celebrating diversity installed on the side of a Chinese restaurant.
This summer, North Country Pride, which hosts an annual Pride Festival in the town, collaborated with local artists and the United Way to install the murals. While the artwork generated mostly positive feedback from the community, they have led the three-person board to consider banning all public art.
“Are we the county in Footloose?” says Kerri Harrington, one of the organizers of North Country Pride. “It’s frightening and kind of humorous.”
Board member Carrie Gendreau, a conservative Republican who is also a state Senator, first complained about the murals at a town board meeting in August. Gendreau elaborated to The Boston Globe that she believes “homosexuality is an abomination” and explained that she follows to the writings of doomsday cultist Jonathan Cahn.
Among Cahn’s fringe theories is a belief that rainbows are demonic symbols that power the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, who wants vengeance on Christianity for marginalizing her.
The board, which leans conservative even though the town voted nearly 50-50 Biden-Trump in 2020, wanted to ban all LGBT art, but found that there wasn’t a way they could do that without running afoul of anti-discrimination and free speech laws. So instead, the board announced they would consider banning all art in public places.
As soon as the bans were floated, Harrington says she contacted the ACLU of New Hampshire, which is now monitoring the town in case the ban is put into law.
The proposal has understandably created tension and division in the small town. The September meeting where the ban proposal was first discussed drew 300 people – from a town of just over 6000 – to speak against it.
Although the ban has not advanced, Harrington says groups opposed to it are ensuring that 25 to 30 people attend all monthly town board meetings to ensure that board doesn’t try to introduce it without notice.
“People are upset,” Harrington says. “People are starting to say, ‘Well, I don’t want to visit your town.’”
The murals aren’t the only queer art in the town board’s sights.
A local production of the classic gay musical La Cage Aux Folles in the town Opera House has also been the target of attempted censorship by the town board.
The 1983 Tony Award-winning musical by Jerry Harmon and Harvey Fierstein tells the story of a gay couple who own a drag nightclub and try to pretend to a be a straight couple when their son becomes engaged to the daughter of a conservative politician. It was adapted into the 1996 film The Birdcage.
Theatre UP President Courtney Vashaw says the company was inspired to put on La Cage after far-right protestors disrupted a drag queen story hour at the local library.
“It was very ugly. White supremacists were getting involved, 80-year-old librarians were being threatened in their homes. We thought, how can we bring voice to this issue in a way that was palatable to the North Country public?” Vashaw says.
Vashaw says the company was told the board wanted to cancel the production, but it was unable to do so because the company had a contract with the town-owned Opera House. But the city general manager has told them that the board may block the company’s contract when it comes up for renewal in May.
“When we first heard that Carrie [Gendreau] was speaking out about the LGBTQ artwork, we knew that it was also about us. The fact that it was still part of the conversation was kind of gut-wrenching,” she says.
The town board’s antipathy to the company may also directly cause Littleton to lose a multi-million-dollar infrastructure investment. The company has secured grants and donations to build a new home, but is now reluctant to go ahead in Littleton.
“We have millions of dollars that we are looking to invest in a community performing space. Right now, there’s no way we’re making a commitment to partner with the town of Littleton,” Vashaw says.
Despite the threats from the city, the company pressed ahead with its show, which opened last Friday.
“We didn’t know what to expect going in. We had police presence in case things got weird, but the outpouring of love and support was absolutely magnificent,” she says.
Vashaw says that the controversy has actually helped drive attention to the theatre, with the first three shows being completely full houses – a rarity for most small-town theatres.
“This whole crazy issue has been both a blessing and a curse. It has brought people to the theatre that we don’t know if we would have gotten otherwise,” she says. “That’s what makes it worth doing a show to begin with – to get texts and emails from people about how they felt seen and they cried five times because they could relate to the songs so well.”
Whatever the town board does, residents will get to weigh in soon. Gendreau is up for reelection to the town board in March and to the New Hampshire senate next November.
“I’m hopeful that more level heads will prevail, and some good candidates will show up that will be a better fit for our communities,” Varshaw says.
As for the murals, Harrington says she’s not afraid the town is going to be able to stop public art.
“There’s plans for lots more art. No one’s going anywhere,” she says.
Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.
Trans-youth leaps to death off overpass in New Hampshire
Multiple sources alleged that bullying/transphobia factored into the death although the Blade has been unable to verify any of those claims
MANCHESTER, N.H. – A 14-year-old trans youth left his school, walked down Huse Road to the overpass on top of busy Interstate 293, climbed the 6 foot chain-link fence installed by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to prevent people falling off the older bridge and its low siderails, and lept into eastbound traffic.
A spokesperson for the Rainbow Youth Project confirmed in a phone call Monday that Nova Dunn, a student at Southside Middle School, died as a result of suicide. The New Hampshire State Police while not commenting, citing an ongoing investigation, confirmed the incident and the resulting “hours-long traffic jam at the location” just east of the Mall of New Hampshire.
A friend of the family, Stacey Greenberg, wrote in the GoFundMe post to raise the funds to defray the cost of the funeral:
“Hello, this is Stacey a friend of Melissa and Mom to one of Nova’s close friends. No one should have to outlive their child but Melissa has now experienced this twice. On Wednesday afternoon, 14 year old Nova left this earth and found the peace and acceptance he was searching for.”
The New Hampshire Union Leader reported that Manchester School District Superintendent Jenn Gillis sent an email to district families Wednesday night that said in part: “It is with deep sadness that we inform you that one of our students has died unexpectedly.”
Gillis wrote that: “This loss may raise many emotions, concerns, and questions for our entire school community, especially our students.”
Manchester School District spokesperson Andrew Toland, in a press statement, noted that counselors from other Manchester area schools and the state’s Disaster Behavior Health Response Team spent Thursday at the school “directly impacted” by the death.
“Our focus in the coming days and weeks is to be supportive of our students, families and staff,” said Toland.
Multiple sources alleged that bullying and transphobia factored into the death of the teen, although the Blade has been unable to verify any of those claims.
In the past few months there has been considerable attention focused on trans-youth nationally, particularly around school policies regarding trans youth health care and gender identity. Last month, New Hampshire Public radio reported that the New Hampshire Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought by a Manchester parent challenging school policies around transgender and nonbinary students.
The parent says she was kept in the dark when her child began using a different name and identifying as a different gender at school — something the parent objected to, NHPR reported.
At issue is a district policy that says Manchester school staff generally shouldn’t disclose when a student identifies as transgender or gender nonconforming, without that student’s permission.
New Hampshire Republican lawmakers are rallying behind legislation that would force schools to disclose a student’s gender identity to parents when asked. The House narrowly rejected one such proposal last month, but another remains on the table after passing the Senate along party lines.
In an interview on Rated LGBT Radio with Rob Watson this past week, Lance Preston, Founder and Executive Director of the Rainbow Youth Project USA, noted that the toxic legislative atmosphere had tripled calls for assistance to the RYP’s crisis counselors, as nearly 18 states have banned trans youth gender-affirming therapy for minors, and have also passed laws the forbid discussion of LGBTQ+ issues, history, and people in classrooms.
Preston also pointed out that more than a half dozen states enacting measures, like New Hampshire’s proposed disclosure of a youth’s gender to parents, in cases of non-affirming households specifically places those youth at risk for suicide or leaving, oft times ending up living homeless on the streets.
At the beginning of this month, the nation’s leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth, The Trevor Project, released the results of its latest survey of queer young people ages 13 to 24.
The survey of 28K youth nationwide, conducted last fall, underscores the negative mental health impact of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and policies. Among the key findings:
- 41% of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year — and those who are transgender, nonbinary, and/or people of color reported higher rates than their peers.
- 56% who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it.
- LGBTQ+ young people who had access to affirming homes, schools, community events, and online spaces reported lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who did not.
- Transgender and nonbinary young people reported lower rates of attempting suicide when all of the people they live with respected their pronouns and/or they had access to a gender-neutral bathroom at school.
- LGBTQ+ young people who experienced victimization because of their orientation or identity — including being physically threatened or harmed, discriminated against, or subjected to conversion therapy — reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not have any of these anti-LGBTQ+ experiences.
- Nearly 2 in 3 LGBTQ+ young people said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ+ people at school — also known as “Don’t Say Trans or Gay” laws — negatively impacted their mental health.
Link to the GoFundMe campaign to assist the family is here: (Nova Dunn)
Anti-LGBTQ student group threatening legal action at UNH Law
A spokesperson for UNH denied any allegations of discrimination, and said that the application is being reviewed
CONCORD – A Christian student group opposed to same-sex marriage, abortion and the rights of transgender people is threatening legal action after the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law student governing body failed to act on its petition to form its inaugural chapter at the university.
New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR) correspondent Todd Bookman reported that the Free Exercise Coalition is an organization with the stated mission to “equip religious students in their free exercise of religion,” according to paperwork filed with the school.
Student board members of the group pledge to uphold “Judeo-Christian” religious traditions and beliefs, as well as oppose gay marriage, abortion and transgender people.
“Too often, students hide their religious beliefs in the closet,” the group says on its website. “It is becoming ever more counter-cultural to express them, and classrooms and cohorts have become less and less tolerant of such beliefs.”
The group alleges that after submitting an application in November, the UNH Law Student Bar Association “unnecessarily delayed its formal recognition and that a proposed faculty advisor for the group withdrew his support after facing pressure.”
NHPR also reported that the First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit Christian conservative legal organization based in Plano, Texas that advocates for religious freedom is representing the anti-LGBTQ Free Exercise Coalition , sent a letter to the university threatening legal action if the Student Bar Association didn’t act swiftly and approve the pending recognition.
“Rarely, if ever, has a student organization been more aptly named or, as the actions of your students and faculty make clear, needed at UNH Law,” Jeremy Dys, an attorney for First Liberty, wrote in a letter to the school.
A spokesperson for UNH denied any allegations of discrimination, and said that the application is being reviewed “under the same protocol and standard as applied to other student groups.” The university noted that students recently completed final exams, and are now on semester break.
The anti-LGBTQ group is the second Christian group to make an application. According to NHPR, the UNH Law Student Bar Association a granted recognition to the Christian Legal Society after receiving advice from the university system’s legal counsel.
That group also has a doctrine of opposing same-sex marriage and also is conflicting with the law school’s stated positions on diversity, equity and inclusion.
“You essentially have to sign a statement of faith that promotes homophobia and transphobia” to be a board member of the coalition, said Taylor Largmann, president of the campus’s chapter of the Lambda student group, which advocates for LGBTQ students. “That does not reflect UNH Law’s values. At least, I would hope not.”
UNH Law currently recognizes more than two dozen student groups, including the Women’s Law Student Association; groups for Black, Hispanic and Asian students; and groups that organize recreational outings. A photography club recently applied for membership.
New Hampshire’s Republican Governor to veto “Don’t Say Gay” bill
“This bill is antithetical to all the work we have done to ensure individuals in the LGBT community can live a life free from discrimination”
CONCORD – New Hampshire’s Republican Governor Chris Sununu announced Thursday that he will veto HB 1431, titled as the “Parental Bill of Rights,” legislation that would force school officials and faculty to take on the role of outing students to their families.
“This bill as written creates numerous challenges for kids,” the governor said. “I share the concerns of the attorney general and, as such, will veto the bill if it reaches my desk.”
The bill had undergone several changes with a final amended version working through both chambers pushed by Republican leadership.
The New Hampshire Bulletin reported Thursday that the bill has been opposed by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, LGBTQ+ rights groups, civil rights advocates, and teachers unions, who noted that the legislation would require schools to “out” trans students to their parents. They argued that doing so could be dangerous for some students and might discourage others from seeking help at school.
Sununu says he will veto bill critics say would force schools to out LGBT children https://t.co/iRGeXvFNTr— WMUR TV (@WMUR9) May 19, 2022
In interviews with Manchester’s ABC News affiliate WMUR-TV 9, supporters claimed it would allow parents to be more involved with their children’s school lives.
“They don’t know my child like I do,” said state Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown. “I’m the one responsible for them. The child doesn’t have capacity on his own to give up whether or not he’s going to get certain medical treatment. I want to know what’s going on in my kid’s life.”
“So, there are a lot of cases where things are going on in a school system, and the parents are never informed, and this will allow for notification to the parents, and there’s a long list of things that would be notified – everything from bullying to failing grades,” said JR Hoell, treasurer of Rebuild NH, a group that organized around opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and ally lawmakers decry the measure WMUR reported:
Opponents are blasting the bill, saying it would mean that if a student joins a specific club or confides in an adviser or teacher, schools would then inform parents, essentially outing gay, lesbian and transgender students.
“This bill is antithetical to all the work we have done in the state to ensure that individuals in the LGBT community can live a life free from discrimination,” said state Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton.
“It’s totally inappropriate for school officials to take on the role of outing students to their families, and coming out should always be an intimate moment within a family, not a clumsy event,” said Chris Erchull, of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.
Last December a diverse group of educators, advocacy groups, and law firms filed a federal lawsuit challenging a New Hampshire classroom censorship law, contained within state budget bill HB2, which discourages public school teachers from teaching and talking about race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity in the classroom.
“This unconstitutionally vague law disallows students from receiving the inclusive, complete education they deserve, and from having important conversations on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the classroom,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire at the time of the lawsuit. “It is an attack on educators who are simply doing their job. Just four months into the school year, teachers are reporting being afraid to teach under this law for fear of being taken to court. This law, through vagueness and fear, erases the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black and Brown people, women and girls, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.”
Bill to stop ‘gay panic defense’ clears New Hampshire House
New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of ‘gay panic’ as a defense
CONCORD – Legislation prohibiting defendants accused of manslaughter from using the victim’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense, which had died in committee during the 2021 regular session of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, was reintroduced this session and passed with a 223-118 vote last week.
House Bill 238, stirred up controversary from opponents who claimed that state statues already covered murder and manslaughter. During a Criminal Justice committee hearing last Spring, Rep. Dick Marston, a Manchester Republican, voiced opposition, saying that the laws already cover murder and manslaughter and that “there’s no way in heck that you’re going to be able to say ‘Well because he or she was some deviant sexuality that I’m not–‘”
Marston was cut off by committee chairman Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, who gaveled him down and rebuked him for the derogatory language the Concord-Monitor reported.
Later, the committee Republicans blocked an effort to move the bill out of committee alleging it needed more work and was not necessary because a jury could already strike down a similar attempted defense. The bill was then stalled in the committee, effectively killing it from being pushed further in last year’s session.
As the measure now heads to the state Senate, New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of the ‘gay panic’ as a defense.
Right-wing group offers ‘bounty’ on public school teachers in Granite State
“Live free or die” has given way to “shut up or else.” New Hampshire lets public turn in teachers for violation of its new anti-divisive law
CONCORD – The Florida-based Moms for Liberty, a nonprofit claiming to advocate for “parental rights,” which has been working to advance a far-right agenda of banning the instruction of ‘Critical Race Theory’ and gender studies- which includes transgender people, is offering a cash bounty to parents or others who turn in public school teachers for violation of New Hampshire’s new anti-divisive subject matter law.
Peter Greene, a retired high school English teacher and senior contributor to Forbes magazine writes; “Live free or die” has given way to “shut up or else.” New Hampshire has set up a system for letting the public turn in public school teachers for violation of its new anti-divisive subject matter law, and Moms for Liberty have offered a cash reward to parents who use it.”
The Republican controlled legislature had inserted language into the state’s annual budget legislation earlier this year that forbids the teaching of “divisive concepts” related to race and gender. Critics of the bill charge that the language used in the measure is vague, with some questioning its constitutionality.
The Washington Post reported that after the Republican Governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, signed the measure nearly three-quarters of his diversity council quit.
We’ve got $500 for the person that first successfully catches a public school teacher breaking this law.— Moms for Liberty NH (@Moms4LibertyNH) November 12, 2021
Students, parents, teachers, school staff… We want to know! We will pledge anonymity if you want. https://t.co/hA7fqvj62u
Additionally the state has now set up a website to let parents and students to turn in teachers that they believe have violated the law. Students and parents may fill out this form, a questionnaire that can be submitted to the state. There’s a space to describe “what action was taken against you that you believe to be discriminatory” which can include any differentiation in privileges, discipline, harassment, or retaliation. It asks the parent if they have filed a complaint with the court of the Department of Education, and gives the option of giving race and national origin of the complainant Forbes notes.
New Hampshire’s DMV removes barriers to updating gender markers
New Hampshire’s State Legislature in 2019 passed the new law allowing an option for the gender marker “x” on government-issued IDs
By Tat Bellamy-Walker | CONCORD – The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is finally recognizing an existing law that allows transgender and non-binary individuals to update the gender marker on IDs without presenting a doctor’s letter.
New Hampshire’s State Legislature in 2019 passed the new law allowing an option for the gender marker “x” on government-issued IDs, and last year the law went into effect. Nowhere in the law did it point to a requirement for medical documentation, but the DMV still required it — at least until now.
A Granite University student named Rho said they previously tried updating their legal sex to “X” but were told they needed a doctor’s letter to affirm their gender identity. Rho informed GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), an LGBTQ legal group, and they brought the issue to the attention of New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella. The DMV went on to update its website to allow folks to update their gender marker on their own.
Rho said they hoped correcting their state ID would help them build community with others and avoid transphobia in the workplace. Rho also emphasized that it’s critical for them to have “a legitimate document that accurately expresses” their gender.
“As someone who is non-binary, Indigenous, and a person of color, I felt I had to stand up for all my identities,” Rho said. “Acknowledging our name and identity is a human right. It’s a means of respecting one another.”
Rho also highlighted the impact that the change could have on non-binary individuals across the state.
“I’m happy this is happening in my life,” Rho said. “But I’m really happy it’s helping other non-binary young people to be respected Americans, because it’s our birth right to be free.”
Rho’s lawyer, Andru Volinsky of 160 Law, PLLC, in Concord, New Hampshire, noted that the former policy made it difficult for non-binary and trans people to access a legal gender marker change.
“My client, Rho, simply wanted a New Hampshire state ID that accurately reflects their non-binary gender,” Volinsky said in a written statement. “Being asked for a signature from a medical provider didn’t make sense and added unnecessary stress to what should have been a straightforward process. The requirement also penalizes individuals with less access to medical resources, exacerbating an already inequitable situation. I was glad to be able to assist Rho in advocating for this change that will allow them and other non-binary residents in New Hampshire to have accurate identification.”
In defending Rho’s case, legal advocates praised local government leaders for acting on the issue.
“We were pleased to see that once the issue was brought to their attention, the attorney general’s office and the Division of Motor Vehicles recognized that the health care attestation form was unnecessary and removed that form from use for any new or corrected driver’s license or state ID,” Chris Erchull, a lawyer at GLAD, said in a written statement.
This year, New York state enacted the Gender Recognition Act, which allows LGBTQ folks to update their state IDs with the gender marker “X.” The law stipulates that trans and non-binary people are not required to present a doctor’s note when updating their legal gender marker and waives a rule requiring individuals to publish their name change in a paper.
Tat Bellamy – Walker is Gay City News’ digital editor
The preceding article was originally published by Gay City News and is republished by permission.
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