Thursday, April 23, 2009

A personal validation: New Hampshire sheds its conservative reputation

I must say I was quite shocked to learn last Wednesday night students at Manchester Memorial High School, my alma mater, had chosen two lesbians as best couple for the yearbook. And Erica Morin and Shelby Wozmak suddenly provided the latest example of how my home state continues to shed its conservative reputation.

It is no secret I do not like the Queen City. Even as a teenager I wanted to leave my hometown and see what the rest of the world had to offer. That journey continues nearly five years after I moved to New York, but the current debate on marriage for same-sex couples, transgender rights and other progressive issues in Concord is frankly something I could not have even imagined a decade ago as I sat in class at MMHS.

My classmates routinely subjected their fellow gay students to sustained harassment, taunting and even violence in rare cases. I am ashamed to admit my silence simply enabled those who exhibited their homophobic tendencies to continue to do so. I came out in a small town in the Lakes Region after I completed my freshman year at the University of New Hampshire in 2001, but the legacy of those gay students who faced almost daily harassment in the halls of Memorial remains with me to this day.

One can argue I continue to make a difference through my reporting. I am able to share people's stories with my readers. I am also able to chronicle how a specific place, such as New Hampshire, continues to transform itself into an arguably better state in which its residents can live. And Erica and Shelby's story has proven to this cynical reporter his alma mater has begun to do the right thing and accept those who are different.

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