NH’s James Roesener makes history as 1st openly trans man elected to a US state legislature

  • James Roesener on the steps of the State House on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 as he made history as the first openly trans man elected. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • James Roesener on the steps of the State House on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 after Roesener made history as the first openly trans man elected. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • James Roesener on the steps of the State House on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 as he made history as the first openly trans man elected. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • James Roesener on the steps of the State House on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 as he made history as the first openly trans man elected. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • James Roesener on the steps of the State House on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 as he made history as the first openly trans man elected. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • James Roesener on the steps of the State House on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 as he made history as the first openly trans man elected. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Concord Monitor
Published: 11/10/2022 1:04:08 AM
Modified: 11/10/2022 1:03:42 AM

On Monday, James Roesener was just James, the manager of Thorne’s of Concord, an adult boutique downtown in the capital.

On Tuesday, the 26-year-old became state Rep.-elect James Roesener, propelling him into the spotlight as the first openly transgender man to be elected to a state legislature in U.S. history.

Next year, Roesener will hold two jobs on North Main Street — one inside Representatives Hall at the Statehouse and the other under the iconic orange awning of Thorne’s.

He was driving home from work Tuesday night when a text popped up on his phone, breaking the news that he won his race. Instantaneously, We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister came on the radio, he recalled.

“Now I have a core memory with that — that song is forever going to mean something to me, for better or for worse,” he laughed.

Roesener won the race in Merrimack House District 22, which covers Ward 8 in Concord. He lives in Concord with his wife, whom he met in high school, and his cat, Sparta.

Dennis Soucy, a retired former U.S. Army specialist, ran against Roesener for the seat in the southeast portion of the city that represents part of Loudon Road and the Heights.

This was Roesener’s first political campaign.

When Roesener was in elementary school, he was a staunch animal rights supporter. He was the kid asking for donations for the SPCA at school and around the holidays. He was vegetarian for a while, as well.

Later, he turned his focus to LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and disability policy. Recently, he’s learned more about immigration policy and the plight of those who are incarcerated.

This is all to say that advocacy is not new for Roesener. In fact, in a state that holds the largest elected body in the country, aside from Congress — running for office has often been on his mind.

“I’ve wanted to for a long time, and combined with the rampant onslaught on what I feel like is a myriad of basic human rights, and being in a position in my life where I can dedicate that time, it was kind of a no-brainer to me,” he said.

Roesener’s election comes at a time when transgender rights are under fire across the country. In 2022, a record number of bills filed in state legislatures targeted transgender people, including proposals in New Hampshire.

These legislative efforts are a public attempt to silence transgender people across the nation, Roesener said. With his election, Roesener wants to send a new national message.

“My election, this means saying, ‘We’re not going anywhere,’ ” he said.

Along the campaign trail, Roesener talked to other transgender men who told him they also had thought about running for office. He hopes his election will convince them to do so.

He knows his role as state representative now gives public visibility to transgender rights and also allows him to draw attention to local issues he has watched play out in his hometown.

Roesener came out as transgender after high school. He knew growing up that he felt different, and that many of the things associated with identifying as a girl didn’t click for him. But he did not have the vocabulary to understand what being transgender meant, he said.

His ability to learn more about what transgender meant, and ultimately come out in adulthood, is an opportunity he wants others to have as well.

“I feel like my job now is not only to protect your right to do that as an adult, but to try and make it so that you’re not harassed for being who you are as a child,” he said.

When he thinks of his community in Concord, the Equality Health Center comes to mind. Roesener not only volunteers there, staffing events and helping out where needed, but he also gets hormones from them.

The national debate over reproductive rights hits the Equality Health Center at a local level in Concord. The center faced budget cuts after the Executive Council stripped funding from planning family services in last year’s budget.

This was also a motivation for Roesener to run for office.

“When you threaten this extended family that I have basically with, ‘well you’re going to get in trouble for providing life-saving procedures to people,’ yeah, that gets me a little defensive,” he said.

Overnight Roesener saw his phone blow up with messages from across the nation recognizing the historic nature of his win. His work will start in January, when the legislative session convenes. But part of his job will just be learning by doing and seeing what issues call his attention in the Statehouse.

“I feel like I’m not really going to know exactly where my attention needs to be until I’m in that room,” he said.

But he knows that the debate over parental rights from the previous legislative session is a topic that’s on his mind. He views the proposed bill from the last legislative session, which would have required schools to notify parents of developments with students, specifically pertaining to gender identity, as a vocal deterrent to students identifying as transgender in New Hampshire.

The House narrowly rejected the bill on a 171-176 vote, which signals to Roesener how many legislators actually favored the measure.

“I don’t see that initiative going away anytime soon, which is a big part of why I want to run, because these bills are close. At the end of the day, decisions like that are life and death for some students,” he said. “I’m happy to see that there was as much pushback to it as there was. But with the current time, I’m not here to pretend that this is over by any means.”


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