I Always Had a Team by My Side: Mason Dunn
Mason Dunn is a recent graduate of UNH School of Law. His passion is civil rights law; he would like to be an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. But he’s also looking forward to teaching a course this fall at UNH Manchester on LGBT images and perspectives in the media.
“Education is my other passion,” says Mason, an adjunct faculty member. “I’d really love to be an educator as well as a lawyer.”
Mason lives in Hooksett with his wife of four years, Lauren Willford, a sign language interpreter for a local school district. “I hate to use the word ‘traditional,’” he says, “but we’re very much an average married couple.” Their Jewish faith is an important part of their life together, and they will soon be members of a synagogue in Concord. “The rabbi there is phenomenal and the entire community are really just good people,” Mason explains. “We’re really looking forward to getting more involved.”
Mason came out as transgender around 2004 and spent the next several years exploring his more masculine gender identity. “I didn’t want to be rushed into one box or the other,” he says. After several years of “straddling the gender line,” in 2011 Mason began the process of transitioning to live his life as a male, including seeking medical treatment to give him more male attributes.
Lauren’s loving support was critical in what Mason calls his “journey through gender.” It was something they discussed openly as he grappled with the difficult decision of whether or not to undergo gender transition.
“We approached this as a team, and I never felt alone because of that,” he adds. “I know a lot of transgender people feel very alone in their transition but I have been blessed because I always had a team by my side with my wife.”
While his life has improved because of his gender transition, he still faces difficulties in New Hampshire. For instance, at the time of this writing Mason cannot legally change the gender marker on his driver’s license—his primary form of identification—from female to male, which forces him to come out as transgender every time he must show identification, potentially exposing him to discrimination and even violence.
Mason is also concerned that there is a great deal of ignorance in New Hampshire about the transgender community. “People don’t really know about trans identity,” he says, adding that that’s true “in the medical community, in the psychiatric community and sometimes in the legal community as well.”
Yet Mason remains hopeful that with education, greater acceptance will come. “I don’t see it as hatred so much as a lack of understanding,” he says, “and, given the opportunity, if people learn more about trans identities, specifically in the state of New Hampshire, I think that will change.”