Transgender Ethics: Epic Trailblazer Malpractice In New Hampshire

Ex-N.H. state legislator, Stacy Laughton, a.k.a Barry Laughton.

Ex-N.H. state legislator Stacie Laughton, a.k.a  felon Barry Laughton.

Trailblazers have an ethical obligation when they presume to break a social or occupational barrier to a marginalized group’s participation and equal treatment. Simply put, their duty is to make the bias that has created the barrier and necessitated the “trail” look ignorant, cruel, foolish and unfair. A trailblazer does not have to be a shining star, though it helps, but must be capable of at least doing a solid, average, generally acceptable job., even in the grudging judgment of bigots.

This is because a trailblazer who does a poor job or displays character traits that are objectively inadequate for a role model, which a trailblazer inevitably becomes, risks adding to the barrier he or she just breached for those who follow behind them. The ethical requirement for trailblazers is the same as the traditional edict for doctors “First do no harm.” Being a trailblazer, however, is not easy, and since failure is catastrophic for the group a trailblazer represents, there is a duty not to attempt such a high-risk, high-profile cultural role unless the trailblazer is first, reasonably convinced that he or she the resources of talent, ability, fortitude, character and courage to succeed, and second, willing to accept and overcome the added stress of relentless attention and criticism.

There have been excellent trailblazers, cultural heroes all. Jackie Robinson, the first black Major League baseball player to break the color barrier is the template, but there are many other successes: Justice Thurgood Marshall, John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic President of the U.S., Amelia Earhart, Diane Crump, the first female jockey, the late Ed Brooke, the first black U.S. Senator since reconstruction, and too many more to mention. There have also been some miserable failures. The worst trailblazer was probably Shannon Faulkner, who fought in the courts for two years to force The Citadel to accept female cadets, then, after she was victorious, showed up fat and unprepared, and washed out in just one week as millions of dubious vets said, “See? What did we tell you?” Then there was Carol Moseley Braun, the charismatic, promising African-American Democrat whon Illinois voters elected as the nation’s first black female Senator, only to turn out to be thoroughly corrupt.

More recently, we have seen other trailblazers fall short, like Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL.  Is there a celebrity gay marriage that has not ended in a quick divorce? Most have been failures, reinforcing the belief that gays are promiscuous and unsuited for a real marriage. Most vividly of all in the realm of trailblazer malpractice, we are reminded of the disheartening and tragic examples of Barack Obama, and Eric Holder every day.

Still, in the annals of epic trailblazer fiascoes, it would be hard to top the story of Stacie Laughton, New Hampshire’s first openly transgender state legislator, who was elected in 2012 as one of three House members for Ward 4 in Nashua. New Hampshire isn’t Vermont: the state has strong, traditional and conservative leanings, as well a libertarian streak. Laughton’s election was, or should have been, a significant step forward for transgender acceptance, both in New Hampshire and the nation as a whole.

Then it was revealed that in her previous life and gender Stacie had been a convicted felon named Barry C. Laughton Jr., who pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges of fraudulent use of a credit card, conspiracy to commit identity fraud and falsifying physical evidence, and who had yet to pay court ordered restitution of $2000. Laughton had to resign just weeks after her triumph.  That isn’t all, however. Yesterday she was arrested  after admitting to police that she is the person responsible for calling in a hoax bomb threat at a local hospital.

“I have had a mental illness my whole life, and I guess this was my worst break with it. I was untreated for a long time, and I didn’t have medication,” Laughton told the New Hampshire Union Leader, adding she is very remorseful for her actions.That’s nice. It would have been nicer if Laughton had considered her prior record and current maladies before presuming to be a trailblazer and role model for transgender individuals, who are under particular scrutiny these days. If she had not allowed herself to be thrust into the spotlight, her problems would be barely newsworthy. Now they are just one more obstacle to overcome by a group that has too many of them already. When a bigot says, “Come on! You know you can’t trust those people! They’re unstable!,” Laughton’s irresponsible trailblazer malpractice has provided all the proof he needs.

14 thoughts on “Transgender Ethics: Epic Trailblazer Malpractice In New Hampshire

  1. Where do you find these stories? I just did a Google Search because I wanted to see if the reactions from left and right leaning media was terribly different, and there’s an item on Patch.com, and some Huffpo garbage from 2012 treating her like a victim for being caught.

    As an aside, that was a special brand of garbage. She lied to the electorate. It’s not her fault we didn’t investigate close enough? Those charges were irrelevant? How do you spin it to make her a victim?

    • Where do I find these stories?

      1. Everything looks like an ethics story to me.
      2. I have about 20 sites I check that cover the field.
      3. There are several readers who are kind enough to send me stuff daily, and I don’t know where THEY find the stories.

  2. I saw that story earlier today and posted it. When an obviously deranged person runs for office and you elect him/her/it, don’t be surprised to learn that this person has done deranged things previously… and will likely continue to. Just a simple exercise in logic.

  3. Celebrity gay marriages are not trailblazers analogous to the gay marriages in the rest of society.

    They are analogous to celebrity marriages. In which case they are par for course.

    How did the first gay marriage end up? That’s the trailblazer…

    • “How did the first gay marriage end up?” Turns out to be not a useful point of reference. It seems that the first gay marriages are extremely stable — no more than could be expected when most of them were between couples who had already survived years, if not decades, of togetherness as family, with or without civil ceremony. The current gay rate of wedlock is doing better than straight (annual same-sex divorce rate at 1% and 2%, respectively) but is expected to level off at about the same rate eventually, or so says the American Psychological Association, at 40-50% for (first) divorces. The surprising statistic (and this goes for all countries where same-sex espousal is current) is that marriages between gay men are about twice as tight as those between lesbians.

      Huff Post had an updated run-down on the state of such unions last year : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frederick-hertz/divorce-marriage-rates-fo_b_1085024.html
      and more numbers, without comment, at:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_of_same-sex_couples

      As far as celebrity weddings or celebrity anythings go in terms of blazing a trail anyone with half a brain would follow … a quién le importa.

      • It has to have an impact. It doesn’t matter, culturally speaking, if Mr. and Mr. average, tax-paying gay couple are happily married, adopt kids, become grandparents, and all is like Father Knows Best. An absurd number of Americans think they have never met a gay couple or even a gay American, know “THEM” purely from TV, Dan Savage rants and dire Rick Santorum predictions, think them freaks of nature incapable of love or commitment, and believe them to be unworthy of and disqualified from “real” marriage.

        Celebrities have a huge role to play in such cultural tipping points. Hell, they blazed the way to people shrugging off having children out of wedlock, greatly accelerating that suicidal social norm for those not having annual income over 10 million a year. I can name quite a few high profile same sex marriages that crashed and burned in public: two with Ellen de Generis, Rosie O’Donnell, Melissa Etheridge. The only one that has the FKB vibe is Elton John’s, and he was really past current celebrity status by the time he was married. I agree: celebrity marriages are all unstable, and same sex marriages follow the same pattern in that group. But if those are the only same sex marriages you’re aware of, you will respond with “See???”

  4. One of your better posts, Jack. I think you covered all the bases.

    Now if we could only choose our trailblazers, rather than having to accept those we’re given by circumstance. Many of whom have feet of clay.

    In some ways it’s unfair to set too high standards – but convictions for fraud, making bomb threats etc because of psychosis is pretty bad even for a politician.

    That she got pre-selection, and then election, says a lot about the lack of even the most basic vetting of candidates, That problem’s rather bigger than just the issue of imperfect trailblazers.

    This issue *should* have been publicised, trans status or no.

  5. You forgot to mention that she also managed to further stigmatize mental illness on her way down. This post describes exactly why I held out hope that, despite my misgivings, Obama would turn out to be a good president. It’s seemed ironic to me that most blacks give him their blind allegiance after betraying them in this manner. They, in turn, compound the injury by failing to even recognize or acknowledge it as such.

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