Transgender History Made at Democratic Convention

Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender person to address a major party convention; party platform includes “transgender” for first time.

By Sheryl Estrada

Sarah McBride

Along with Hillary Clinton making history as the first woman to accept a major party’s presidential nomination on Thursday, LGBTQ rights activist Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender person to address a major party convention.

“My name is Sarah McBride, and I am a transgender American,” McBride said to a thunderous round of applause at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

There were 28 openly transgender Democratic delegates at this year’s convention, andfor the first time the official party platform includes the word”transgender.”

McBride, the 25-year-old national press secretary of the Human Rights Campaign, said she came out as transgender while serving as student body president at American University.During her junior year, McBride came out in a student paper op-ed entitled, “The Real Me.”

A sign for gender neutral bathrooms at the Pennsylvania Convention Center during the Democratic National Convention. Credit: DiversityInc

“At the time, I was scared,” she said. “I worried that my dreams and my identity were mutually exclusive. Since then, I have seen that change is possible.”

McBride said she fell in love with a transgender man, Andy, who was also fighting for equality. When she learned her future husband was battling cancer, McBride said the “struggle for equality became all the more urgent.”

McBride interned at the White House Office of Public Engagement in 2012, making her the first out trans woman to work there. She and Andy married in 2014, but he passed away five days after the wedding, leaving her “profoundly changed.”

“More than anything, his passing taught me that every day matters when it comes to building a world where every person can live their life to the fullest,” she said.

“Today in America, LGBTQ people are targeted by hate that lives in both laws and hearts. Many still struggle just to get by. But I believe tomorrow can be different. Tomorrow, we can be respected and protected.”

North Carolina’s House Bill 2, enacted in March, has caused controversy as it prevents transgender and non-gender-conforming people from using the facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

Related Story: Anti-Transgender Law Violates Civil Rights Act, Says Justice Department

The bill states that public bathrooms are “to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex.” The law defines “biological sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

McBride took a selfie while inside a women’s restroom in North Carolina in March. The image went viral on social media:

Here I am using a women’s restroom in North Carolina that I’m technically barred from being in. They say I’m a pervert. They say I’m a man dressed as a woman. They say I’m a threat to their children. They say I’m confused. They say I’m dangerous. And they say accepting me as the person I have fought my life to be seen as reflects the downfall of a once great nation. I’m just a person. We are all just people. Trying to pee in peace. Trying to live our lives as fully and authentically as possible. Barring me from this restroom doesn’t help anyone. And allowing me to continue to use this bathroom – just without fear of discrimination and harassment – doesn’t hurt anyone. Stop this. We are good people. #repealhb2

A photo posted by Sarah McBride (@sarahemcbride) on

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced the state is leading a coalition of 10 states, and the District of Columbia, in challenging the law.

“The kind of divisiveness and discrimination encouraged by this law directly undermine the core values of this nation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Just as in New York, this country’s strength is found in our diversity and inclusiveness. At a time when so many are seeking to create rifts that separate Americans from one another, it is our responsibility to fight back and do all we can to bring this nation closer together.”

In May, the Department of Justice said in a letter to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the Civil Rights Act.The letter states McCrory and the state of North Carolina are “engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees.”

(Related Premium Content: Ten Ways To Handle Gender Identity in the Workplace.)

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