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| Monday, September 1, 2014



Sarah's back: Out of office but still in the spotlight





Sarah McBride is returning to AU after a seven-month gap period. She interned at the Victory Fund Institute, which helps elect LGBT leaders, worked at the White House Office of Public Engagement and even met Vice President Joe Biden. But the biggest change for Sarah on her resume is at the very top, which before last spring read “Tim McBride.”

In an op-ed published in The Eagle in May, McBride announced that she had been struggling with her gender identity throughout her life. She came out to her parents, who at first felt like they were losing their kid.

“You’re not losing Tim, you’re keeping Tim and gaining Sarah,” she told her mom. “My personality is the same, I have the same interests, I just look a little different and I’m happier.”

McBride’s gaze still has the same intense focus and exuberance it did as Student Government president, only now it is framed by silver and cream-colored eye shadow. Sitting in a pair of skinny jeans and caramel riding boots in an SG office, she’s settling back into her element.

“I’m just excited to be a student again and dive into my classes in a way that I wasn’t able to last semester. I’m excited to finally be me and be here,” McBride said.

McBride is now leading from behind as a senator, a lesson she learned at the White House.

With the stress of the SG presidency and coming out gone, McBride said she’ll be able to concentrate more in her classes this semester, which include “Women in Political Leadership” taught by Professor Jennifer Lawless and “Introduction to Queer Studies.”

“For the first time in my life, my mind’s at ease,” McBride said. “I’m so much more productive now, more focused than before.”

Before transitioning, McBride said she thought every hour about her life as a girl. Her internal battle finally came to a head during her tenure as SG president. Tim was discussing the possibility of gender-neutral housing with Assistant Vice President of Housing and Dining Chris Moody, when Moody asked what Tim’s stake was in the issue.

“I gave him an answer that was true, but it was only half-true,” McBride said. “My heart was sinking because I knew that answer was so incomplete and that incompleteness reflected my incompleteness.”

Some trans people have friended McBride on Facebook and confided in her that they have not confessed their identity to spouses or children.

“Their only avenue of being who they are is this pictureless Facebook,” McBride said.

McBride received strong support from the AU community following her coming out, which she credits in part to her position as SG president.

“It is an unfortunately privileged thing to say that I was able to come out, relatively drama-free. That shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a right for all.”

McBride doesn’t see herself as a role model for other trans people. Rather, she admires her family and friends at AU who supported her.

“If America were a little more like American, I feel like people would be a lot more comfortable coming out and it would be a much better world,” McBride said.

Leaving the AU bubble one day will also mean facing less progressive social circles and encountering more sexism. In her time away from AU, Sarah has already experienced some.

“There are things we don’t even realize that we do that are so disempowering toward women,” McBride said. “Things that we classify as compliments that infringe on our most basic right, which is our free space. Those types of things that I never thought about because I was shielded [by] my male privilege.”

There are also bureaucratic barriers for trans students. While McBride changed her student ID at AU, she was only able to do so through AU Central because she had already changed it legally in Delaware.

“Right now the process is you just have to ask them to change your name and you’re at the whim of the registrar,” McBride said. “We have a friendly registrar now, but we need to institutionalize that in the event that we don’t have someone who’s friendly.”

lgiangreco@theeagleonline.com