AU alum Sarah McBride reflects on becoming first transgender person to address national convention
McBride speaks to The Eagle about her transition and advocacy work since leaving AU
This year’s Democratic National Convention was significant in more ways than one. Just hours before Hillary Clinton became the first woman to accept a major party’s nomination for president, AU alum Sarah McBride carved out her own place in history, becoming the first openly transgender person to speak at a national political convention on July 28.
McBride’s journey to the convention stage included a term as SG president from 2011-2012. She credits her transition from Tim to Sarah, which she publicly announced in an Eagle op-ed at the end of her presidency, as the beginning of her life as her “authentic self.” Just over four years later, the Democratic LGBT Caucus honored the 25-year-old with a national platform to share her story -- an experience she called a “whirlwind.”
“I was mostly nervous about making sure that I did the transgender community proud, that I did right by them,” McBride told the Eagle on the Monday following her speech. “Obviously, no one trans person is a reflection of an entire community, but I did hope that I represented them well.”
McBride said she aimed to accomplish two goals with her speech: humanize the transgender community and educate the public on “what it’s like to be transgender.” With just one week to prepare, McBride placed her personal story within the broader context of the election, urging viewers to support Clinton’s candidacy for president.
“I wanted to make sure I underscored the humanity of this issue,” McBride said. “I think so often transgender people feel unseen and are treated as though they are unworthy and unvalued.”
McBride began her political career in Delaware. She worked on Gov. Jack Markell’s bid for governor and the late Beau Biden’s two campaigns for attorney general. At the time, she believed that her passion for politics and her gender identity were “mutually exclusive.” This made life as her “authentic self” incompatible with her dreams, something that quickly changed after she came out.
“I think people so often think, ‘oh, well, no one wants to hear from me and my story’ or ‘my voice isn’t important,’’” McBride said on coming out at AU. “But it is, and it really can make a difference.”
She later became the first transgender person to intern at the White House and graduated from the School of Public Affairs in 2013 with a degree in political science. The most emotional moment of her speech, however, wasn’t about her transition, her political career or her internship. It was McBride’s reflection on her marriage to Andrew Cray, a transgender man, in 2014. He died of a terminal illness five days after their wedding. Her Huffington Post essay chronicles her relationship with Cray -- one that she said fuels her advocacy for transgender equality.
“For me, his death really underscored the urgency of this fight,” McBride said. “There’s a whole host of unfinished work for trans people and for LGBTQ people.”
At the age of 25, her passion for politics and her gender identity has merged seamlessly into a nationally recognized persona. She told The Eagle that the media attention hasn’t stopped since the start of the convention -- something she’d never imagined possible just four years ago when she came out at AU.
“I think it has been a testament to how things have changed and the goodness of people that the response of those in the arena and from the audience at home has been overwhelmingly positive,” McBride said.
McBride recently became the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group in D.C. She’s working toward electing Hillary Clinton in November and believes that all universities, like AU, must implement non-discrimination protections to shield transgender students from prejudice.
“We need to push those [schools] forward so that no student fears discrimination or harassment or bullying simply because of who they are,” McBride said.