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Sarah McBride discusses intersectionality, trans activism and what change she would like to see at AU

Author and AU alumna stressed the importance of inclusivity and student advocacy

Sarah McBride discusses intersectionality, trans activism and what change she would like to see at AU

Author, activist and National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign Sarah McBride (SPA/BA ’13) speaks to students on Sept. 27. She discussed her memoir and life after coming out as transgender while serving as class president of American University.

Sarah McBride, former AU Student Government president and current Human Rights Campaign press secretary, delivered a compelling talk on Sept. 27, discussing her book, “Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality.”

A primary topic that McBride covered in her event was the role of intersectionality and privilege in her activism.

She discussed how people in places of privilege can amplify the voices of marginalized people, but also stressed the importance of not speaking over those with different experiences.

“Sometimes it’s figuring out, ‘OK, this is a situation where clearly I should give up the microphone,’” she said. “And then in other instances it’s recognizing, you know ‘this is a situation where my privilege allows me to bear the burden of public education a bit easier than someone who’s also dealing with a whole host of things that I don’t have to deal with.’”

In addition to highlighting her own activism, McBride spoke of the influences that both her parents and her late husband Andy have had on her life. She described her experience with her parents’ journey from fear to acceptance of her identity.

“It has reinforced for me that evolution is possible, that change is possible and that people really can get there if you work with them,” she said.

Later, McBride spoke of her husband Andy, a fellow activist who passed away in 2014.

“I think he is always that voice in the back of my mind that, you know, when I’m wondering ‘what would Andy do?’ he answers that question, and points me in hopefully the right direction,” she said.

McBride also said she hopes to expand upon his work in striving for universal health care, and that “[her] relationship with Andy underscored for [her] that change really cannot come fast enough.”

Furthermore, McBride addressed the significance of on-campus activism, particularly pertaining to AU. In her time as Student Government president, McBride always encouraged her peers to make the changes on campus that they hoped to see in the country, she said.

“Student activism won’t just end up changing American, it will end up changing America,” McBride said.

Throughout the evening, McBride continually referenced the importance of students staying involved and making changes, referring to not just transgender issues, but also issues that all students faced.

When the question-and answer portion of her talk opened up, The Eagle inquired about how AU’s acceptance and accommodation for transgender students evolved throughout McBride’s time as a student, how it has progressed since she left and what changes she would like to see in the future.

McBride said that in her first few years as a college student, she hardly knew any openly transgender people on campus. Since then, she’s observed that trans students feel safer in AU’s environment. She praised the school’s outward inclusion of transgender people and cited that during her senior year, the school began to allow transition-related medical care in its insurance plan.

However, she also described a variety of changes that she hopes to see in the future, including the university’s need to provide support for students facing family rejection, the creation of more gender-inclusive spaces and the continuation of spreading awareness about trans issues.

Finally, McBride said the University needs to continue discussion around race following recent instances of racial violence on campus, stating that racial justice shares importance with supporting the trans community, particularly for transgender students of color. She praised the steps that University President Sylvia Burwell has taken to make AU a more racially inclusive place, acknowledging that this is a long process and discussions must continue.

Her voice as an unwavering activist stayed strong throughout the presentation, and she stood by the overall message of her book: tomorrow will be different.

“My job is to say now, opponents of equality will say never, and hopefully that means we land on tomorrow,” McBride said.

life@theeagleonline.com


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