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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
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Alum Sarah McBride wins another award for LGBT activism

Sarah McBride, a former Student Government President and AU alumnus, received a Next Generation Award by Next Generation Leadership Foundation last month.

McBride never expected her story to receive national attention after she came out in 2012, she said. Her latest award, featured in Metro Weekly, adds to the list of accomplishments she has had since graduating from AU in 2013.

The Next Generation Leadership Foundation “is dedicated to inspiring, nurturing and mentoring LGBT youth and young adults, creating spaces for them to lead in a variety of fields, from business to politics to activism to arts,” according to its website. Each year, the foundation selects a panel of LGBT leaders in the D.C. area.

This panel then chooses four distinct individuals who have made significant contributions or have incredible potential based on their activities to make positive change in the community, according to Sean Bugg, executive director of the Next Generation Leadership Foundation.

“Sarah has already accomplished a lot,” Bugg said. “When I was at Metro Weekly, we were already writing stories about Sarah’s experience at American University as she was making a big impact promoting and making people aware of transgender issues.”

All these initiatives that McBride had put forth aided the panel’s ability in choosing her as a recipient of the foundation’s award. She exemplified what the panel searched for in its selections by contributing to the LGBT community through her activism, Bugg said.

“From my personal perspective and why I’m so glad that she was one of the awardees this year,” Bugg said. “If you listen to her speak and if you listen to the way she talks about issues and if you listen to the hope and optimism that she approaches life with, you understand that she’s going to go a long way.”

McBride’s first public statement as Sarah came in the form of an op-ed for” The Eagle”:, three years before the Next Generation award.

Her op-ed made national news, drawing the attention of venues ranging from The Huffington Post to NPR.

“It was sort of surreal,” she said. “It was surreal having what at one time was my deepest secret, the secret that I couldn’t even admit to myself totally for the longest time, it was surreal to see that on the front page of Huffington Post and to see it on sites across the country.”

Since then, McBride has become a leader in advocating rights for transgender people.

“One of the benefits of that coming out was that people saw my name and people read my story,” she said. “I think that the way that I came out definitely created some opportunities, and I think that it wouldn’t had to the degree that it has if American hadn’t been so supportive and welcoming and made it such a positive experience.”

One of these opportunities included advocating for Senate Bill 97, an initiative for a non-discrimination ordinance in her home state of Delaware.

“I don’t think that I expected to be standing in front of the legislature speaking on a bill on helping to lead an effort on non-discrimination protection just a month after I graduated,” McBride said. “It was my time as [SG] president that showed me how to effectively advocate for ideas and that our best advocacy comes from our hearts and our values and that people respond to that.”

Following McBride’s success with the passing of SB 97, she has gained distinct awards and recognitions. Alongside her Next Generation Award, she placed into the Trans 100 list earlier this year via the Trans 100 Team, a group that seeks to honor individuals in the transgender community who make a significant difference in the lives of transgender people.

She also spoke at The Human Rights Campaign’s national dinner in 2013 where stars and activists such as Jennifer Lopez, the cast of “The Fosters” and AU professor Julian Bond attended.

“It was exciting to share the stage with all of those incredible individuals and to be able to talk about my story and my positive experience at American and the work that I had been doing in Delaware,” she said. “To be able to talk about that in front of four or five thousand people was really a great opportunity.”

Above all else, transgender people are still people, and she wants her audience to know that, McBride said.

“Trans people are complex people with the same feelings, emotions, dreams, aspirations, families and friends that everyone else has,” she said. “And I think that sometimes, as a society, we can tend to dismiss all of the other components, all the other humanity in people who are different than us and narrow in on that one component that is new or different.”

Bearing this message, McBride now works for the Center for American Progress and Equality Delaware. She doesn’t want her work to exclusively focus on transgender issues or even LGBT issues, McBride said. Rather, she wants to continue to help establish the importance of intersectionality, similar to the work she advocated for as SG president.

“I think long term I want to make sure that I’m still giving back to my community, that I’m still trying to do work for not just LGBT people, but for people of every kind of background,” McBride said.

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