The big “first” of this week’s Democratic National Convention is, of course, the nomination of a woman for the office of president of the United States. But a close runner-up took place on Thursday with the appearance of Sarah McBride on the Philadelphia stage. McBride is the national press secretary for the LGBTQ advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign, and, at 25, she’s already made a name for herself in Washington as a fighter for progressive causes. She’s also transgender, and her address marks the first time a trans American has addressed a national major party convention.
McBride, who was introduced by openly gay New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney in an LGBTQ-focused segment of the program, began her speech with a declaration: “I am a proud transgender American.” From there, she acknowleged the rapid change that has been achieved on certain queer issues in recent years, but reminded viewers that we’re not done:
But despite our progress, so much work remains. Will we be a nation where there is only one way to love, only one way to look, and only one way to live? Or will we be a nation where everyone has the freedom to live live freely and openly? A nation that’s stronger together? That is the question in this election.
McBride then made the stakes personal, recounting the story of her late husband Andrew, a transgender man and activist who passed away from terminal cancer shortly after their wedding. “Knowing Andy left me profoundly changed,” she said. “But more than anything else, 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. Hillary Clinton understand the urgency of our fight.”
On the importance of making the speech, for which she received an invitation from the Democratic LGBT Caucus, McBride said in an HRC statement earlier this week that her goal was to promote understanding around queer issues: “People must understand that even as we face daily harassment, tragic violence, and an onslaught of anti-LGBTQ political attacks across the country, we are real people merely seeking to be treated with the dignity and respect every person deserves. I’m so proud to stand with the LGBT Caucus and speak out in support of Hillary Clinton, because we know she stands with us.”
McBride joins more than two dozen self-identifying transgender delegates at the DNC, marking it as presumably the most trans-inclusive official political event in American history. And her own firsts don’t stop with her address. A Time profile of McBride reveals that, after coming out as trans during college, she took an internship at the White House—a role that she believes made her the first openly trans woman to work there. She’s also been vocal in the fight against North Carolina’s transphobic HB2 “bathroom law”; her protest photo in an NC women’s room ably demonstrated the bigotry and illogic at the heart such measures and subsequently went viral.
Firsts may be exciting, but for McBride, the real purpose of her appearance is to extend a bit of inspiration to those who are not in the stadium. As she put it in an interview with Time: “[M]y hope is that for anyone who is watching, who worries that their dreams and their identity are mutually exclusive, who worry about whether they can be accepted and succeed as who they are, that they can find some comfort and some hope in the fact that a person will be standing on that stage saying those words.”