For 75-year-old Joanne Carroll, serving as a delegate for the 2016 Democratic National Convention is the culmination of years of work — and a passion for politics.
“I was a political-science major and I’m a real political junkie, so this is like filling a bucket-list item for me,” Carroll said.
Carroll has lived in Pennsylvania for about 15 years; she moved here shortly after she transitioned, in 2001.
“I basically suffered in silence for 59 years,” she said about being in the closet as a transgender woman. “I thought it was going to kill me if I didn’t do something so I came out in 2000 and transitioned the next year.”
Carroll spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a master sergeant and earning a number of military accolades. After retiring in 1980, she worked in the hospitality industry for 18 years, working her way up to a general manager.
She now runs a small web-design company and is president of the Transgender Education Association of Central Pennsylvania. The organization, known as TransCentralPA, focuses on advocacy and education about trans issues, as well as provides resources for trans people and their families.
As president, Carroll handles most of the organization’s operations — a feat that entailed her driving 18,000 miles across the state last year from her home near Lancaster.
“We provide caring support trans individuals and their families, friends and allies and also provide education to businesses, schools, anybody we can inform as to what the trans experience is about,” Carroll explained.
When state Rep. Brian Sims contacted her and suggested she pursue becoming a delegate for Hillary Clinton, she said she jumped at the opportunity.
There are expected to be a record number of LGBT delegates this year, about 10 percent of whom are transgender, Carroll noted.
“Having visibility is an important thing,” Carroll said. “There are so many cases with the extreme-right rhetoric where they make it seem like we have horns and tails. Really, we’re just trying to get by and live our lives in the most peaceful way we can. So visibility helps, and so does sharing our stories.”
Carroll said she has a packed week of caucus meetings, social events and convention activities. But she does have one goal that would help round our her bucket list.
“If I can get a selfie with Hillary Clinton, that’d be really wonderful,” she laughed.