When Delaware native Sarah McBride was a senior at American University, a friend introduced her to another woman who found her way to Washington from the Northeast.
“Her friend hoped I could give her advice on coming out as a public person,” said Mara Keisling, who moved from Pennsylvania to direct the National Center for Transgender Equality.
By 2013, when McBride was student body president, she had already worked on campaigns for Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Attorney General Beau Biden.
In McBride’s last week as a student, she came out as transgender in the pages of her college newspaper.
“She’s so intelligent and so caring,” Keisling said. “She has a really amazing story to tell and she’s a good, solid speaker.”
On Thursday, McBride will address the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, making her the first transgender speaker at a political convention.
Her resume packs a punch. She came to her position at the Human Rights Campaign after a stint at the Center for American Progress and an internship at the White House.
McBride also served as the primary spokesperson for the successful effort to add gender identity and expression to Delaware’s nondiscrimination and hate-crimes laws, and fought for gender-neutral housing at American University.
Speaking to PGN in 2014, McBride said people often asked her, before she came out, why she worked for LGBT rights.
“There were three answers, but I only gave two,” she said. “that it was the right thing to do…and that I have always been passionate about LGBT issues because my oldest brother is gay. The third was that I was transgender but I didn’t say that…I gave an answer that was so glaringly incomplete.”
After McBride came out, she found love with Andrew Cray, a fellow activist. They married in August 2014, a few days before he died of cancer. Keisling attended the wedding. The two had become good friends by that point.
Keisling said she hoped McBride’s story would touch people.
“This is just one more chance to talk to the American public and say, ‘Hey, we’re just people. We’re part of the fabric of this country.'”
“We always do better when we tell our personal stories,” Keisling added. “That’s what America needs to hear.”
Another Pennsylvanian, Physician General Rachel Levine, said she would be “glued to the television” for McBride’s speech. She met McBride briefly in Washington.
“She’s an absolutely wonderful young lady,” Levine said. “It’s so thrilling she has the opportunity to speak. I think she’ll talk about the importance of treating people equally.”