As openly gay Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney walked onstage Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention to introduce the first transgender speaker at a political convention, rainbow flags popped up in Utah’s and Montana’s delegation sections.
“It’s a beautiful thing when your country catches up to you,” Maloney said and applauded Sarah McBride, who came out as transgender in the pages of her college newspaper.
The Delaware native delivered a brisk three-minute address, covering Hillary Clinton’s commitment to passing the Equality Act, ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic and combating violence against transgender women of color. It hit the typical policy notes of a Human Rights Campaign speech. McBride serves as national press secretary for the organization. But what struck people most was her personal story.
“So much of what we face in the transgender community is caricature and stereotype,” said Joanne Carroll, a transgender delegate from Lancaster. “Anytime we can move people away from caricature and stereotype, that’s progress. In this particular case, I think people are going to warm to Sarah at least and see she’s a person with deep feelings.”
McBride talked about Andrew Cray, the man she fell in love with. She described him as a transgender man committed to fighting for equality. He died of cancer in 2014.
“Even in the face of terminal illness, he never wavered in believing in our cause and that this country could change,” McBride said.
Four days before Cray died, McBride married him.
“Knowing Andy left me profoundly changed,” she said. “He taught me every day matters. Hillary Clinton understands the urgency of our fight.”
McBride capped a convention full of LGBT speakers like Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, Georgia state legislator Park Cannon and former NBA player Jason Collins. Each of the four nights addressed the community in some way, from paying homage to the victims in the Orlando shooting to condemning conversion therapy and touting the most LGBT-inclusive platform in Democratic Party history.
When McBride concluded her speech, she stepped off stage and passed by the Pennsylvania delegation. Carroll said they hugged and shared a tear. The two met through activist circles. Carroll leads TransCentralPA.
“I remember when she lost Andy,” Carroll said. “They were so cute together. It really was a story of boy meets girl in the best possible way.”
Carroll said she had been talking up McBride all week and Pennsylvania’s LGBT and non-LGBT delegates alike were excited to see her. The people sitting around Carroll fist-bumped her when McBride started speaking.
“She gave a strong speech and was a great introduction [for] the transgender community to a larger audience,” said Alex Reber, an LGBT delegate from Dauphin County.
Dwayne J. Heisler, an LGBT delegate from Columbia County, agreed.
“People fear what they do not understand so her speech is important,” he said.
“I believe her speech is not only historic, it will be inspiring to others and maybe even save the life of a trans person.”