Insights and Impact

The Great State of Equality


Sarah McBride on stage at the DNC in July 2016
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

"My name is Sarah McBride, and I am a proud transgender American."

With those 12 words, McBride, SPA/BA '13, made history, becoming the first openly transgender speaker at a major political party convention. She delivered her remarks on the final day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia-just hours before another woman made history of her own.

"Despite our progress, so much work remains," said McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. "Will we be a nation where there's only one way to love, one way to look, one way to live? Or, will we be a nation where everyone has the freedom to live openly and equally, a nation that's stronger together?"

In her four minutes at the podium, McBride, 25, advocated for the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex in housing, employment, and public accommodations. Thirty states lack laws protecting LGBT people from employment discrimination.

Among those watching at home was a seven-year-old trans girl, whose mother emailed McBride. "It was life-changing for her to see a beautiful, accomplished, intelligent role model with whom she can identify," the note read. "I'm so grateful that she was given such an important moment at such a young age."

McBride met with the red-headed girl in mid-August, posting a picture of the two of them on Instagram with the hashtag, #girlslikeus.

Party faithful

McBride wasn't the only AU Eagle who graced the convention stage. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and actress America Ferrara-both alumni of the Washington Semester Program-spoke at the Republican and Democratic conventions, respectively.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, SPA/MPP '00, cast five votes for Bernie Sanders and 39 votes for Hillary Clinton in the City of Brotherly Love, and Jelani Freeman, CAS/MA '07, spoke at the DNC about growing up in foster care.