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Sarah McBride is a rising senior at American University, where she studies political science. This past May, she finished her term as president of the student government, and the next day an op-ed she wrote appeared in the AU student newspaper, The Eagle.
Rather than saying goodbye to the student body, McBride used the article to say hello. For the first time, Sarah McBride introduced herself to the student body. You see, for the first 21 years of her life, Sarah was known as "Tim."
"For my entire life, I've wrestled with my gender identity," McBride wrote. "It was only after the experiences of this year that I was able to come to terms with what had been my deepest secret: I'm transgender."
In the article, McBride said that she spent years struggling with her identity and her dream of being a politician. She felt she had to choose one, so she picked the path that seemed easier and less likely to disappoint people.
As student body president, McBride worked to progress the LGBT agenda on campus. She worked within student government to establish gender-neutral housing for first-year students, and helped create an LGBT and queer studies minor. She wrote in the article, "I told myself that if I could make 'Tim' worthwhile for other people by changing the world, that being 'Tim]' would be worthwhile."
Although McBride said her efforts were rewarding, they also highlighted her internal struggle. "By mid-fall, it had gotten to the point where I was living in my own head," she wrote. "With everything I did, from the mundane to the exciting, the only way I was able to enjoy it was if I re-imagined doing it as a girl."
McBride said she was wasting her life pretending to be someone she wasn't. So on Christmas Day she came out to her family, and later shared her secret with close friends and teachers.
"Between winter break and May 1, when I came out in The Eagle, I told about 115 people, most of them peers, some of them former teachers, professors and administrators at AU, and everyone met my news with excitement, happiness, relief, and acceptance," McBride said. "I had everyone who was important to me behind me, and that was important for me to obtain before I built up the confidence to do what I did."
McBride's story and her decision to come out so publicly have been covered by local media, and her op-ed was even re-tweeted by Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation.
Campus Pride's LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index ranks AU as one of the most LGBT-friendly campuses in the United States, and McBride's op-ed has received positive feedback from both students and faculty. McBride said she appreciates the support, but there's still work to be done.
"I don't though want this to be a moment where we pat ourselves on the back and say, 'all right, well I accepted you, Sarah. I'm a trans-ally and we're as good as we could be.' Because there is still so much more that AU can do; there's still so much more that D.C. can do; there's still so much more that college campuses can do, and there's obviously so much more that our nation can do," she said.
McBride said that education, legislation and awareness are key elements of creating a more inclusive and accepting society.
"I think it's in part the Congress and the president making progress and the states making progress, but at the end of the day it's still families realizing that you can't disown your child just because they want to live as themself, just because they want to be happy and feel complete," McBride said.
[Music: "Phone Call" by Jon Brion from Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind]