One Woman's Life After Coming Out As Transgender (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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One Woman's Life After Coming Out As Transgender

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
And now the story of another Sarah we've featured on the show, Sarah McBride. When we met her a year and a half ago, she was a rising senior at American University and she was finishing her term as the school's student body president. She sent herself off with an Op-Ed in school's newspaper. She titled it, "The Real Me," and in that piece Sarah publicly came out as transgender. Until then she had been known as Tim and had spent years wrestling with who she really was and how she thought it might affect her dream of becoming a politician.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:31
Lauren Landau caught up with Sarah to see how she's doing now.

MS. LAUREN LANDAU

00:00:42
Back in October, Sarah McBride stepped onto the stage at the 17th annual Human Rights Campaign national dinner. Radiating confidence in a floor-length black evening gown, she stood before the podium with her big brother Sean, as the siblings shared their family's story.

MS. SARAH MCBRIDE

00:00:57
And I consider myself very fortunate to have the life that I do, but it hasn't always been that way. I remember when I was a child, lying in my bed at night, praying that I would wake up the next day and be a girl, have my closet filled with girl's clothes and just wanting my parents to be proud of me. I remember looking in the mirror and struggling to say just two words, I'm transgender.

LANDAU

00:01:26
But on Christmas Day in 2011, she gathered the courage to tell her family what she had been hiding her entire life.

MCBRIDE

00:01:33
I think for me, with regard to my parents, my biggest fear was not that they would reject me but that I would disappoint them.

LANDAU

00:01:40
Despite that initial anxiety, Sarah says she knew her family would continue to love and support her. But she wasn't so sure about her friends and colleagues.

MCBRIDE

00:01:49
I didn't come out for 21 years because I thought that everything I wanted to do with my life, have a family, get a great job, make a change in this world, that the moment I came out, that I would not be able to do any of those things.

LANDAU

00:02:02
But Sarah says that hasn't been the case. Last fall, she made history when she became the first-ever transgender woman to work in the White House. Through her internship in the Office of Public Engagement, she was able to work on LGBT issues, an experience she says was among the most inspiring several months of her life.

MCBRIDE

00:02:20
Having the White House say not only are you a person who needs to be respected and treated fairly, not only do you deserve equal rights, but we view you as a peer in a way that we're going to invite you into our doors and have you work here.

LANDAU

00:02:34
But she didn't stop there. A proud Delawarean, Sarah is fiercely loyal to the First State. She says she's always planned on raising a family and growing old where she grew up, so when she learned that her beloved home state lacked the kind of protections that transpeople in D.C. have had for years, she was shocked.

MCBRIDE

00:02:52
Prior to June of this year, it was entirely legal in Delaware to fire a person because they were transgender, to not hire a person simply because they were transgender, or to fire them because they came out. It was perfectly legal to deny them insurance, deny them housing and throw them out of a restaurant or a store, simply because they were living true to themselves.

LANDAU

00:03:15
So she, her parents, and the co-presidents of LGBT advocacy group Equality Delaware, on whose board Sarah serves, fought tooth and nail to pass gender identity non-discrimination legislation in Delaware.

MCBRIDE

00:03:26
My parents and I were the only people, outside of experts, to testify before the General Assembly on this bill. And if I could have shown them one thing on those days, a few days after I came out, it would have been the image of them being embraced by the Delaware government, by our community and by the governor, over the issue of who I am.

LANDAU

00:03:44
Together, they successfully passed the Gender Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 and a marriage equality bill. But it was no cakewalk.

MCBRIDE

00:03:53
Being out in front and talking about some of the deepest things that for the longest time I had been ashamed to talk about, talking about that before, not just the General Assembly, but in some instances the entire state, was hard and stressful.

LANDAU

00:04:06
But she had a lot of support. Not only from her family, but from another clan, the Bidens. After coming out, Sarah got a call from Delaware's Attorney General Beau Biden. She had worked for Biden during his 2006 and 2010 elections, back when she was known as Tim.

MCBRIDE

00:04:22
First, he used my correct name and accurate pronouns and said, "Sarah, I just wanted you to know, I'm so proud of you. I love you, and you're still a part of the Biden family."

LANDAU

00:04:31
She says the cherry on top came right before President Obama's second inauguration, during an event at the vice president's home.

MCBRIDE

00:04:38
And I went up to the vice president to get a picture, and without saying anything, the vice president saw me and he grabbed my arm and he said, "Hey, kid, I just wanted to let you know I am so proud of you, and Beau is so proud of you, and Jill is so proud of you. And I'm so happy that you're happy." And he gave me a big hug.

LANDAU

00:04:53
Sarah says it was inspiring to see the vice president, his family, and the governor of Delaware embrace not only her, but also the broader transgender community.

MCBRIDE

00:05:03
I was afraid that all of the work that I had done in my life would be for naught, and that these people who I had looked up to, the vice president, the attorney general of Delaware, the governor of Delaware, that those people would say you're just too much of a liability. That was my fear and it has been the exact opposite.

LANDAU

00:05:19
She says the experience has made her appreciate the need to fight for equality across the board.

MCBRIDE

00:05:23
If I'm not at the same time seeking to end discrimination against people of color, seeking to end discrimination against women, seeking to ensure that people of every religious background have an equal opportunity, if I'm not working to ensure that regardless of the wealth of your family that you're born into that you have a fair chance at a good job and a fulfilling life, if I'm not working towards all of those goals, then one, I'm leaving a lot of people behind, and two, I'm only going to be solving the problems for the most privileged in my own community.

LANDAU

00:05:53
Sarah says there's still a lot of work to be done, but she's heartened to see society moving in that direction.

MCBRIDE

00:05:57
Now that I know that Delaware is safe and welcoming, I want to go back home. I want to go back to where my family is, where I was born and raised, and I want to get back involved there and continue the work that I've been doing all my life, which is to engage in the political process and in government, to better our society. To make things a little fair and a little more equal for everyone.

LANDAU

00:06:19
I'm Lauren Landau.
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