BY PAUL SCHINDLER | A Record Number of Transgender Delegates: The 2016 Democratic National Convention included a record number of out transgender delegates at 28, demonstrating dramatic advances in trans visibility within the party. That number represents just under six-tenths of one percent of the 4,765 delegates.
For the first time ever, the convention included an out transgender speaker, 25-year-old Sarah McBride, who came out as trans at 21, while serving as student body president at American University in Washington. A former White House intern in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, McBride now works as national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
She told the audience, “For me, this struggle for equality became all the more urgent when I learned that my future husband, Andrew, was battling cancer. I met Andy, who was a transgender man, fighting for equality and we fell in love. And yet even in the face of his terminal illness… this 28 year old — he never wavered in his commitment to our cause and his belief that this country can change. We married in 2014 and just four days after our wedding, he passed away. Knowing Andy left me profoundly changed. More than anything, his passing taught me that every day matters when it comes to building a world where every person can live their life to the fullest.”
Hillary Clinton, McBride said, “understands the urgency of our fight. She will work with us to pass the Equality Act, to combat violence against transgender women of color, and to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic once and for all.”
HIV Advocacy Again Takes the Stage: 2016 marked the first occasion since 2004 that an HIV-positive speaker addressed the Democratic National Convention about AIDS policy. Daniel Driffin, a 30-year-old Atlanta man who is co-founder of THRIVE SS, a non-profit group that works among men of color who have sex with other men on issues related to HIV, reminded the audience that when AIDS first emerged, he wasn’t yet born.
“We know how to prevent the virus now,” Driffin said. “We know how to diagnose the virus now. We know how to treat it, and we know how to suppress it. We have learned all that within my lifetime. But still, there are many living with HIV. And who are most at risk? Young, gay, black men. Men like me. In fact, one in two gay black men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if current rates continue. And if we have enough data, I’m sure black transgender women are more at risk, too.”
Turning to solutions, Driffin said, “So, what do we do to fight HIV/AIDS today? We invest in research and education. Expand treatment and prevention. And we elect Hillary Clinton.”
The Baton Has Been Passed: In a week of dramatic and memorable speeches, none was more stirring than that by Khizr Khan who, standing next to his wife Ghazala Khan, remembered their late son, Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was 27 in 2004 when he died while protecting troops under his command from an improvised explosive device in Baqubah, Iraq (see pages 14-15). The elder Khan’s stark challenge to Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric — “You have sacrificed nothing and no one” — prompted a strikingly self-destructive response from the GOP nominee, who in the days since has dug himself further and further into a hole attacking this Gold Star family.
The only other remarks that came close to matching the power of Khan’s both came from speakers named Obama — First Lady Michelle on Monday evening and the president two nights later.
Telling a rapt crowd, “I am more optimistic about the future of America than ever before,” Barack Obama said, “How could I not be — after all that we’ve achieved together?... After a century of trying, we declared that healthcare in America is not a privilege for a few, it is a right for everybody… We put policies in place to help students with loans; protect consumers from fraud; cut veteran homelessness almost in half. And through countless acts of quiet courage, America learned that love has no limits, and marriage equality is now a reality across the land.”
The president returned to the theme of LGBT equality several times, and said, “I promise you, when we keep at it, when we change enough minds, when we deliver enough votes, then progress does happen. And if you doubt that, just ask the 20 million more people who have healthcare today. Just ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without hiding the husband that he loves.”
For her part, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in accepting the Democrats’ presidential nomination on Thursday evening, was more reserved, perhaps wisely not trying to match Obama’s soaring rhetoric in favor of a pose of dogged determination and readiness. Her one reference to LGBT issues in her speech was more oblique than the president’s, though delivered in a metaphor that packed considerable punch.
“‘Stronger Together’ is not just a lesson from our history, it’s not just a slogan for our campaign, it’s a guiding principle for the country we’ve always been, and the future we’re going to build,” she said. “A country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top. Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school no matter what zip code you live in. A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach. Where families are strong, communities are safe, and, yes, where love trumps hate.”