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Sarah McBride in 2015.

Here's what the DNC's first openly trans speaker says is the next big civil rights fight


Here's what the DNC's first openly trans speaker says is the next big civil rights fight

Sarah McBride, the first-ever openly transgender person to address the convention of a major political party, will speak Thursday on the stage of the Democratic National Convention.

Her speech comes amid a heated national debate about transgender rights, including the passage of North Carolina's HB2, a controversial bill banning transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identities. 

It also comes as the Democratic Party evolves to include more transgender delegates.  According to DNC Executive Committee Member Barbra Casbar Siperstein, there are 28 transgender delegates at this year's DNC, compared with 14 transgender delegates in 2012.

McBride spoke to Circa about what's next in the fight for transgender rights .

We need to make sure we're educating the public, and reducing stigma.
Sarah McBride

Bathrooms seem to be the huge focus this year. What's next in the fight for transgender rights? 

We need to make sure that transgender people and all LGBTQ people have clear, permanent, comprehensive protections from discrimination, whether it's in the workplace, in schools, or when they're participating in the public marketplace. So I want to make sure that, as we move forward we try to pass the Equality Act.

What about Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded schools. That's come under fire since the Obama administration said that discrimination protections should apply to transgender kids too.  Is that on your radar?

Absolutely. I think over the next several years we're going to see court cases make their way through to judiciary to determine whether those protections remain permanent.  Donald Trump wants to make sure North Carolina-style discrimination is allowed in every state. And Hillary Clinton will appoint pro-LGBTQ judges, not just to the Supreme Court, but to lower courts across the country.

What role should parents have in the decision-making role when their child comes out as transgender?

There's no question that parents will have conversations with their children about their identities. But at the end of the day, we know. We know through science, through medicine, and through the personal experiences of transgender people, that if you keep trans people at whatever age from being able to live their authentic lives, it's incredibly dangerous.

What about young kids?  

If a 3-year-old comes to their parents about their identity, parents should take the steps necessary to seek out the type of care that's necessary to explore that identity, to make sure they're getting competent care from healthcare professionals, to ensure that the child is able to take the steps they need to take to live their authentic life.

You mentioned Hillary Clinton earlier, and your desire for her to win the White House. What do you say to the #BernieOrBust folks here at the DNC?

What I would say to anyone who is considering sitting out this election or considering voting for a third party is that, for a lot of communities, the stakes literally could not be higher. Our ability to live, work, raise a family. Those are at stake. 

I would urge everyone when they go into that voting booth to remember that real people will be hurt if Donald Trump -- even if it unintentionally -- is emboldened and wins the White House.

So, how did this happen? How did you get chosen as the first openly transgender person to speak at a major party convention?

That's a great question. I think this is a culmination of a lot of work and conversations within the LGBTQ and trans community about what is the next step for the Democratic Party, for Secretary Clinton, to take. And I think that was to make sure that a trans voice was included on the main stage at this convention.

I'm incredibly honored and really excited to have a small part of Thursday's historic schedule.

Behind this national conversation about trans rights and trans equality, there are real people.
Sarah McBride

Can you take me through the moment you found out you'd be speaking at the DNC?

I think when I found out I was -- and still am -- in shock. Even when I arrived yesterday and looked at the arena, it still didn't quite hit me that I'd be standing at that podium on the final night of the convention just hours before Hillary Clinton speaks.

What's been on your mind since then?

I've been thinking about this moment, and my desire to do the transgender community right, and to make sure that, to the degree that I'm representing the community, that I'm representing them in the best possible way.

I've always watched conventions, I've never actually attended one. So I think about myself 10 or 15 years ago, knowing I'm transgender but being so afraid that there was no place for me in this country. And I think about what this moment would mean to someone like that.

What is the number one thing you want to convey in your speech on Thursday?

I think one of the things that I hope to help to push forward in my remarks is that, behind this national conversation about trans rights and trans equality, there are real people that hurt when they're mocked, that hurt when their ridiculed, that hurt when they're discriminated against, and just want to be treated with dignity and fairness and respect.

I hope to drive that point home on Thursday night, and I hope that it's received. 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

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