"One of the biggest challenges is being seen in your entirety, in all of your talents and in all of your skills."
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Honestly, I just wanted to be myself. I always wanted to go into politics, but I didn't think it would be possible live my identity and pursue my dreams. I now know that those concepts are not mutually exclusive.
Could you talk a little bit about what you currently do in your professional life with Human Rights Campaign and any other major endeavors?
In my job at the HRC, I work with our communications team to get our message out into the world. In particular, I work closely with our Foundation programs to amplify their amazing work. They are on the front lines, trying to ensure our progress on legal equality transfers to full lived equality. I also get to travel around the nation talking about the fight for equality. There is a saying that it's impossible to hate someone who's story you know. Much of my job is trying to underscore the humanity of this issue - to remind folks that LGBTQ people are, first and foremost, people worthy of dignity and respect. Outside of work, I'm currently working on a book and there will be more information on that soon!
What is your greatest accomplishment in your professional life? In your personal life?
My greatest accomplishment professionally was helping my home state of Delaware pass protections for transgender people. It was politics at its best: expanding opportunity, moving equality forward, and, hopefully, saving some lives in the process. And personally, my greatest accomplishment was likely finding the courage to finally come out and live my truth. It not only saved my life, it also led me to meet my future husband Andrew, who we sadly lost to cancer just a few days after our wedding.
What do you think is the largest barrier for trans women in the workplace to overcome? What barriers have you faced or are your currently facing now?
First, the largest barrier to trans women in the workplace are the barriers to finding a job: discrimination in the hiring process, housing insecurity, discrimination in education, and violence. And then if a trans woman is fortunate enough to gain a job, one of the biggest challenges is being seen in your entirety, in all of your talents and in all of your skills. So often, whether in the workplace or outside, we are reduced just to our trans-ness. It's an important part - an element of my life I'm proud of - but it's only one part of who we are.
I've been very lucky throughout my life. As a public advocate, I have to deal with a pretty constant stream of hate. I'm fortunate that this is almost always through a keyboard and not in my everyday life. I used to let it get to me, particularly when they'd make comments about my looks or something specific to me. But I've learned over time that trolls and bullies attack us because of their jealousy. Every person has an insecurity, something the world has told them is wrong. Whether its how you look, what you do, your sexual orientation, gender identity, or something else, everyone struggles with overcoming insecurities.
What is the best piece of professional advice you were given in starting out your career and would you give the same advice to women reading about your journey?
I think so many people - particularly marginalized folks - are told that ambition and drive are bad things, that the effort and determination that is required of us to succeed, while necessary, is a by-product selfishness. You are not selfish for pursuing your dreams. You are not selfish for trying to make the world better. We make women work twice as hard to get half as far and then we criticize them for the determination and drive that they are required to exert to overcome those systemic barriers. We require effortlessness and chastise those who express intentionality. You are not selfish - you are worthy.
Sarah McBride is the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. She serves on the Board of Directors of Equality Delaware, the state’s primary LGBTQ-advocacy organization that helped successfully lead the effort to add gender identity and expression to Delaware state’s non-discrimination and hate-crimes laws. Sarah became the first openly transgender person to address a major party political convention when she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
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