There were 28 transgender delegates at the Democratic National Convention this past week. They gathered on Thursday.
Twenty-three of the delegates gathered for the picture below.
While the highlights included Sarah McBride speaking to the convention, that was not the only achievement of the transgender community in the past four years. Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality also pointed to Pennsylvania delegate Dr. Rachel Levine having been appointed as current Pennsylvania Department of Health Physician General.
We're in an incredible place right now. A place that I think really underscores the progress in this country overall on trans rights. And I couldn't be prouder to be a part of this convention.
It's a convention that says that here in America every person should be valued, respected and protected. Where every voice matters.
Several delegates discussed current challenges for the caucus, including a lack of racial and class diversity inside the caucus itself. Merrick Moses, who identifies as an Afro-Latino trans man and is a delegate from Maryland, discussed the issue of financial obstacles to participation in party politics.
A lot of us live in states where gender protections are not in place and people are struggling to survive.
He noted it costs a significant amount of money to attend the convention and urged the caucus to think about developing funding streams to make the caucus more inclusive.
During the meeting, San Francisco-based Democratic delegate Mia Satya held a sign demanding an end to the murder of trans women. She also called for a more intersectional understanding of LGBTQ politics, or the ways that racism, classism and transphobia come together in the lives of trans people.
Lou Weaver, a delegate from Texas, was attending the convention for the first time. He is trans man working at Equality Texas, an organization that lobbies for LGBTQ equality and the election of pro-LGBTQ candidates. Weaver was moved by the growing visibility of LGBTQ people in national politics and at the convention.
It is important to me to be visible, to show who I am and talk about who transgender men are. How can we be more intersectional?
Laura Calvo was a transgender superdelegate from Oregon. She sees the change in trans participation this year.
I was always the one person in a crowd of, you know, 600, one thousand people who was openly identified as trans.
And now it's really wonderful to see that I'm not the only person there, and that we do have a diversity of delegates from around the country.
-Calvo, vice-chair of the DNC LGBT causus
For the first time ever, the party's platform uses the word transgender. In 2004 when Casbar Siperstein of New Jersey was the first ever transgender delegate, she says, "The T was silent."
The Kerry campaign wanted to distance itself from the issue.
We were frustrated by the fact that we had -- there was no language. We tried to get nondiscrimination language in the party platform. We could not. They didn't want to hear it.
That rejection hurt people like Calvo, a police officer who was outed at work as a trans woman in 1995 and lost her job as a result.
My boss basically said I was a freak and I couldn't come back. And just six months earlier or eight months earlier, I was deputy of the year. But there was no recourse for me, there was no anti-discrimination laws. There was nothing that I could turn to for help.
Now the platform contains the following statement:
There is still much work to be done. LGBT kids continue to be bullied at school, restaurants can refuse to serve transgender people, and same-sex couples are at risk of being evicted from their homes. That is unacceptable and must change.
Ella May , 54, was a transgender delegate from North Carolina.
HB2 is a hate bill. And that's what it was meant to be.
We will oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces. We will support LGBT elders, ensure access to necessary health care, and protect LGBT people from violence -- including ending the crisis of violence against transgender Americans.
Calvo acknowledges that the platform could have gone further.
Nothing's perfect. When you can say is that this is the public policy -- that discrimination shall not happen and there's consequences to it. Then that starts to shift some of the thinking and some of the attitudes of folks.
It is a really wonderful, pro-transgender platform.. It recognizes that we need to be part of America. That we are part of America. And policy needs to reflect that.