Sarah McBride poised to become the first transgender member of Congress

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Aliya Schneider | (TNS) The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride, who is poised to become the first openly transgender member of Congress, thinks she can help garner respect for transgender people by being a strong legislator in Washington.

McBride, 33, already the nation’s highest-ranking openly transgender elected official, said diversity in Congress has both a symbolic and substantive effect, but she isn’t running on her identity. Instead, by proving to be an effective legislator, she hopes to inspire acceptance through what she called the “power of proximity.”

“Once you respect someone as a really, really hardworking legislator, it’s hard not to then see them as a person; it’s hard not to see other people like them as people,” she said in an interview.

McBride will be on the ballot in November to replace U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D., Delaware, who was first elected in 2016 and is running for Senate this year. McBride’s only remaining serious competitor, Eugene Young, recently dropped out of the Sept. 10 primary after Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis also exited the race earlier this year. McBride, who has raised at least $1.8 million for her campaign, has since secured the endorsement of top House Democrats. Her Republican opponent, Donyale Hall, had raised only $13,584 as of March 31.

The district is considered blue and has elected Democrats to the House for more than a decade.

McBride’s campaign comes at a moment of political division over transgender rights. During his rally in Philadelphia on Saturday, former President Donald Trump vowed, if elected, to sign an executive order on his first day in office “to cut federal funding for any school pushing critical race theory” or “transgender insanity,” and prevent transgender women from participating in women’s sports. His crowd of supporters roared.

“How embarrassing it is itto say we will keep men out of women’s sports?” Trump said. “Who would want men to play women’s sports?”

McBride said “the MAGA movement’s obsession with trans people” is part of a “manufactured culture war” that riles up Trump loyalists but doesn’t reflect voters more broadly. She views it as a strategic distraction from problems for which the former president doesn’t have solutions, she said.

The attacks get through in the first place due to a “knowledge gap” about LGBTQ people, she said.

“As people begin to understand the humanity of the people impacted by a particular political debate, the clock ends up running out on anti-equality politicians’ ability to target and scapegoat,” McBride said. “We saw it with with gay people and marriage equality … and I think the same will be true for transgender people. But that only comes when there’s full representation.”

Despite the vicious rhetoric that can be found in conservative politics surrounding transgender rights, McBride believes she can “gain unlikely allies” in Washington over time.

McBride has worked across the aisle and with politicians whose views on LGBTQ rights trouble her, and has found common ground on more issues than people expect, such as health care access, disinformation, paid family leave, and gun safety legislation, she said.

While the trust and familiarity that comes with collaboration may not immediately turn conservatives into strong allies, it can, over time, help open their “hearts and minds,” McBride said.

While she’s on track to win in November, candidates can still file to run in the September primary until July 9, and McBride said she won’t slow down her campaign.

“I have not won anything yet,” she said. “I continue to have to work to earn the support of Delawareans across the state to have the privilege of representing them, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.”


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