By Marisa Richmond, Ph.D.
Recently, I had the honor and privilege of serving as a Delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention from my home state of Tennessee. There is nothing unusual about that until you consider the fact that I not only was the first openly transgender delegate ever elected from Tennessee, but I was also the first African American transgender delegate from any state, ever.
This convention was not my first. I was a campaign staffer at the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York, but it was my first convention as a delegate. The experience was quite different since, this year I was part of the focus of the activities.
Every day I attended meals, receptions, and caucuses with other party leaders and activists. I used many of these occasions to talk with other delegates about the necessity of standing up for equal rights for all LGBT people on various issues including ENDA and Hate Crimes. Of course, in each instance, I was always a caucus of one since there were no other African American, openly transgender delegates at the convention.
While the platform, which was passed by voice vote early in the Monday session before I even got to the Pepsi Center, has gender identity in the language, I was very frustrated that the word "transgender" was not mentioned one single time from the podium. In 2004, transgender was mentioned three times. In 2008, that number was zero.
We are not invisible in the Democratic Party. We should not be treated as pariahs when we are out there working hard and raising money for pro-equality candidates. And in our work on the platform before the convention, many of us were active around the country pushing for support of a "fully inclusive" ENDA, for which the United ENDA Coalition (which includes NBJC) has worked. Instead, it states support for a "comprehensive" ENDA, which is not the same thing.
The Democratic Party cannot expect voters to overcome homophobia or transphobia if its own leaders cannot do the same.
Overall, it was a very positive experience and I hope in 2012, the African American Transgender Caucus will have more than one member.
TransGriot Note: 'Number Two' is absolutely right. If we're doing our part to become part of the political process and are asking the people to become less homophobic and transphobic, then our leaders must also show deeds to back up their words. I also agree the African-American transgender caucus at the DNC convention needs to grow. Hopefully I and others will be in a position where we can join her in 2012.
About Marisa Richmond, Ph.D.
Marisa is President of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Equality Project & Board of Advisors of NCTE. She is a former Board Member of AEGIS, IFGE, NTAC, & Nashville's Rainbow Community Center. She served as Co-Chair of Southern Comfort in 2001, chaired the host committee of the 2002 IFGE Convention in Nashville, & served on the Planning Committee for Nashville Black Pride in 2004. She won the Trinity Award in 2002 & the HRC Equality Award in 2007.