Sarah Smiles

After years of struggling with gender identity, AU student president comes out as transgender to supportive campus

By Will O'Bryan
Photo by Todd Franson
Published on May 10, 2012, 5:20am | Comments

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McBride is as impressed with Keisling as Keisling is with her, listing Keisling and Amanda Simpson, the first openly transgender presidential appointee, as among those people who have helped her along this journey, women she admires.

There is another figure, however, that McBride holds in the highest esteem, an admiration that speaks to Keisling's mention of that ''amazing political résumé.''

If McBride has a hero, it's Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D). As Tim, McBride volunteered on Markell's gubernatorial campaign and interned in the Markell administration. McBride even introduced Markell after his 2008 primary win – a win that essentially assured him the governorship in the largely Democratic state – to the campaign crowd.

''He is in incredible leader, an incredibly passionate, caring person,'' says McBride. ''He's been an amazing governor. He's an amazing father and husband. He's one of the strongest allies that someone like me could have. I've been very close to him and his wife, Carla, for some time. They have been so supportive.''

It's no wonder McBride offers such praise for Markell. After all, she's spent her life thinking of a career in politics. So it's also no surprise how she'll be spending her summer: as an intern at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. For most of her life, McBride guessed that there would be no way to reconcile her political aspirations and her gender identity. Living as ''Tim'' might be an acceptable sacrifice, she rationalized. But it's a sacrifice – a life half lived – she's discovered she is unwilling to make.

Instead, in these days after coming out, McBride is learning to live fully. And she knows that her position – with regard to race, familial support, socio-economics and all the rest – grants her far more privilege than so many other transgender people. She is emphatic in that recognition, taking nothing for granted. Nor does she take her life as Tim for granted, saying that despite her struggle with identity, she is proud of all her pre-coming-out accomplishments. Still, no one can fault McBride for enjoying the simple indulgence of finding her footing, navigating her new life – even throwing a sort of ''birthday'' for herself last Saturday, May 5.

''Saturday was the first day of presenting as myself full time,'' says McBride, adding that the party included friends from both D.C. and Delaware. It was a celebration that helped to prepare her for moving about the AU campus Monday as herself, where she felt ''a thousand eyes'' looking at her. She's also faced down two women she passed on the street near her home who seemed to laugh at her.

''It's disappointing, but lots of people have to deal with more than people laughing at them.''

It would take far more than a couple of tittering passersby to knock McBride off her new stride, confident steps she's taking into a new, brighter world.

''It's the first time I'm at ease – or more at ease – in my own body,'' says McBride. ''I finally feel I'm in the present. My mind is free of all the stuff of struggling, re-imagining. I feel free to think about other things. There's freedom within my mind to finally experience life.''