In lieu of commentary, I'm going to (mostly) step back this week and let a fantastic ally tell a story about how a little tenacity and a lot of love got her an audience with one of the most important people in America. And why she took those few minutes to advocate for my rights, and those of her daughter.
Linda Carragher Bourne made headlines this week for what she got Joe Biden to say at a Florida campaign stop, but the 60-year-old mother of a transgender daughter (former Miss Trans New England Lorelei Erisis) almost skipped the election this year, she's so frustrated with the political system.
"The single reason I need to vote [for Obama/Biden] is transgender rights," she told me yesterday by phone from her home in Florida.
Given her passion for the issue, when she saw her chance to get the vice president's ear, she took it. She was getting her hair done when she got wind that Joe Biden was campaigning up the street, so she put on some lipstick and headed over to give her message to the man himself.
After a bear hug initiated by the vice president, Linda said, "Mr. Biden, my daughter is transgender -- Miss Trans New England -- and my friends are trans, and they don't have basic civil rights. They're being murdered, bullied, and discriminated against." Reports vary regarding exactly how he responded, but it's been largely reported that he said that transgender rights were "the civil rights issue of our time" (she actually thinks he said "a civil rights issue of our time").
Linda, who is clearly in the running for world's greatest mom, enjoys a close relationship with her daughter. She said she has a "visceral need to get the word out to parents, families, and friends of trans people to be there for them." Though happy for the vice president's attention, she wants the administration to be more aggressive in protecting transgender rights.
"If I had my dream come true, there would be a federal mandate to institute all civil rights for trans people in every state, including the "bathroom bills" [making restrooms a protected public accommodation for trans folks]." But, barring that, she'd at least like to see transgender issues brought to the forefront of the national conversation. "I'd like to see trans civil rights included in speeches, debates ... along with war, poverty, big business. You don't hear it, and it needs to be out there and talked about," she said.
Though trans activists and allies called bullshit on a less-than-stellar record for the Obama administration on trans issues, others have pointed out that this is by far the most trans-friendly administration ever. Linda knows who she'll be voting for, though, and what she'd like to see on election day: people waving Obama/Biden signs that say "trans rights now." And given that November is Trans Pride Month (a proclamation made, fittingly, by the White House in June), the election might be the perfect time to call politicians -- and our fellow citizens -- to task.
"Society treats trans people pretty horribly, but I think [having a trans daughter] is a gift," she said.
And of course (here comes the editorializing): She's absolutely right.