While republicans are creating discriminatory and dangerous legislation against transgender people in red states like North Carolina and Kansas, democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are reaching out to the transgender community. This month, two transgender rights activists, Andrea Zekis and Jenny Seibert, stepped up to support Sanders in Oregon and Washington and Clinton made public a Q&A on the transgender day of visibility, with twelve transgender activists supporting her campaign .
Both candidates are transgender allies: Clinton published a policy paper on LGBT rights last December and Sanders, who has a perfect 100% scorecard on LGBT issues from the Human Rights Campaign, pledged his support of transgender people in an interview with the Washington Blade.
Zekis, policy director for Basic Rights Oregon, introduced Sanders on stage at a March 25 rally in Oregon. At the rally she talked about the difficulties she faced coming out as transgender, noting discrimination in her home state is legal under state law:
“Seven years ago, I took the bold step to live in my truth,” she said. “I accepted myself as a transgender woman, and for that I received a lot of support. But I was scared. At the time, I lived in a state where I could be fired from my job, denied housing, denied health care. In essence, I lived in a state where I could be denied an opportunity.” Zekis said she took comfort in knowing there are lawmakers seeking to put an end to anti-trans discrimination, which is why she’s supporting Sanders. “We need a leader who is committed to economic justice for all people, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity,” she said.
Zackary Drucker of Caitlyn Jenner fame explained why she is rooting for Hillary: “as a member of the trans community, Hillary Clinton has such a solid plan for how to cement the rights of trans people in America, and women around the world. The rights of trans people and women is my number one priority in voting”.
Sarah McBride, an LGBT activist who became the first transgender student body president at the American University, stated in her endorsement of Clinton: “She’s the only candidate running to have delivered tangible progress for the transgender community when she reformed passport policies at the State Department and added gender identity to the department’s employment policies. She’s laid out a detailed and life-saving platform on LGBT equality, and has routinely and proactively spoken about our needs as a community to LGBT and non-LGBT audiences alike.”
It remains to be seen however, whether these endorsements will benefit the candidates. Pauline Park, a New York based Clinton critic doesn’t think so, because few members of the transgender community vote, she told the Washington Blade:
“The outreach to the transgender community from the Clinton and Sanders campaign is also not likely to be effective, simply because it’s extremely difficult to reach members of the community, and all too many of those who can be reached do not vote,” Park said. “At this point in time, it is extremely difficult even to measure the size of the transgender community let alone the proportion of it that is politically active, and no activist or celebrity, no matter how prominent, should be believed if s/he claims to speak for the entire community, especially when it comes to electoral politics and party primaries.”