CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Amy, Jamie, Janice, Meghan and Melissa have come from across the United States to support President Barack Obama as Democratic delegates: they are all women who were born men.
“Six in 2004, eight in 2008, and we are 13 today,” petite Melissa Sklarz told AFP, her voice deep and masculine as she highlighted the steady increase over the past three Democratic conventions in the number of transgender delegates.
Obama, the first African American president, has been seen as a progressive on transgender rights, making Amanda Simpson in 2009 the first transgender woman political appointee in any administration.
Mara Keisling, 52, is not a delegate but as executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality she came to the convention to trumpet Obama’s achievements for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights.
“I am so excited to be here,” she told AFP as almost 6,000 Democratic delegates prepared to nominate Obama for re-election in November. “The president has made so much progress for LGBT people. The job is not finished yet.”
Kylar Broadus, a transgender delegate from Columbia, Missouri, who was born a woman but now regards himself as a man, explained that the economic problems facing all Americans were felt more acutely by his impoverished minority group.
“Employment is the number one issue for the transgender community,” the 49-year-old told AFP. “There is extreme poverty within the transgender community. Most of us are not employable, don’t have jobs,” he said.
[Image via Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA, Creative Commons licensed]