First Black Transsexual Delegate Headed to Dems’ Convention

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday March 31, 2008

Who's got a big tent now? This election season, for the first time, the Democratic National Committee will include a transgendered African-Amercian delegate.

Marisa Richmond, long a veteran of election-year politics and conventions and a professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University, won't be the only transgendered member of the convention; the DNC's chairman, Howard Dean, has also appointed Diego Sanchez to a committee, making Sanchez the first transgendered platform committee member and the first to be called up by a DNC chairman.

In a Mar. 26 article, the Washington Blade reports that Richmond has been active in politics--she worked on Ted Kennedy's presidential campaign in 1980--longer than she's lived as a woman, having made the M-to-F transition in 2001 when she was 42 years old.

Just a few years afterwards, the inaugural transgender caucus came together in 2004, with all of seven members.

The article quoted Richmond as saying, "A lot of us around the country were saying that we needed to do more and have more people involved."

Not leaving it up to someone else to see to the heavy lifting, Richmond threw herself into the race for a congressional seat, a bid that did not net her a place on Capitol Hill, but that did get her picked to be an at-large delegate at the upcoming Democratic National Convention.

Moreover, the Blade said, Richmond serves as president for the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and on the board of the Tennessee Equality Project. Her status as first black transgendered delegate also has a precedent in the fact that Richmond was the first transgendered person in Tennessee to be elected, taking the position of Davidson County Democratic Committeewoman at the outcome of the Super Tuesday vote.

The article reported that Richmond is a delegate for New York's Sen. Clinton, though she's not insistent on Hillary for President.

Said Richmond of Clinton, "She supported the hate crimes measure, which we worked very hard on and is, of course, fully inclusive," in addition to being outspoken on the need to strike down the ban on gay servicemembers in the military and for a comprehensive federal hate crime bill, the Blade article reported.

Added Richmond, "She and Obama are actually identical."

Said Richmond, "It's time for a woman, it's time for an African-American."

Richmond and Sanchez may yet be joined by other transgendered delegates; the Blade article cited the director of communications for the Stonewall Democrats, John Marble, as saying that delegates from some states won't be named until months from now.

Said Marble, "I do think we'll see other trans delegates."

Added Marble, "It's just that every state is different."

Sanchez, appearing on a radio show called The Radical Trannies, said to host Ethan St. Pierre, "It's certainly a wonderful obligation and nothing that I would've guessed to years ago" would take place, the Blade reported.

Sanchez's election to the platform committee was unanimous, the Blade said, and in addition to the election to the platform committee, Sanchez was also named as an at-large delegate.

Though last year's maneuvering from Democratic Congressman Barney Frank to get approval for a federal hate crimes bill involved the highly controversial splitting of the bill into two measures, one to cover gays, lesbians, and bisexuals and the other to be pursued at a later date and include transgendered individuals, Sanchez was optimistic that the Democratic party was ready to welcome the voices of the transgendered.

Said Sanchez, "You wouldn't invite voices to a table unless you were willing to listen to those voices and respect them," the Blade reported.

Said Richmond, "When you look at what happened with ENDA, the GLBT community did come together," though she adds, "but there are some who are clearly trans-phobic and who are not ready to stand up and fight."

Continued Richmond, "I plan to use this opportunity to every chance I get talk about inclusion, diversity and how all GLBT people-including trans people-are victims of discrimination and hate crimes and why it's so necessary for the Democratic Party to stand up for what's right."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.