CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The 2012 Democratic National Convention proved to be reflective of the country’s “melting pot” moniker in multiple ways. The number of LGBT delegates is historic and record-breaking: 486 in total from every state in the country and a dramatic upswing from the 288 on board for the convention in ’08.
“When you consider what it has been like in the past, it’s amazing,” said Barbara Casbar Siperstein, the first transgender member of the Democratic National Committee and a superdelegate from New Jersey who participated in selecting Charlotte as the site for the convention. “This year is the first time there have been so many delegates from the trans community, so it makes us an especially historic moment for us.”
In total, there were 13 openly trans delegates. Here’s a look at who they are and some of their thoughts on President Obama, Charlotte, their role in the convention and their hopes for the future:
A Charlotte resident since 1973, Covington is the chair of TransCarolina, a sitting member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Carolinas steering committee and a busy LGBT activist (since 1990). She’s proud of her election as a delegate because it required her to cross cultural differences. It was a key strategy that paid off: “I think a lot of the people who voted for me had never even seen anything like me before,” she joked. “But they got to know me, they came to like me, and then they elected me. Afterwards we all hugged and cried together. It was a great time.”
Covington is confident North Carolina will eventually overturn Amendment One, the state consitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. “It will take some time, and we’ll have to get a Democratic majority again, but I know we can accomplish it if we all work together.” She also said she hopes to run for the U.S. Congress in the future.
Barbra Casbar Siperstein
Siperstein is a member of the Democratic National Committee executive committee and the deputy vice chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. In addition to being the president of the New Jersey Stonewall Democrats, she’s a published author, small-business owner, veteran, and grandparent. She holds one particularly important distinction: In 2009 she was appointed and confirmed as the first transgender member of the DNC.
Sipperstein was impressed with Charlotte and how the convention had been handled. “There are a lot more delegates at this convention than any other city previously,” she said. “What I’ve seen so far has been tremendous.” As for the man she is here to support, Sipperstein had this to say: “Considering what he started with — he was left a mess — I’m definitely impressed with his accomplishments. We have work to do, but I’m confident the country will realize we can’t return to the past.”
Michigan delegate Amy Hunter is from Kalamazoo. She runs Equality Michigan Pride PAC and is extremely happy with Obama’s accomplishments on behalf of LGBT Americans and the country as a whole. “The broader conversation about equality for all of us makes for a compelling narrative,” Hunter said in the pages of The Detroit News.
Beyer is a retired eye surgeon and the executive director of Gender Rights Maryland. She admits the recent passage of Amendment One in North Carolina was a disappointment, but it doesn’t diminish her respect for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. “I know that Mecklenburg County and other metropolitan areas voted no, so I don’t think Amendment One makes Charlotte any less progressive than it was.” Beyer spoke of President Obama with reverence: “He’s done more for the LGBT community than any previous president. I can’t be anything but grateful to this administration.”
This was Land’s first convention. He’s a resident of Columbia County, Ore., and the chair of the Columbia County Democratic Central Committee. In addition to numerous other responsibilities as a trans activist and a member of the Democratic Party, he also works as a management consultant. “I am honored to go to Charlotte as a trans man elected as a congressional district delegate,” he said on the Trans United for Obama website.
Kylar William Broadus
Broadus feels his role as a Missouri delegate and an African-American trans man is special. “Overall, my part of the community is relatively invisible,” he said. “People don’t even realize we’re out there. I think my presence allows us to address issues regarding race and increases visibility for trans men.”
On Obama: “He has led us through one of the most difficult times in American history. I think we owe him another four to repair the damage by the previous administration that took them eight years to create.”
Daria Lynn Lohman
From Arizona, Lohman was an alternate delegate, though that didn't make her experience in Charlotte at the DNC any less exciting. “This is my first national convention, and I am very excited to be here,” she wrote on Trans United for Obama. A resident of Phoenix, she is a vietnam Veteran and active in Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
A delegate from San Francisco, Murrillo has an impressive list of accomplishments. He was elected as a delegate to the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Democratic national conventions, and his campaign experience includes work for President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry.
Lesley Rebecca Phillips
An at-large delegate from Massachusetts, Phillips attended the ’04 and ’08 conventions as a volunteer. She also confirmed that she attended the 1964 convention (for President Lyndon Johnson) while still a student. In 2008 she was one of the first transgender people to be elected to the Democratic State Committee in Massachusetts.
Diego Manuel Sanchez
Sanchez is another at-large delegate from Massachusetts. He has been active in the Democratic Party since 1988 and works as a staffer for gay congressman Barney Frank. On the Trans for Obama site, he said this: “As a lifelong active Democrat, I’m honored to be working for victorious elections of Democrats everywhere, including President Obama, to lead our country towards LGBT and other equality.”
An at-large delegate from Nashville, Richmond also serves as the president of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. In 2008 she was the first transgender person to win an election in that state. This past March she was reelected to a third term. For President Obama, she is full of praise: “He’s done a good job with the economic challenges he was handed when he took office. He’s an intelligent and thoughtful man, truly with the best of intentions for all Americans. He deserves our support for the next four years.”
A delegate from the state of New York, Sklarz was recently elected president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City. In 1999 she became the first transgender person elected to office in New York when she became the judicial delegate for the 66th Assembly District. In her bio on Trans For Obama, she touts the importance of transgender individuals coming out: “Trans political power can increase with increased trans visibility.”
Jamie Dianne Shiner
A resident of Green Bay, Wis., Shiner this year had her first opportunity to serve as a delegate and her first Democratic National Convention. She was happy to confirm her active involvement with Fair Wisconsin, an effort to fight that state’s marriage amendment, and her work for the Obama campaign in 2008. On a personal note, she hopes to get elected to the Democratic National Committee in the near future.
A delegate from Texas, Stabler is a business executive, transgender advocate, and LGBT activist. Another noteworthy fact: She’s a member of Obama’s 2012 LGBT Leadership Circle. Born in England, she is today an American citizen and was very excited about the friendly Charlotteans she has encountered during the convention. She’s effusive about her support for President Obama and the importance of winning this election. “This isn’t about one singular issue,” Stabler said. “Who wins this election will set the tone of this country for the next 20 years because they’ll be appointing the next judges to the Supreme Court. That’s why it’s paramount we rally to support our president.”