It’s rare to know in real time that what you are about to do will define the course of the rest of your life. But as I sat at my laptop in the small office I had been given as student body president at American University, I knew that my world was about to turn upside down. I was about to reveal my deepest secret and take a step that just a few months before would have seemed impossible and unimaginable.
My hand hovered over the keypad of my laptop, ready yet reluctant to click “post” on a Facebook note that would change my life forever. I could almost hear the responses I feared would come. What a freak.
Ew. This is disgusting.
And probably the most biting, because I was afraid it was true: Well, there goes any life and future for that kid.
Throughout my whole life until this point, it had always seemed that my dreams and my identity were mutually exclusive. My life had been defined by a constant tension between the two: the belief—as certain as the color of the sky—that it was impossible for me to have a family, a career, fulfillment, while also embracing the truth that I am a transgender woman.
For the first twenty-one years of my life, my dreams—the possibility of improving my world and making my family proud—had won out over my identity. But the older I got, the harder it became to rationalize away something that had become clear was the core of who I am. And by college, it had enveloped my whole being. It was present every second of my life.
I no longer had a choice. I couldn’t hide anymore. I couldn’t continue living someone else’s existence. I needed to come out. I needed to tell the world that I was transgender. I needed to live my own life as me.
A little over a year before, I had been elected student body president at American University. AU, nestled between suburban neighbor- hoods in northwest Washington, D.C., is one of the most politically active schools in the country and boasts a rich history of political milestones. It was the site where John F. Kennedy called for “not merely peace in our time, but peace for all time” months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the home of the younger Ted Kennedy’s pivotal endorsement of then-senator Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary.
I had always loved politics, advocacy, and government. They had seemed like the best way to improve my community and leave a lasting impact on the world. From the ages of six and seven, after discovering the White House and learning about all of the history that occurred within its walls, I knew that politics would be my life’s calling.
When I served as student body president at AU and began working on the issues I had always cared about—gender equity, racial justice, opportunity regardless of economic background, and, yes, LGBTQ equality—it became clear that making a difference in the world wouldn’t diminish or dilute my own pain and incompleteness.
I had come out to my parents over winter break in the middle of my yearlong term. Since then, I had come out to my closest friends, and as I woke up on the morning of April 30, 2012, my last day as student body president, I was resolved to announce to the world that I was really Sarah McBride.
Copyright © 2018 by Sarah McBride. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.