There's a lot of talk about how Bernie Sanders wants to translate his campaign into a force at next month's national convention in Philadelphia by nudging the Party platform to the left. Their work starts in Washington state at tomorrow's state Democratic Party convention where Sanders' pledged delegates far outnumber Clinton's pledged delegates, 74-27. With those numbers, they're going to go after the delegate system itself first by demanding that Washington state's super delegates—there are 17 including U.S. senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray—change from Clinton to Sanders.
However, there's another reform issue that's come up from the grass roots during this year's caucuses. And it will also play out at this weekend's state convention: Giving transgender people a voice in the party.
For example, the party may take up a resolution this weekend to call on the national party to update its binary delegate language, which, despite its roots in 1970's progressive gender equality ideals, can exclude non-binary people.
My latest magazine feature went up online today in advance of tomorrow's convention. In part, it tells the story of Breanna Anderson, a trans woman Sanders delegate from the 1st Legislative District in Kirkland, who's going for one of the remaining 34 at-large pledged delegate spots tomorrow.
From the conclusion:
Noting the new North Carolina law that bans entrance to restrooms by anyone one other than individuals whose birth gender matches that assigned to the restroom, Anderson says that, with trans rights under attack nationally (“We’ve become a scapegoat and a bogeyman”), it’s important for the Democrats to “double down” on rights that already exist in the law and affirmatively enshrine them in the party platform this year.
Higher-ups in the party agree. The rules are out of date. “There are many regulations…that were seen as progressive then,” says Jamal Raad, a spokesperson for the Washington State Democrats, “but now are a little bit antiquated.”
Interest in transgender delegates has popped up elsewhere. There’s a transgender superdelegate from New Jersey. And Eric Walker, the spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, told me, “Yes, incorporating transgender delegates into our 50-50 male-female delegate rule will be a topic of discussion with respect to future conventions.”
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is moving in the opposite direction; earlier this year it approved a resolution that calls on state legislatures to pass more laws prohibiting trans kids from choosing the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Of course, given that only 0.3 percent of Americans identify as transgender, there’s no clear equation that feasibly guarantees trans people slots at the conventions.
“Trans people and gender nonconforming people just kind of fuck up the whole system,” Anderson says. “They jam it. But you just have to deal with it because…we’re not going away.”
She’s happy Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch spoke out in defense of transgender rights. But “it’s important for us not to allow other people to proxy for us. We have to be there to make the ‘I have a dream’ speech.”
That dream, as it’s now framed by the heirs of Anderson’s ’90s activism—such as 16-year-old Galaxy Marshall—includes transforming the civil rights gains of the past into meaningful civil rights today.