Ever since I became active in the party, my focus has been trying to convince fellow Republicans to work toward making the GOP more diverse. Though I’ve served on my local party committee on and off for years, my calling card for the last several years has been the documentary that I released in 2012, “Fear of a Black Republican.”
Telling the story of black Republicans fighting for visibility in the overwhelmingly white GOP wasn’t easy. But I was, and remain, quite proud of that work because our film spoke the truth that we can’t be a genuinely representative party until we speak to issues of importance in the black community. And as the late Edward Brooke — a Republican and the last black man elected to serve in the U.S. Senate prior to Obama — said in my film, “I would rather change the Party from within, not without.”
I feel the same way about my own identity as a transgender woman. I want my party to practice genuine tolerance. But as long as some Republicans are willing to treat me as someone who doesn’t deserve full equality, our party is lost. And now I’m also fighting for survival. As long as Republican pundits and officeholders are willing to make transgender Americans scapegoats for unfounded fears about what might happen in public restrooms — giving bigots license to harm us — our families can’t ever feel like we’re safe. I feel like I have to be more vigilant than ever to protect myself, my wife and my kids, and I’m an adult who’s spent decades engaged in public debate. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like for a school-age kid to be transgender in the current climate.