By Sarah McBride. $26; Crown Archetype; 288 pages
Sometimes a person's private journey fortuitously intersects with a public ferment, and quite spontaneously both a movement and a leader are born. This seems to be what happened with Sarah McBride and the movement for trans equality.
In many ways, McBride's story is a familiar one: a childhood feeling "different," learning about oneself, the difficult coming out processa path travelled by countless LGBTQ people. It's when her personal journey of growth intersects with the world of politics that her story becomes more than just interesting and becomes informative. This dual narrative of personal growth and public policy is recounted in her memoir, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality ( Crown Archetype; HB, 274 pp ).
McBride is a native of Wilmington, Delaware, and grew up in a family well-connected with progressive Delaware politics. Her family had connections to the Biden family, and as a teenager she worked for Beau Biden's campaign for DE attorney general. She first garnered national attention when, while she was student body president at American University, she posted a notice on Facebook coming out as a transgender woman. The university newspaper reprinted her statement andinstant celebrity.
She then went on to become an intern at the Obama White House, the first trans person to ever hold such a position. Further political work eventually led to her being the first trans person to address a national audience at the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
McBride also experienced both triumph and tragedy in her private life. In 2012 she met the first great love of her life, Andy, a trans man and fellow activist. The two became not only soul mates but partners is activism. But their grand romance was to be short-lived: Andy was soon diagnosed with terminal cancer. Nevertheless, they married in August 2014. Andy died four days later.
For such a young person, McBride has a remarkably clear understanding of herself, as well as an impressive sensitivity to the emotions of those around her. This clarity and sensitivity makes for compelling storytelling; for instance, when she recounts her coming out process, she is able to go beyond describing her own feelings and help us understand what her parents went through. She tells of her parents' initial shock, and then how they grieved for what they felt was the loss of their son, and ultimately how they struggled and achieved understanding and acceptance.
She also has a politician's ear for carefully balanced language as she recounts her work in the White House and later for the Human Rights Campaign. Additionally, she displays a policy wonk's grasp of detail and process, something she doubtless learned working in an Administration that both valued and demanded intelligent analysis ( as opposed to the current Administration ). Fortunately, she doesn't lose herself in the intricacies of policy and process, something that often happens with policy wonks. She knows the story she wants to tell, and she pretty much sticks with it.
One aspect of McBride's memoir in which her relative youth works against her is a lack of depth of perspective that can only come from much more life experience. She needs more time to find a context and a meaning, not only to her journey of personal growth, but to her political and advocacy work as well.
Nevertheless, McBride's story, which she tells here in a clear and honest fashion, is important and a valuable one to experience. Not only will LGBTQ persons, young and old, find much with which to identify, but it will help us all understand what a trans person must deal with on a daily basis, both before and after coming out.
Also, McBride provides a bit of a blueprint of how to utilize one's personal journey, one's private issues, to spark political movement and potential change. And let's be honest, in these dark days of political and social turmoil, we can use all the inspirational stories we can get.