It's a breath of fresh post-Tyler Clementi air that institutions like American University in Washington D.C. are known as one of the top 10 best college for gay students, which is fully illustrated by stories like that of Tim McBride's.
The day after McBride, a 21-year-old poli-sci major from Wilmington, Delaware, concluded the term as student body president at American University, the school's student-run paper The Eagle featured a well-written column by McBride entitled "The Real Me," articulately and poignantly revealing a lifetime of gender identity conflict before finally coming to terms with being a transgender woman as recently as the past year. Even before presenting as female, McBride was active in on-campus organizations like the Queers and Allies group, but she wasn't able to enjoy her own life — from day-to-day mundanity to major accomplishments — unless she "reimagined doing it as a girl."
One of her older brothers is gay, and McBride knew that her family would be unconditionally supportive, but she still struggled with making the plunge. After many sleepless nights agonizing over the right time, the other shoe dropped when a holiday gift understandably slammed McBride with an unavoidable metaphor:
''I received a button-up shirt and tie for Christmas, and that sort of internally freaked me out. It was such a stark symbol of where I was versus where I needed to be.''
McBride's maturity and college accomplishments will likely send her as a post-grad on the same public-policy path as her heroes Mara Keisling (executive director of D.C.'s National Center for Transgender Equality) and the first-ever openly transgender presidential appointee Amanda Simpson. But for now, she's just enjoying a newfound personal freedom, a new name (Sarah McBride) and a new birthday starting this past Saturday, May 5th, her first day as a full-time woman.
''It's the first time I'm at ease – or more at ease – in my own body. I finally feel I'm in the present. My mind is free of all the stuff of struggling, re-imagining. I feel free to think about other things. There's freedom within my mind to finally experience life.''
Although the Clementi case was a big step backward in terms of on-campus tolerance, it's easy to forget the circa-2010 skirmishes over trans students rushing Texas sororities and winning high school homecoming titles in Michigan, but McBride doesn't take her community's tolerance for granted, acknowledging: "With every birthday candle extinguished, with every penny thrown, my wish was always the same... I am now blessed with the opportunity to live my dream and fulfill a truth I have known since childhood."
Image via Joe Mercier/Shutterstock.