USA LGBTQIA+ 2020 Elections Inequality

Sarah McBride has been elected as Delaware state senator in a monumental win for queer representation

Tuesday was a monumental day for queer representation in statehouses and congress. Early on in the night, Sarah McBride made history by becoming the first openly transgender state senator. The same day saw the first two openly gay, black congressmen elected to the house, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones. With historical events like this, it’s crucial that we take a moment to understand the importance of these elections.

McBride has just become the highest-ranking transgender official in the United States. Previously the highest-ranking openly transgender official was Danica Roem, who became the first out state congresswoman in 2018.

So, who is Sarah McBride?

Sarah McBride speaking at an HRC event in a blue dress
Sarah McBride speaking at an HRC event via WashingtonBlade

McBride is a Delaware native who has always been interested in helping people through policies and politics. She worked for multiple election campaigns and was elected student body president of her alma mater, American University. Sarah McBride is used to making history. During her time as student body president at AU she made national news when during her last week in office, she came out as transgender. This made her the first openly transgender student body president at the university.

After college McBride proceeded to serve on the board of Equality in Delaware, where she is credited with getting a bill passed which prevented discrimination based on gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. But, McBride wasn’t done achieving firsts for trans women.

In 2016 McBride became the first openly transgender woman to speak at the DNC. She endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential nomination and spoke about the importance of policies which support and protect trans folks.

As she was campaigning to be elected to the Delaware statehouse she partnered with the Human Rights Campaign as their National Press Secretary.

Why this matters to queer folks

Throughout her entire career, McBride has worked tirelessly to create spaces for queer individuals in the world. After it was announced that she won her congressional seat, McBride sent out a tweet specifically for young LGBTQ people.

Sarah McBride tweeting "I have tonight shows an LGBTQ kids that our democracy is big enough for them too"
Sarah McBride statement via Twitter

McBride’s win is impacting queer students at her alma mater, too. American University senior Sarah Ross (they/she) felt hopeful about what this means for queer voices. Ross said, “I think Sarah McBride‘s win will mean she is able to bring conversations to the table that have been relying on the words of queer allies and the few queer people in Congress. Hopefully, her win will enable her to strengthen the fight for legislation supporting queer people and enabling them lives free from harm and discrimination – at least at a legal level.”

Many queer and trans activists feel similarly, with praise erupting on Twitter and Instagram seconds after her win was announced.

Getting in the room

Representation is crucial, but specifically in politics. You need people in the room who have first-hand experiences to push policy in progressive directions. With issues such as the trans panic defense and bans for transgender folks in the military, it’s crucial to have individuals with lived experiences be given a voice in the inception of these policies.

Sarah Ross also spoke on the issue of inclusion, “Seeing queer representation is important to me because I think queer and trans people will not give up on queer issues. I think queerphobic and transphobic Congress members know this and will try to invalidate queer Congress members‘ actions, but once they are in Congress they have the ability and right to push legislation as they see fit. I would like to say I trust queer Congresspeople to fight for what is right, and I hope they prove me right.”

Straight representatives are able to sympathize with queer issues, but they do not know what it’s like to live them. LGBTQ+ senators, congressmen, neighborhood committee members, and school board members have lived the issues that impact their community. They understand how policies affect people’s lives because they’ve had to live through good and bad policies.

Without spending a day in the statehouse Sarah McBride has already made history. Her impact on the transgender community in Delaware cannot be understated, and many in the community are hoping to see her make a mark on politics.


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USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections Politics The World

Why college students are voting for Biden/Harris this year

Back in 2016, I remember helplessly watching the Presidential Debates wondering “How did we get here?”. The Election of 2016 seemed like America’s rock bottom until the Election of 2020 came to fruition. The Election of 2016 seemed so divisive that over 100 million eligible voters did not vote in 2016. However, the upcoming 2020 Election has made young people realize how much power we truly have in our democracy despite our dissatisfaction with both Biden and Trump. We have realized that voting as a political statement is more powerful than not voting out of apathy towards both candidates in 2016.

This election is expected to shatter voting records by millions of votes, making it a historical election. This year, young voters make up about 37% of eligible voters. College voters have tremendous power in swinging this election in favor of Biden/Harris as they tend to vote blue more often than not, and to examine this trend, I asked college students why they are voting for Biden/Harris this year and what this election means to them. 

Like most voters, young people – especially first-time voters – are disturbed by the compulsion to choose for the “better of two evils.” Luis Hinojosa, a first-time voter and Dartmouth student said, “I find it difficult to have to vote for either of two candidates that I find to be less moral than I consider myself to be. However, after seeing how Trump handled the presidency, it is clear to me that he doesn’t care about every American. Therefore, I would rather see someone else take the helm; it doesn’t hurt to give someone else a chance.”

For women and members of the LGBTQ+ community,  another four years of the Trump administration is “literally terrifying” because it poses threat to their very existence. The Trump administration has repeatedly worked to limit access to contraceptive and abortion services for women and has passed a barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Alicia Renda, a woman and member of the LGBTQ+ community at Hofstra University, is voting for Biden/Harris because “Trump’s America is personally terrifying” and because she is “worried about the people of color whose lives will be affected [by Trump’s America], especially immigrants and other people who can’t vote”. She spoke to me about how she doesn’t “fully support Biden and would love to have a candidate that is younger and more in touch with the populace”, but is settling for Biden because he is “the best we have right now”.

For the past four years, the Trump administration has come under fire multiple times for consistently bailing out the Top 1% of America, increasing the wealth gap. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed and tax cuts have been consistently awarded to owners of massive corporations, rather than ordinary citizens. To Ari Garnick, a first-time voter from Dartmouth College, this voting for Biden/Harris was a no-brainer because “pretty good beats abysmal every time”. He believes that the Biden/Harris platform will elevate America by “improving the standard of living for many of its least advantaged citizens (and non-citizens)”, allowing for greater distribution of resources. 

Similar to Ari, Umama Suriya, a South-Asian first-time voter at the University of North Texas, believes that voting for Biden/Harris is a no-brainer because it is “our only logical option of trying to have a better America”. Umama also expressed concern with Trump’s actions as he has “not done a lot for America” and may have even made America worse. She believes that the Biden/Harris ticket is the only way to rectify Trump’s mistakes. 

Throughout all of my interviews with college students, there appeared to be a consistent theme of “settling for Biden“. This became increasingly apparent to me during my interview with Ian Farm from Dartmouth College. First-time voters such as Ian are aware that “Joe Biden won’t save us”. It is up to us to “save ourselves and each other”. Ian expressed a sense of pessimism with the Biden/Harris administration’s policies but ultimately decided to vote for Biden/Harris because they will “cause fewer preventable deaths than Trump by COVID-19, and will at least pretend to make an effort to help the community”. 

Like Ian, Emma Meehan, a first-time voter from The University of Texas at Austin, disagrees with many of Joe Biden’s policies. However, she disagrees with President Donald Trump on many more key policy issues than she does Joe Biden, especially his denial of climate change. She expressed to me that “Biden’s climate change and tax policies are enticing to progressives and would help in addressing major issues the country faces”. As a woman and ally to the LGBTQ+ community, Emma believes that Biden is “far more equipped than Trump in dealing with issues that affect minorities, the LGBTQI+ community, and women”. 

In addition to their incompetency in dealing with women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights, the Trump administration continues to be ignorant in the midst of conversations about racial equality. First-time voter Eve Carrott (Dartmouth College) expressed her support for Biden/Harris after watching President Trump “use his power to imbibe his ignorant racial prejudices into the law”, especially after his response to the Black Lives Matter Protests. 

While the Black Lives Matter Protests have been advertised as a form of “leftist” anarchy by many conservatives, some voters believe that another four years of the Trump administration would actually be anarchical for our country. Parker Himley, a queer and neurodivergent woman from Georgetown University, expressed her disapproval for the Trump Administration during our interview. “Fuck Trump. We’re not going survive another four years”, she said. To young-voters like Parker, voting for Biden/Harris is a last-ditch attempt to save democracy and the freedom that American prides itself on while remaining cognizant of necessary reform.

Finally, the Biden/Harris ticket appears to be the better platform across almost all social issues. Aliza Schuler, a first-time voter at American University, believes that “misogynism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or racism of ANY KIND is unacceptable, especially in the White House”. She is voting for Biden/Harris during this election because “our universe simply cannot handle another four years of Donald Trump geologically, fiscally, socially, or emotionally. We need out”. In addition, a victory for the Biden/Harris ticket would mean that Senator Harris would be “the first woman and woman-of-color to hold a vice-presidential position, which would be a stepping stone to having a female president someday”. Aliza is optimistic that the Biden/Harris ticket will get us “one step closer” to having a female president in office, while a Trump/Pence victory would be a major setback for having women in leadership positions.

Across all of these responses, there appears to be a clear trend of “picking the lesser of two evils”. A Biden/Harris ticket was no one’s first choice, but it was a far better choice than the Trump/Pence ticket in terms of racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, and unifying our country as a whole. Across Gen Z and millennial social media platforms, this trend has been nicknamed “Settle for Biden”, indicating that we’re just trying to make the best of an unfavorable situation. As young people continue to battle for our futures, the solution remains clear: voting!

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College 101 Dedicated Feature Life

This is why you should study abroad – I went to Madrid

I’ve always been a little hesitant and unsure of myself. When I started telling people that I planned on studying abroad for the Fall 2019 semester in Madrid, I could tell that they were worried. I mean, how was I going to survive alone? I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, I didn’t know anyone else that was in my program, and I don’t exactly have a plethora of common sense – I’m more book-smart. I think that part of it was that they didn’t want me to get my hopes up. Studying abroad could be a really great experience or a really terrible one, and there wasn’t room for anything in between. 

But, I was determined to prove them wrong. I always have been. Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that people saw my capabilities as one-sided. I could do this but never that. To me, it seemed like an expectation thing. No one expected me to be so independent and sturdy, especially when I appeared in front of them as fragile or sensitive.

The truth is that I had never been given the chance to prove myself in this capacity. The second that I took too long or wasn’t doing something precisely the way that someone else would, they took over. And, as a result, I became apprehensive, kind of shy, and extremely nervous. 

However, it turns out that I was right. I had been largely independent all along, and studying abroad was a great idea. I slowly realized that I could do anything I set my mind to, even this, all the while holding on tightly to my emotional tendencies. I learned a lot about myself while basking in the Mediterranean sun. 

During my time in Madrid, I met people and made connections in ways that are indescribable. I don’t know if it is because I finally found myself in a situation in which I was free from implicit restraints and boundaries or if I became a product of my surroundings. But, I am sure of at least one thing, that being that I was entering a moment in which I was young enough to still have the ignorant belief that nothing mattered, but also wise enough to know that everything mattered much more than it had ever before. There were so many things, and so many people, clawing at me and insisting for my attention, and I finally let go.

For the first time I acknowledged the positivism of this sweet, even blissful, point in my life—one that I may never get again. So, I gave in to the extremities. In doing so, the whole world opened up. I found security in empathy, I learned about ambition, self-awareness, and I felt genuine longing for the first time. I spent days dancing in streets that were once touched by Goya, Ernest Hemingway, and Velasquez. I read poems by Pablo Neruda on the metro and I ate TONS of churros con chocolate.

What I found to be the most pivotal about my experience in Madrid, though, would be living in a home-stay. This is where I spent the most time, had the most laughs, and learned the most about myself. The day after landing in Madrid I met my host family and moved into their home. While they didn’t speak any English at all, and whatever Spanish I did know I forgot the second I opened my mouth, we managed to work through it. 

I knew I wanted to build a relationship with them, but before I could do that, I had to conquer my own confidence battle. I had to remind myself that yes, they were strangers with whom I would be living with for months, but I was also a stranger to them. Frankly, we were all in the same boat. Eventually, I got used to their habits, learned their family traditions, and studied their culture until I felt like I belonged there. They made me feel like I was as much a Madrileño as they are.

At dinner, my host parents would always ask about my day, my classes, and if I was up to anything fun. On the weekends, they would recommend countless restaurants or art museums to my friends and I, and then ask me if I liked it the next day. They even comforted me when I felt overwhelmed or insecure. What I appreciated the most, however, is that they actually listened to my stories, which I am sure that I told in broken Spanish, and always seemed interested.

We really grew to love and care for one another. In those four short months I am sure that they watched me grow exponentially. I truly became myself and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. Plus, I came out being able to speak and communicate in Spanish light-years beyond my ability from when I first arrived in Madrid. 

My memories from this time in my life are whole, and they always will be whole. I’m finally able to show off my independence and I’m never turning back. This just goes to show that a little bit of introspection and determination could go a long way. Of course, I was scared to be alone and so far away but I knew that it was what I needed.  Once I convinced myself to just rip off the band-aid my possibilities for personal growth became endless.

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Race Inequality

It’s time that we unpack the racist history behind Greek life at American universities

In light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, American college students have been voicing their experiences with racism at their universities, specifically with campus Greek life organizations. Such students are exposing sorority and fraternity members at their institutions for racist acts through Instagram accounts of the likes of @dearpwi.

Recently, a video was posted of a white Vanderbilt sorority member wearing a durag, laughing while a white fraternity member exclaimed racial slurs. Members of Vanderbilt ADPI mocked a Black member and stated that she didn’t belong in the sorority and it “wasn’t her place.” At Washington University in St. Louis, a white member of Chi Omega was accused of using racial slurs frequently and fetishizing Black men. Despite reports, the sorority did nothing to reprimand her. Additionally, sorority members at American University in Washington, D.C. outwardly tokenize their POC members. Alpha Sig, a fraternity at American University, has also been exposed for throwing civil war themed parties while chanting racial slurs. Fraternity members at California Polytechnical School were photographed wearing Blackface. 

These racist incidents are only snippets of the hundreds reported. Meanwhile, Greek life members are advocating for reform and for more discussions on diversity, claiming that these are isolated events unrelated to the structures of fraternities and sororities.

Students across different campuses are calling for the abolition of Greek Life. In 2019, student activists at Swarthmore College led a four-day sit-in in protest of Greek life after racist, homophobic, and sexist documents were leaked. Swarthmore then proceeded to formally ban all sororities and fraternities. This past month, students at American University created a petition asking for Greek life to be abolished on campus. On Instagram, students from Washington University in St. Louis, American University, and the University of Southern California, among other prominent schools are documenting their horrific experiences with sororities and fraternities on campus.

However, this is not new. Greek life has a long history of being racist and exclusive. Phi Beta Kappa, the first U.S. Greek-letter fraternity was founded at William & Mary University in 1776. As sororities and fraternities grew more popular and gained traction in the 1800s, they were then organized and further separated by sex, religion, and race. Soon these organizations began to largely reflect the demographics of their predominantly white campuses: wealthy white, Angolo-Saxon, and protestant men (WASPs). There was very little, if any, diversity among the organizations. Even as more Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) were admitted into educational institutions, historically white fraternities and sororities continued to exclude them. In fact, Greek letter organizations included racial bans in their constitutions well into the 1960s. 

Continued segregation in Greek life throughout the early 20th century inevitably became a social and professional detriment to students of color. College campuses provided special housing and buildings for Greek affiliated organizations, yet none for cultural organizations or multicultural fraternities and sororities. White sororities and fraternities led, and continue to lead to powerful alumni networks and career opportunities. Spots are even held in student government positions for certain all-white Greek life members at schools such as the University of Alabama — an institution that accepted it’s first Black sorority member in 2003.

In response to the segregation they faced, Black students began to create their own Greek organizations, against university pushback. Alpha Phi Alpha, the first historically Black fraternity, was founded in 1906 at Cornell University. Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first historically Black sorority, was founded in 1908 at Howard University, an HBCU dominated by men. Black fraternities and sororities served as a social and intellectual relief and safe haven for Black students – however, they still were not fully accepted by their universities. Black Greek organizations were still not granted campus buildings for meetings or housing. Not to mention that Black students, in general, were not permitted to run for certain student government positions, or play for athletics teams until the 1940s. 

Despite integration today, Black students remain hardly represented in Greek life. A research study shows that 95% of historically white fraternity and sorority members are white. Greek life members are more inclined to accept members who resemble their own experiences despite calls for action or progressive initiatives. They do not value diversity and seek to create an environment in which everyone is similar. If potential new members don’t “fit in,” or “aren’t cool,” they are denied membership, which further perpetuates whiteness and classism within Greek organizations. 

It’s time for Greek life to be dismantled at all universities. A system built upon racism can not possibly be reformed — it should be abolished. Historically white fraternities and sororities are fundamentally rooted in the segregationist values of white supremacy. Plus, the recently revealed racist actions of members demonstrate that not much within the Greek system has actually changed. Their racist behavior is encouraged by and stems directly from Greek life’s lack of diversity and long history of elitist exclusion.

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