By Marisa Richmond
Photo courtesy of Monica Helms
With the convention starting exactly seven days from today, I thought I would share my schedule with you, as it stands right now, so that you will have an idea what you can expect.
I will fly to Denver this Sunday. We have our first event that night. It is an event called Friends of New Orleans for all the delegates. It is a commemoration of the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It will be the first time that all 4000 of us will be together and it will allow us to remember the victims of that horrific event. After that, there is a special cocktail party being co-sponsored by the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the National Stonewall Democrats.
The next morning will the first full day of convention related activities. It will start with a Tennessee breakfast sponsored by AT&T. Actually, Ma Bell is sponsoring all of our breakfasts during the week. I suspect this is their way of saying “thanks” to the state legislators who supported their bill on cable TV earlier this year. After spending $15 million lobbying for that bill, providing breakfast for 105 people for four days is a drop in the bucket. While I am not a morning person, the important aspect of this for me is tha fact that AT&T has a fully inclusive non discrimination policy. I want to use these opportunities to talk with other delegates, especially the elected officials, to show that is good for business not to discriminate against LGBT people. After that, I will run to the African American caucus, and then return to the Tennessee delegation for a lunch sponsored by Congressman Lincoln Davis, who is expected to run for Governor. After lunch, there is an LGBT Tea Party sponsored by the Stonewall Dems, before the convention officially opens that evening in the Pepsi Center. The headline speakers that night are supposed to Senator Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama. I expect this is when we will vote to accept the platform. The transgender caucus, while not 100% happy with the platform, will likely vote to accept it since it does say “gender identity” and it does support a “Comprehensive” ENDA. We are still waiting to get the final draft, but the earlier draft was admittedly quite good, albeit not perfect. At least the Democratic Platform had real input from the entire LGBT community, as opposed to the Republican platform, which closed the door on its own Log Cabin Republicans in the writing. We will probably also rule on any challenges to delegate credentials. While there has been much publicity about Florida and Michigan, I want to make sure that any state which does not meet its diversity guidelines, which includes LGBT delegates, is held accountable. I know that two states (Nebraska and North Dakota) and two territories (American Samoa and Virgin Islands) have zero LGBT delegates. We need to make sure that state leaders understand their responsibility to ensure their delegations are truly inclusive.
The second day will begin, again, with the Tennessee breakfast followed by the Women’s Caucus meeting. The Tennessee luncheon on Tuesday is sponsored by Pfizer, which, like AT&T, has a fully inclusive non-discrimination policy. The more I can talk about this and thank the corporate leaders for opening their doors to talented people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the more we can gain support from Tennessee leaders who will see that it is not that scary a proposition. In the afternoon, we have a Tennessee reception from United Healthcare Group. Unfortunately, the health care industry is a very big problem for transgender people who are often denied basic health care by many insurance providers. Here, my mission is different in that I will be educating everyone about real discrimination in a very basic area of life, and since the Democratic Platform is supposed to include a commitment to universal health care, the fact that so many discriminate so openly has to be addressed.
Tuesday night’s convention session will feature Senator Hillary Clinton and the official Keynote Address by former Governor Mark Warner of Virginia. Afterwards, I have two receptions at the same time, which, fortunately, will be in the exact same hotel. One is from Governor Phil Bredesen and the other from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. I will be accompanied at these two by an African American student from Lebanon, Tennessee. We will be running back and forth to see which has the best food.
On Wednesday, we will have the official Tennessee delegation photo at breakfast. The Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, Gray Sasser, told me that the state’s breakfasts are “sparsely attended,” but this might be one where people actually show up. After breakfast, I have the second African American caucus and then a Tennessee lunch sponsored by the Nashville based Correction Corporation of America. Regardless of how you feel about privatizing prisons, the reality is that CCA prisons do house LGBT people, and I want to make sure company executives know that some of us do care to see that they are treated humanely. In the afternoon, we have a reception sponsored by former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, who is also running for Governor, before we head back to the Pepsi Center where we will hear former President Bill Clinton and Obama’s still unnamed Vice Presidential nominee. The roll call for President, which has been discussed in the news a lot recently, will likely take place this night, but I do not have a specific time. Governor Bredesen is the Chair of the Tennessee delegation, so I expect either he or former Vice President Al Gore, will deliver our votes on the floor. I will try and get a spot standing behind them.
Thursday will begin with our final AT&T sponsored breakfast before I run to one final Women’s caucus. The Tennessee lunch that day is sponsored by Motorola. I have no idea if there is a Tennessee connection, but the company does have a fully inclusive non-discrimination policy, and I want to acknowledge that. Thursday’s session is the bi one in Invesco Field at Mile High and will be highlighted by Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. After that, we have one final Tennessee reception hosted by Blue Cross/Blue Shield—the company which kicked me off of their rolls when I transitioned even though I was paying my premiums out of my own pocket. I have plenty to say to their officials….
I return home Friday afternoon, and I expect to be both haggard and reinvigorated when I do.
I hope this outline will help you as you watch the proceedings and as you anticipate what I will be discussing next week.