Author Archives: marisatn2008

Final Post: I’m Back in Nashville

By Marisa Richmond

I have finally returned home from the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  There was much speculation in the media, and among many private citizens, over what would happen at this year’s convention.  I think it is safe to say that we far exceeded everyone’s expectations for success.  I do need to tell you little more about my final day at the DNC before I turn to more general reflections.

The Tennessee breakfast began with former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan of Clarksville, who is running for Governor, saying “Thank you for all you do.”  She actually held a reception a day earlier, but virtually all of the delegates missed it since it fell at the same time as the roll call vote for President.  I promise I will attend her next free event.  She was followed by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis who reminded us to “think globally, act locally.”  We then had a lineup that included State Rep. Randy Rinks of Savannah, Congressman Steve Cohen, Jerry Martin, newly named State Director of the Obama for President campaign, Justin Wilkins of Chattanooga, and then in an impromptu move as “filler,” former US Senator Jim Sasser, who happened to be sitting at my table.  Finally, our keynote speaker, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut arrived.  Noting it was the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, he said “We’re not going to fail now.”  Then Jerry Lee, President of the AFL-CIO of Tennessee was joined by several union members, some of whom were among the most passionate Clinton delegates.  They preached unity, putting the divisions of the primary season behind us.  This was brought home by Clinton Superdelegate Vicky Harwell of Pulaski.

As an interesting sidenote, our hotelmates, Pennsylvania, had a pretty big name of their own at their breakfast: Joe Biden.  I did not learn the next Vice President had been just down the hall from us until that evening.  I do not feel cheated, however, because after breakfast, I had a wonderful conversation with Senator Dodd.  He pulled photos of his two daughters out of his pocket to show me as if he was sharing with an old friend he had not seen in awhile.  When I noted his oldest daughter had long, basketball player legs and he needed to send her down to Pat Summitt, he straightened up and said, “Oh, no, no, no.  Geno Auriemma gets her!”  We then began to discuss the great rivalry between the two schools and he shared a story about bringing former Senator Birch Bayh to a UT-UConn game in Hartford so that people could learn about the battle for Title IX.  When he said people need to realize that equality doesn’t just happen, people have to fight for it, that was the opening I was looking for.  I then told him I was one of 9 transgender delegates at the DNC and we appreciated his vote for the fully inclusive Hate Crimes bill and we will need him on the fully inclusive ENDA, he looked me right in the eye and smiled and said, “Not at all.”

After breakfast, I made my way downtown to attend the Women’s Caucus. As I entered the room, two protesters were being dragged out.  For all of the pre convention talk about protesters and PUMA’s, it was fairly quiet with very few incidents.  Anyway, the lineup of speakers I heard was very impressive and motivational.  I heard Senator Barbara Boxer of California (who described this race as “Hero vs. Zero” on women’s issues), Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz of Florida (“There is no choice for women”), Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.  Then came the big name of the day: Michelle Obama.  I never saw a room fill up so quickly before.  Michelle said that women get things done.  There is no force for change more powerful than women connecting with women.  When Barack wins, “instead of talking about ‘family values,’ we will have policies that value families.”

With the unenviable task of following Michelle Obama was Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.  She said that when the other side starts throwing slime, “I’m gonna say people who live in 7 houses shouldn’t be throwing stones.”  I also heard Congresswomen Kirsten Gillibrand and Louise Slaughter, both of New York.

I then walked two blocks away to the Tennessee luncheon.  Walking down the street with me was Bruce Shine of Kingsport.  Last week, he was named one of three finalists for the vacant seat on the Tennessee Supreme Court.  As we walked, he told me that he had been attending conventions since 1952, when he was a teenaged page working for Estes Kefauver.

The lunch was conducted as a Town Hall Forum featuring Governor Bredesen and Congressman Cooper.  The very first question appeared to catch the Governor by surprise.  It was about Denver’s excellent light rail system and why Tennessee cannot seem to get on board with commuter rail like the rest of the country with high gas prices and worsening traffic in the big urban areas like Nashville.  I hope that the example of Denver, a metropolitan area on slightly larger than Nashville, will help spur our elected officials in Washington and Nashville to action.  Other questions mainly revolved around health care and the election.  This particular luncheon was sponsored by Motorola, so at the end, I introduced myself to the Motorola rep, Deb Cortright, and told her how important their corporate non-discrimination policy, which has both sexual orientation and gender identity, was since it shows they value the contributions of all LGBT people.  She thanked me and said they are proud of their inclusiveness.  After a short break to buy some souvenirs, I caught the bus to Mile High Stadium for that incredible final night which I discussed yesterday.  It has been 24 hours and I am still stuck on the word awesome.  I am so glad I pursued being a delegate and had the honor and privilege of being part of it. 

One thing I neglected to mention is that I was able to get three tickets to give to friends. One of my tickets went to a 21 year old college student from Lebanon, Romel McMurry.  I meet him earlier this year during the delegate selection process.  Even though he was not selected, he showed real enthusiasm and travelled to Denver anyway.  I attended my first convention when I was 21 and I always appreciated the support I received from others.  Now that I am turning gray, I feel it is important that we encourage youth to become inspired by politics since they are the future of the country.  Also, my friend Debbie, who lives locally, was able to get her own ticket and she was way up on the 5th deck.  We text messaged each other so I could find her.  As I hit send on one message, I looked over the see Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts standing less than two feet away.  I introduced myself as a transgender delegate and thanked him for working with us through Diego Sanchez.  He was incredibly nice and gracious.  I may have also been on C-SPAN last night.  They had a camera pan the TN delegation during the festivities, but I have not heard from anyone if they saw me.  I do, however, have the link to the YouTube clip of my appearance on CNN during the Monday night session at the Pepsi Center:

After Obama’s rousing speech, as I was leaving the Stadium to get to the buses, a person from WPLN in Nashville (90.3 FM) stopped me for a brief interview.  I was also interviewed by The Tennessean and Commercial Appeal just before I flew to Denver.

In an earlier post, I did target the transportation system for some criticism.  I now wish to retract that criticism.  The “problems” on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday were fairly minor and insignificant.  Thursday, on the other hand, it completely broke down.  The confusion and chaos in the parking lot as delegates were trying to find buses as we wandered aimlessly with no assistance and no direction was inexcusable.  Even the drivers and police officers who were there to protect us called the final night a “nightmare” and were very apologetic.  They were very embarrassed at how badly the shift to Mile High Stadium was handled after the bus departures were handled so smoothly from Pepsi Center the first three nights.  When I finally made it back to the hotel, the food at the reception was gone and even the Blue Cross Blue Shield reps, who I wanted to talk to about discriminating against transgender people, had already left.  We did, however, have one final act.  We had taken the Tennessee signs that you may have seen on TV from both Pepsi Center and Mile High Stadium.  The Pepsi Center sign was split up into its three separate sides.  We all signed all three sides.  One will go into the TNDP Headquarters in Nashville and the other two will be auctioned.  The sign from the final night was kept intact.  We had to sign it one time each, and then, on October 7, we hope to get Barack Obama to sign it when he is in Nashville for the 2nd Presidential debate.  That means that my signature and Obama’s will be on the same item through eternity.  How cool is that?!

So now, a few final thoughts.  When we arrived in Denver, many wondered if the Democratic Party will be able to heal.  I believe the answer is a resounding YES.  We are a united party ready to go to work.  The future of this country is at stake.  We have a vision, and the best candidate for both President AND Vice President.  Sarah Palin? Are you kidding me?  What little has come out about her in the hours since she was introduced as McCain’s running mate should have every Republican running scared.  Our VP nominee is actually qualified to be President.  As a Clinton delegate, I can tell you we will be out there, if we have not already done so, working to elect Obama and Biden. 

When I arrived at the convention, I was given a bag of special 2008 Transgender Delegate buttons that had been made for all of us by Monica Helms of Georgia, and member of the 2004 Transgender Caucus. 

One was for me to wear, and the others to give to people I think have done special work on behalf of transgender equality.  I still have one I intend to give to one delegate, but the ones I distributed went Congressmen Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen for their support of the fully inclusive Hate Crimes bill and co-sponsoriship of the fully inclusive ENDA which will be back in 2009.  Cohen was also the original sponsor of the Birth Certificate bill when he was a State Senator.  One went to Cohen’s assistant, Marilyn Dillihay, who has become a good friend.   I gave others to Gray Sasser, Chairman of the TNDP, for his commitment to diversity, and David Upton of Memphis, who coordinated putting the slate of Clinton delegates together and made sure that I was one of them, and Memphis Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, for taking the lead in investigating the beating of Duanna Johnson and other transwoman.  Janis actually wore her Transgender delegate button in Mile High Stadium for Obama’s speech.  I also gave one to my roommate, Sara Kruszka, the other LGBT delegate from Tennessee.  She told me that she was so inspired by the LGBT and Women’s Caucuses, she is now thinking of running for office.  

This does lead me to one criticism of the Party itself.  While the platform, which was passed by voice vote early in the Monday session before I even got to the Pepsi Center, has gender identity in the language, I was very frustrated that we were never mentioned one single time from the podium.  In 2004, transgender was mentioned three times. In 2008, that number was zero.  We are not invisible in the Democratic Party.  We should not be treated as pariahs when we are out there working hard and raising money for pro-equality candidates.  I was also disappointed with many of my fellow Tennessee delegates when Senator Obama talked last night about recognizing same-sex couples.  Half of us stood and cheered, but half just sat there in stony silence.  The Democratic Party cannot expect voters to overcome homophobia or transphobia if its own leaders cannot do the same.

Overall, I had an incredible time in Denver and I have enjoyed this opportunity to share with you, even though I had to stay up until 2 am each day to get my thoughts down.  If it inspires you to get more involved, and maybe even run for delegate yourself in 2012, then I have accomplished one of my major goals.  As I was on the van to the airport this morning, one person said the Delegate Floor pass from last night is now going for $4000 on E-Bay.  That one piece of paper could pay for my trip.

I would like to thank Val Reynolds of Avalon Farmblog for providing me this space. Even though Val and I never did see each other in Denver, I know from her own posts that she had a great time too.  Our two perspectives should give a pretty good view of all that happens at a convention.

I want to thank the other blog sites that provided direct links to Avalon Farmblog, or simply copied my posts, so that their readers would see a side of the convention that TV just does not show.

I want to thank my parents for inspiring me to believe that one person can make a difference and teaching me to stand up for what I believe.

I want to thank the Tennessee Democratic Party, and the leadership of the Clinton campaign in Tennessee, which actually selected me to be a delegate.

And I want to thank all of you for reading and thinking that what we do in this election is important. 

Now, let’s go win!  But first, I really need to catch up on some sleep.  🙂


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Day Four: Yes We Can

By Marisa Richmond

First, I have to start, once again, with one major correction & a couple of comments I neglected to make yesterday.  When I was discussing that fiery Clinton caucus meeting, I said it was Sylvia Woods who caused some consternation.  It was actually Betsy Reid of West Tennessee.  With all that has been happening here, I try to remember with whom I have been talking, and then I sit down to write at 1 am, and that name is still stuck in my mind, so I apologize for the error. Then, I forgot to mention that we made a full delegation group photo after breakfast, minus Al Gore.  And, with all of my activity, I was forced to miss the reception hosted by former House Majority Leader Kim McMillan, who is running for Governor.  I will make it up to her by attending her next TWO free receptions!

Now, today was the final day of the convention.  Since I fly back to Nashville tomorrow (actually, later today), I will hold off on full details until I am back home.  I will, however, just say that I am still winding down from the most incredible single event I have attended in the political arena.  I saw The Beatles over 40 years ago, and I was at the 1984 Olympics Soccer Final in the Rose Bowl with over 100,000 people, but tonight was an event that can truly change the world.

I hope all of you watched it live.  It was one of those moments that has to be experienced to be appreciated, and to be on the floor of Mile High Stadium, knowing the WORLD was watching, made it even more special.  Everyone here is absolutely gushing over the success of the convention, the positive tone with which we return home, and easily the most inspirational leader we have seen since the 1960s.  I don’t know if you say that at home, but the 80,000 of us who were in that stadium tonight certainly walked out ready to do our part to make this dream come true.  When I looked at that mass of humanity, waiting for someone to take charge and show them the way, and even when they were doing The Wave (which I helped invent in Oakland, California, in 1981), I realized the country was ready.  Tonight, we all saw that Barack Obama is ready.

I’m fired up and ready to go.  I hope you are ready to step up too.

I promise, I will have more of a delegate eye’s view tomorrow on my final day when I am back home.  I am just too tired, and emotionally pumped up, to discuss anything of substance right now.

Yes We Can!

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Day Three: We Made History Today

By Marisa Richmond

It seems everyday, I remember something from the previous day which I forgot to mention.  Last night, as I arrived on the floor, Babs Casbar, a transgender delegate from New Jersey came by to talk.  While we were chatting, I looked up to see Amanda Simpson jumping across the rows to join us.  So Tennessee “hosted” an impromptu transgender caucus on the floor.  I have had other opportunities to chat with other trans delegates on the floor (Laura Calvo of Oregon, Vanessa Foster of Texas, and, even though she decided not to associate with the rest of us, Marti Abernathy of Indiana).  I also lent my floor pass to 2 TN alternates so they could get down on the floor while I walked around the upper reaches of the Pepsi Center.  Alternates don’t get seats, so they have to sit up in the third deck unless a delegate trades credentials to allow them to get downstairs.  I wanted to allow others to have that experience.

Now, on to Wednesday.  Our breakfast speakers today were Congressman John Tanner, the only TN Democratic Congressman I had not previously met, and US Senate candidate Bob Tuke.  Tuke faces an uphill battle to unseat Lamar Alexander, but if he can pull it off, he will be a great Senator for TN and the nation.

After breakfast, we did, however, have some fireworks.  The Clinton delegates held a “five minute” meeting to discuss the roll call vote today.  The meeting was chaired by Sylvia Woods from Knoxville.  She started by saying just 6 hours earlier, she decided to do something she never thought she would do, she was going to vote for Obama.  Several immediately jumped and started screaming at her calling her act a “betrayal”, demanding she resign as a Clinton Whip, and insisting that our whip had to be elected.  Our meeting was open & several reporters were in the room, so I am not revealing any insider information.  This primary process has been painful for those of us who are African American women who have had our loyalties and priorities challenged, regardless of who we supported, so it was very difficult to listen to the anger in the room, which one delegate described as “hatred.”  Another claimed that Democrats don’t hate anybody.  Well….

Anyway, our “5 minute” meeting lasted approximately 30.  We were told in the end to vote our conscience, which happens to be the way it is always done.  When it was finally over, after many ruffled feathers, hurt feelings, and even a few tears, we went and filled out the paper forms casting our recorded votes.  When I got on the elevator to go back to my room, I turned to see PA Gov. Ed Rendell getting on right behind me.  I immediately introduced myself and thanked him for his wonderful remarks yesterday.  He said, “we have a great affinity for Tennessee!”

Because of the length of the caucus, I never made it to the 2nd African American Caucus as I had hoped.  I was especially looking forward to getting close to the special speaker: Michelle Obama.  Instead, I just rode on the bus with most of the rest of the TN delegation to our lunch at the Denver Art Museum sponsored by Corrections Corporation of America.  The speaker was Governor Bredesen and we were then entertained by a singer named Lance Miller (who had free CD’s on the tables).  Lance jokingly noted that the sponsor was a Republican.  🙂  While I was unable to stay long enough to get a free tour of the museum which I had hoped to do, I did have one very funny experience.  When I went to wash my hands in the Ladies’ Room, I placed my hands under the motion detector for the faucet, & it started playing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  With each sink in use, it produced quite a symphony!

Being at the TN luncheon forced me to miss two events: Day of Service and the 2nd LGBT Caucus.  The Day of Service allowed many to volunteer in the community.  The TN assignment was to help clean a local park.  My roommate Sara did sign up for it, but the bus never showed to take them there.  At the LGBT Caucus, the Transgender Caucus planned to award the 2nd Jane Fee Award for work on behalf of the transgender community.  Jane was the 1st openly transgender delegate at the DNC in 2000 from Minnesota.  Before that, the WWII veteran worked to make MN’s non-discrimination law the first in the nation to be fully inclusive back in 1993, a full year before ENDA was first introduced without “gender identity” in it.  We had actually planned to give it on Monday, but that meeting ran very long and we were bumped to today.  Although several of us could not be present today, we had voted to give it to Rick Stafford a DNC member from, ironically, Minnesota, who was instrumental in helping integrate trans activists into the delegations and committees.

When I left the TN luncheon, I walked around to a special Reception for Clinton delegates to meet Senator Clinton.  What happened instead is that they simply threw the doors open to everyone, so it lost its special status for those of us who are here who worked for her & worked to be selected to represent those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling around the country.  After her speech, where she officially “released” us, she walked around a rope shaking hands, signing autographs, and posing for pictures.  I tried hard to get to her, but the crowd was just too big.  My friend Veronika, asked me to give Hillary a special gift.  I will try again tomorrow.

After the reception, I walked around the corner to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., with Pat Branham, a delegate from Chattanooga.  She wanted a drink & a small bite to eat.  While we were waiting for our order, we noticed on MSNBC that the Roll Call was about to start.  Since we both wanted to be on the floor when that happened, we quickly asked for to-go boxes & ran out of there.  We made ourselves look a bit silly eating hush puppies & onion rings on the bus (which may have been against the rules, but we “forgot” to ask….), but nobody complained.

We arrived at the Pepsi Center as DC was voting.  I dropped my bag in a seat & ran down by the TN microphone so I would have a good spot when we got on TV.  The TNDP Chair, Gray Sasser, had a special guest sitting there: his father, former US Senator, and Ambassador to China, Jim Sasser.  I eventually got a photo with the two of them.  By now, you know that the TN vote was not cast on TV because, as part of the compromise to move the schedule along, Senator Clinton came in dramatically to cast the vote for NY, and she moved to stop the roll call & nominate Barack Obama by acclimation.  We voted overwhelmingly by voice and with that, we made HISTORY.  Tonight, the Democratic Party became the first major party to nominate an African American to the President of the United States.  Growing up, I often wondered if I would live long enough to see this moment, and there I was shouting at the top of my lungs to make it happen!  And though TN did not get to read off our vote, if you are interested, the official vote here was 51 for Obama, 32 for Clinton, and 2 Not Voting.

After the roll call, we settled in for the moving speeches, which, to me, were highlighted by Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Tammy Duckworth, and Joe Biden.  As Biden’s speech was about to end, I received a text message from Nashville saying the networks were reporting Barack was backstage about to come out.  That only added to the excitement of the moment.  

I have done a lot of things I have been proud of, but this night was truly historic and it is such an incredible, indescribable feeling to have been a part of it.  We then left the Pepsi Center for the last time.

For those of you who prefer celebrity sightings to politics, Monday, I saw Dan Rather, Tuesday, Ashley Judd walked by TN, and tonight I saw Chevy Chase.  Of course, I have seen lots of famous reporters, but they are working, so they don’t really count.  🙂

I ended the evening at a special TN reception hosted by FedEX featuring Memphis BBQ, which they absolutely, positively had shipped in fresh, in, are you ready?, the clubhouse level at Coors Field along the right field line.  It was just a beautiful setting, but half of the attendees arrived at Last Call since many of us walked over a mile to avoid the horrendous traffic.  Denver is one of the prettiest cities in the country, and people here have been just wonderfully friendly to us, but the traffic as been terrible & the transportation had just been woefully inadequate.

When I got back to the hotel, Sara informed me about the death of Civil Rights Activist Del Martin in San Francisco, just weeks after she was finally able to marry her partner of over 50 years Phyllis Lyon. I am glad she lived long enough to realize her dream.  When MA cast its vote today, they mentioned they were the first in the nation with Marriage Equality.  I applauded very loudly in front of the entire TN delegation to remind them that the Democratic Party is supposed to be the party that fights FOR everyone’s rights, and not be an obstacle to them.

Tomorrow is the final day when we hear Obama’s speech at Mile High Stadium.  I have just learned that Stevie Wonder is the special entertainment.  The delegates will actually be on the floor of the field.  Focus on the Family is praying for rain.

And one final thing as I finish this, my roommate Sara ran into the room to grab something.  She said the TN & CT Hospitality Rooms are combining into one big party.  Now I know the thin air must be getting to me.  It is so uncharacteristic of me to forget about something as basic as an open bar….

See you tomorrow.

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Day Two: Hillary Rocks!

By Marisa Richmond

First, before I get to Tuesday’s activities, I just want to follow up on a couple of items from yesterday.  I forgot to mention that during the Black Caucus meeting, we were interrupted TWICE by protesters claiming that Obama did not care about blacks & supported genocide of blacks.  Both protesters, who happened to be white, were outshouted by the crowd chanting “O-BA-MA” until the cops ran in & dragged them out.  How ironic, but there are cops everywhere…

And when I shown on CNN lat night, I neglected to mention that the person next to me was Dan Lawson, a delegate from Maryville, TN.  Sitting just outside the shot (which is apparently available on, where else?, You Tube), was Charlene Kilpatrick, a TNDP Executive Committeemember from Chattanooga who was sitting in front of me, State Rep. Joanne Favors of Chattanooga on my left, and behind me were Chip Forrester of Goodlettsville, the TNDP Treasurer, & Congressman Jim Cooper.  If anyone wonders why I ran to be a delegate, it is the opportunity to rub elbows with major players like this.

Now, on to Tuesday. We got off to a fiery start, which set the tone for the whole day.  House Speaker Pro Tem Lois DeBerry of Memphis, who is also on the DNC & is a Superdelegate, spoke first.  She was followed by our special guest, Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania.  As a Clinton delegate, he first said to the other Clinton delegates, “Get over it….Let’s go forward.”  He then focused on Health Care, Equal Pay for Women, and taxes.  He contrasted Obama & McCain on these issues.  Finally, Congressman Bart Gordon spoke about the need to win, but he also said we need to win for the right reasons.  After breakfast, I walked by the ballroom where the Connecticut delegation was having its breakfast, & CHris Dodd was at the podium speaking.  I heard he will speak at the TN breakfast on Thursday.

I actually took my first real break at that point.  I did want to go to the Women’s Caucus before the TN lunch, but I did not go today for reasons that allow me to segue into the one real complaint we have about the convention.  The “transportation” here has laid a royal egg.  We are in a Hotel in an area called the Tech Center which is 15 miles South of downtown.  There are no buses to the Convention Center & the ones to the Pepsi Center–a one mile walk from the Convention Center–don’t start until 1pm.  Now there is a nice light rail system here, & we have been given free 5 day passes, but it is not that convenient.  the hotel website claims the station is 1/10 mile from the station.  Well, let me tell you that I was a distance runner on my HS track team, and that walk is NOT 1/10 mile.  And the hotel does not even offer shuttle service for us.  And none of the women, and some of the men, don’t like that walk in the dark.

So I skipped today’s women’s caucus although I will go on thursday since both Michelle Obama & Hillary Clinton are expected to speak! I stayed at the hotel for our TN luncheon sponsored by Pfizer.  Our keynote speaker was Congressman Jim Cooper, who quite possibly gave the best speech of his life.  He called us all the “Keepers of the American Dream.”  I also talked to the Pfizer rep, Joe Zozoli, to thank the company for having a fully inclusive non-discrimination policy which recognizes the contributions of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

This leads me to another matter.  I skipped another luncheon to which I had RSVP’d.  This was one for the LGBT delegates.  There were four co-sponsors of the lunch.  One was the Victory Fund.  I met with the VF Director, Chuck Wolfe, yesterday during the reception at Gill, and we have 3 VF Board Members in Nashville, so I have had plenty of opportunities to express my appreciation for their work.  Another sponsor was Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.  Due to her hard work on behalf of a fully inclusive ENDA, I faxed her a letter last fall & I visited her office in DC in January.  My problem was with the other 2 sponsors: The transphobic Barney Frank and the Hypocrites Raising Cash while claiming they are fighting for transgender people.  While the other trans delegates went to scare the crap out of Barney, I just could not stomach allowing my presence to be used in any way to justify lying and hypocrisy.

In the afternoon, I had an adventure getting downtown to the TN reception because I made the mistake of relying on the buses to get me anywhere other than the Pepsi Center. I did get in long enough for one quick drink before turning around & heading back to the Pepsi Center for what can only be described as an awesome session.  I really wanted to hear Tammy Baldwin.  I was disappointed that she did not talk about the battle over ENDA and the absolute need for fully inclusive language.  But that was the only downside.  The speeches by Governors Schwiecker, Strickland, Warner, and Patrick were all excellent.

And then came Hillary.  What can I say?  I had tears in my eyes.  She absolutely hit a grand slam tonight!  I’m sure all of you have your own spin, but she brought down the house.

Afterwards, we had the usual trouble with the buses into downtown.  Both Gov. Bredesen & the Congressional Black Caucus had receptions in the same hotel.  I took me 90 minutes to get there.  The ones who walked got there before me.  In fact, when I finally arrived at the TN party, they had already made “Last call” and were starting to take away the food.  Fortunately, the CBC party was just getting started.  When it comes to throwing a good party, My People are second to none.  🙂   If Obama actually wins, you will see some Inaugural Balls that will become the stuff of legend!  We were also invited to a DLC Party by Harold Ford, but it was late, so I skipped that event to get back here at the hotel.

Wednesday will be an even more incredible day.


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Day One: We’re Off & Running

By Marisa Richmond

Well, the first full day of the convention is over.  I have to start with one correction from yesterday;s post.  I said I had met Alex Darsinos.  I meant Alex Cleghorn of the Transgender Law Center.  Since it was after midnight here when I wrote, & I did have more than one cocktail last night, I hope I can be excused a moment of brainlock.

Turning to today, we started w/our daily TN breakfast.  Our speaker was Fabian Bedne of the Middle TN Hispanic Democrats.  He did a great job talking about why Dems need to be reminded on issues of diversity & remain committed to supporting the American Dream for all.

Next, I went to the African American caucus. It was opened by Howard Dean who talked about registering voters & getting them out on November 4.  Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb talked about his role in getting the facilities built that we are using this week, including “Mile High Stadium,” which he insists should not be called by that corporate name. Lottie Shackleford, former Mayor of Little Rock, gave a moving tribute to Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who died last week, and Convention CEO Rev. Leah Daugherty quoted Cong. John Lewis when she called for us “Don’t forget to get in the way.”  That is an important lesson for anyone who believes in justice and equality.  They also told us about a special speaker at the caucus meeting on Wednesday, but I will hold off on that for now.  You’ll just have to read more on Wednesday if you want to know who it is….     🙂

For lunch, we were hosted by Cong. Lincoln Davis, who is running for Governor.  That event ended early, so Sara & I ran around the corner to the LGBT Caucus.  There were over 300 people in that ballroom.  We were actually late, so we missed the first half of the program, but, not surprisingly, it was running behind schedule.  Anyway, I did get in early enough to hear Melissa Sklarz of NYC represent the transgender community.  Shannon Minter also spoke about the Marriage Equality battle in CA, including his role in the successful lawsuit earlier this year.

During the caucus, they had a roll call of all the states.  Even Nebraska, which was thought to have zero LGBT delegates, had one.  When they called “Tennessee”, Sara & I stood up together & Whooped it up.  Later, Tim Gill (Gill Foundation & Gill Action Fund) said “that roll call at the Republican National Convention will be a lot shorter.”  We also heard Tammy Baldwin speak about the Platform.  She noted its mention of employment non-discrimination including gender identity, and respect & recognition of same-sex famiies.

After the caucus, we went to a Tea Party sponsored by the National Stonewall Democrats.  I ran into Tennessee’s one board member Dr. Herb Zeman of Memphis.  After that, I was taken by Mara Keisling (NCTE) on a brief stop at a reception at the Gill Foundation HQ to meet their staff & see their facility before I finally made it over to the Pepsi Center a bit late for the opening session.

If you have been watching on TV, TN is to the left of the podium way in the back.  We have Kansas in front of us, Texas to our right, Connecticut to our left, and Idaho & the ABC booth directly behind us.  FYI, Amanda Simpson told me later that Arizona was right in front of the VIP booth, so when Joe Biden came in, she turned & introduced herself to him as a member of the Transgender Caucus.  He assured her that the Obama-Biden adminstration will be very supportive of the Transgender Community!!!  That is why we are here!!!

I arrived at my seat just before Nancy Pelosi spoke.  Obviously, the speech by Ted Kennedy was one of the highlights of the evening.  His recent health crisis has taken its toll because, from my angle, I could see he was sitting in a stool, but while his body may be giving out on him, his fighting spirit was still there. Of course, Michelle Obama’s speech moved virtually everyone there.  The response in the Pepsi Center was overwhelmingly positive.

During her speech, a photographer from Knoxville (I did not catch if she was w/the newspaper, but I think so) took several photos of me.  At another point, but I am not sure exactly when, I was responding to a text message when the delegate next to me said “you’re on camera.”  I looked up to see a CNN camera pointed right at me, barely 5 feet away.  I just smiled & waived.  So if you think you saw me on CNN tonight, you did.

So Day One is over. Tomorrow’s session speakers will include NY Governor David Patterson, Wisconsin Congresswoman (& openly lesbian) Tammy Baldwin, Keynote Speaker Mark Warner of Virginia, Massachusetts Deval Patrick, and, of course, Hillary Clinton.  I also have several parties including ones sponsored by Governor Phil Bredesen, the Congressional Black Caucus, & former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you tomorrow.


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Day Zero: I’m in Denver

By Marisa Richmond

Well, I’ve made it & I have survived the first full day.

I was taken to the airport this morning by my friend Mark, whose partner, Julie, usually cat sits for me.  My plane had several TN delegates including Congressman Lincoln Davis & House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh.  There were also delegates from NH & VA.  After I finally got to the TN hotel, I picked up my delegate package, which included up to date information, & lot of little gift, including a bottle of Jack Daniels.


I then met my 2 old friends, Tim & Debbie.  They drove me out to Golden to the Colorado School of Mines where Tim is a physics prof.  He & I finished out doctorates about 2 years apart at DC area universities.  We then went to Wheat Ridge to watch their youngest daughter play soccer.  Her team won 4-2.  After that, Tim dropped Debbie & me at the Convention Center for the Friends of New Orleans Welcome party.  The music was fabulous with several N.O. musicians, with Randy Newman & Marcia Ball being the 2 biggest names.  The noteworthy speakers were Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, & Dr. Howard Dean, DNC Chairman.  We tried to get photos with Nancy Pelosi when she arrived, but she was totlly surrounded by security & others clamoring to get near her.

From there, I went to a reception co-hosted by the Matthew Shepard Foundation & National Stonewall Democrats.  Vanessa Foster of Houston & I were the only transgender delegates there, but there were several other transgender activists present including Mara Keisling (NCTE), Lisa Mottet (NGLTF), Alex Darsinos (Transgender Law Center), & Dr. Dana Beyer of Maryland.

It’s been a long day, but things are now underway.  It begins tomorrow at 7:30 w/the TN breakfast sponsored by AT&T, and continues from there.

I am so tired….


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#5: On Joe Biden

By Marisa Richmond


Like millions of Americans, I placed my cell phone on my nightstand beside me when I went to bed last night, instead of leaving it in its customary spot in the kitchen.  I did so in the event that “the call” would come in the middle of the night.  Well, lo and behold, it did happen at 2:43 a.m., but instead of asking me if I was willing to be his running mate, Senator Obama was simply informing me that he had selected Joe Biden of Delaware instead.  While I feel that I am more than qualified to have a limo, mansion, attend funerals (I have been to two the last month alone), and even cast the occasional vote in the Senate, he decided to go with someone else.

Personally, I have always thought Joe Biden was an excellent Senator.  I have been especially impressed with his strong record on civil rights, as well as his knowledge on foreign affairs. 


This year, I am also concerned with every candidate’s stands on LGBT issues, and again, Joe Biden passes the test.  His support of the fully inclusive Hate Crimes bill, along with his historical support of the  Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), makes him acceptable.  Furthermore, he has long opposed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and he has consistently voted against the Marriage Discrimination Amendment. 


Another thing that has struck me about Joe Biden over the years is his commitment to his family and community.  While he could easily have found an apartment in the D.C. area, he chose to commute by train (not S.U.V….) from Wilmington every single day so that he could be back with his family.  That shows real character on his part.  After watching his speech this afternoon in Springfield, I feel confident that he will be both an excellent candidate and an excellent Vice President, and one who is more than able to step into the job should such an unfortunate circumstance occur.  


I did get out briefly today to run a few final errands before heading out west tomorrow.  This Wednesday would have been my parents’ 56th wedding anniversary.  Since I will be in Denver that day, I stopped by the cemetery where their ashes are located.  I could not help but think of how excited they both would be if they were alive for this historic moment.  When I worked at the 1980 Convention, they were almost as excited as I was, so I know they would be even more so given the special nature of this year’s nominee. 


After spending a few minutes with my parents, I made one more stop in the cemetery to say some words to an old friend, Christian Paige.  She was brutally murdered in Chicago in March 1996.  She was strangled, stabbed 35 times, and then burned by the perpetrator in an attempt to cover his heinous crime.  Christian is one of the many people we remember each November at our Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremonies around the world.  When she was taken from us so suddenly, I vowed then that I would do whatever I could, for as long as I could, to educate the world so that these sort of hate crimes would finally end.  We did get Hate Crimes into the Platform, but making sure people, including elected officials, understand the significance of that plank, and the need for a fully inclusive ENDA, which would show that all people, including transgender ones, have value in society, is part of that pledge I first made to Christian 12 years ago which I reiterated today.


This is my last post from Nashville before I fly to Denver in the morning.  From this point, my posts will occur daily from the Democratic National Convention.


When I get in tomorrow, I will meet two old friends (Tim and Debbie) whom I have not seen in at least eight years.  They will pick me up at the Tennessee hotel and take me to their girls’ soccer game, before they drop me off at the Colorado Convention Center for our first event, the Friends of New Orleans Party.  Last night, Wolf Blitzer said CNN will have coverage of the party, so you just might see me in the background.  I will be the one with a cocktail in my hand… 


And since I cannot promise that I will always be in a coherent condition when I am able to get on a computer, I cannot promise that future posts won’t have one or two grammatical errors. 


Look for me in the Mile High City on CNN, C-SPAN, or whatever network you choose.


I’m off to Denver!!!





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