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Transgender New Yorker Part of Growing DNC Diversity

Melissa Sklarz is the first transgender New York delegate to a Democratic National Convention. (MSklarz)
Melissa Sklarz is the first transgender New York delegate to a Democratic National Convention. (MSklarz)
July 27, 2016

NEW YORK — The diversity of delegates to the Democratic National Convention stands in sharp contrast to last week's Republican Convention in Cleveland.

There were 18 African American delegates at the RNC - less than one percent of the total. But at the Democratic Convention, there were 71 African American delegates from Texas alone. And that diversity extended to other minority groups as well.

"We are female and male, we are African-American and white,” said Melissa Sklarz, board co-chair with the Empire State Pride Agenda and one of the more than 25 transgender delegates to the DNC. "We have representatives not only from New York and California and Texas; we also have representatives from Nebraska and Montana, and Utah."

One transgender delegate, Mara Keisling of Washington, D.C., serves on the Democratic National Convention's Platform Committee.

Following President Obama's reelection in 2012, the Republican National Committee determined it needed more diversity. But instead, Sklarz said, the proportion of African-American delegates to the RNC - which was never much higher than six percent - has plummeted.

"The Democratic Party is trending as more diverse, more open, creating more opportunities,” Sklarz said. “And the Republican Party is doing the exact opposite."

Support for Republican nominee Donald Trump is polling within the margin of error for zero percent among black voters.

Transgender people have been the focus of recent discriminatory legislation in several states. Sklarz said being welcomed into in a major party's political process is a huge victory.

"This is part of a political coming-of-age of our transgender communities,” Sklarz said. "Our next goal is to start electing transgender people in state legislatures."

Two transgender women won congressional primaries this year. Misty Snow is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Utah, and Misty Plowright is running for a House seat in Colorado.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY