Sara Whitman

The White House

Filed By Sara Whitman | October 31, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: hate crimes against LGBT people, James Byrd, Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard, signing ceremony, White House

I have to be honest. I fawned. A little. I could not help it. I was in the White House, walking along a corridor of Presidential portraits, past the first lady's garden, and my chin was on the floor.

Welcome to the White House, was said at every corner by a person in military uniform. Sure, we can't serve openly but they can be nice as we walk along the corridor.

I walked in with my friend David. I was glad to have someone to share the moment with, and someone who was also like a kid in the candy store. Oooooh. Look!

On the first floor, was a portrait of Hillary Clinton.


Walking in, I had the chance to say hello to Judy, Dennis and Logan Shepard. I shook Judy's hand and said, I'm a mom, too.

I got teary, she got teary, and she gave me a big hug and said, that's why we are both here. Dennis went on to say, This has been all Judy. Her work. I am so proud. Anyone who has mistaken his silence as some kind of lack of interest, is completely wrong.

Going up the stairs to the reception area, my heart was pounding. No fawning, I kept saying to myself. No fawning. We need so much more from this administration. I had prepped a single ten second line, in case I was able to shake the President's hand.

Thank you, Mr. President. I hope this means someday my marriage will be equal to yours.

I didn't get the chance, and I doubt I would have done anything but grin like an idiot.

We went into the East room, where the President would address us. There were about 100 people there. My people. Just looking around the room made me so proud. We have accomplished something, I thought. We are here.

The President took the stage with the Shepard's and the Byrd family. He spoke the kind of eloquent words we expect of him. At the end, the two families hugged each other, and that really choked me up.

We are all in this together.

It was the first time in history that LGBT people have been addressed POSITIVELY by legislation. That a President signed a bill for us. After the President left the room, I stood for a moment, just stunned by the enormity of it all.

Then, David and I had to go see what we could see. The blue room, the green room... we wandered through, taking pictures, and grabbing a glass of champagne. I said, let's go meet some people.

We talked with Barney Frank- surprise, he lives only a couple blocks from my house. I didn't want to get yelled at so I didn't ask about ENDA. Instead, I went on the Rahm Emmanuel, who was standing by himself. I shook his hand and said, So when are you going to stop with this one man one woman stuff?

What do you mean? he said.

I raised my eyebrows and said, You know what I mean, and it makes your candidate look like he's stuck in the 1990's. It' 2009. C'mon.

Let's get healthcare first, he said.

I said, I don't know if I can wait that long.

And off he scurried.

Now, I was on a roll. We went and talked to Tammy Baldwin. Representative Baldwin is an approachable, wonderful woman. She said, Oh, you all in Massachusetts make us look bad!

And then we talked about ENDA. I knew she wouldn't yell. Hopes are high, but it's not quite time yet.

To my left was Cyndi Lauper. She was chatting away, and I introduced myself. I fawned. Hey, she's not in charge of any legislation. I must say, she is an incredibly gracious woman. Later, as we were being herded out of the White House- party over- a small gathering in front of the restrooms was happening. See, the ladies room in the White House has a small foyer with portraits of the first ladies. Jackie, Eleanor, Lady Bird... it was stunning. So I grabbed Cyndi and said, you gotta see this.


I said to her, I wonder what the men's room is like? C'mon, let's go...

And off we went across the hall. Not nearly as nice. A lot of books on the walls. Very manly. Whatever. So I told all the guys to come to the ladies room, it was much nicer.

They did.

I wonder how many groups of people that go through the White House have turned the bathrooms into unisex the way we did. Yes, it's always about the bathroom with me. As a kid, my mother swore that I asked to stop at every restroom in the world just to see it. That someday, I'd write a book about it.


The White House was amazing. I was humbled, honored and yes, fawned.

Now, it's back to work. We must win Maine. We must win a transgender rights bill in MA. We need an inclusive ENDA, the end to DADT.

I believe, though, that we are honestly on our way.

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Michael @ | October 31, 2009 3:11 PM

So hfor you that you had the experience, Sara!

And, Golly Gee, Ellie Mae, you done hogtied Rahmbo for a second!!! Whooeeee!!! "What do you mean?" my flabby old ass, you nine-fingered, bugeyed, little weasel. Scuze me...make that snake in the Rose Garden of TWO administrations hissssssssssssssssssing, "Not nowwwww, Misssssssssssssssster Presssssssssssssssident, not now!"

Alas, it might done gotcha banned from the WH. That's what happened to David Mixner in '93 when HE talked back to Mini Me.

"You know what I mean, and it makes your candidate look like he's stuck in the 1990's. It' 2009. C'mon."

Brilliant! *applause*

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 31, 2009 10:02 PM


It is hard to find a balance and process what you are feeling in the moment. This is an excellent additional step on our way. It breaks my heart that so few people get to see the interior of the White House since Georgy Porgy cut off public access to "America's House" following 9-11.

It is a magnificent building because of it's restraint rather than it's opulence. Just as we, by acting appropriately restrained, (when correct to do so) will achieve many more of our goals.

You are right about Barney, but who would want his job and the lightning rod of the present financial regulatory mess? No wonder he would yell. He is more than just a Gay politician he is chair of an important committee if not the important committee of the moment at a watershed time in Congress. he has pressure on him from all sides to produce on financial issues.

Rahm has always been a calculator encased in a human shell. Oops, guess I lived in Illinois too long. :) He knows the difference between what can get done and what he would like to get done. Already the forces of hate are rattling their tin cups to get the political donations they use for the 2010 elections to rid America of this horrible liberal congress. They are always in an election cycle.

Glad you enjoyed the White House and thank you for your contribution to the cause.

It was nice to see you there, Sara, and Barney, the guy who made that bill real and who urged everyone to MOBILIZE to get people to vote for the Defense bill to save Hate Crimes (remember?), didn't yell so you bore needless restraint. You should have said hello to the MA and national champion of our cause. Next time, perhaps.

Tammy was awesome and so many people gravitated to her to share 'private' moments and comments. It really warmed my heart. I LOVE my job, in case you ever wonder.

Hit my FB profile photo to see how I feel about Ms. Lauper, who I met about 18 years ago and got to know better 2 years ago. She rocks.

As an MA person, I always think of 1998 as the year we lost Rita Hester, the person whose death inspired Gwen Smith of SF to create the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

No matter what, her omission on the bill that honors 2 others we lost in 1998 tells me that trans folks still don't make people as comfortable as the mission it is for some of us to achieve -- and thank God, I'm not alone.

Why she's missing, why her Mom who I know wasn't on stage embracing President Obama, and why there's no woman noted on the bill's name is just something I have to take to my grave, sadly, as a partial defeat.

It's also something I will never forget and will never make me fully comfortable. Just do the darn math. But I'm heartened to know that women are included in who the bill covers, and lord knows, our women, especially our trans and gender variant women, will need it.

Thanks Sara. Many would be happy to bask and fawn, few push push push for us.

Thank you (and yes, you deserve several someones to fawn over you)

Diego, I do take Barney for granted. I won't again. We did talk, but I did not thank him. I must do that.

And as for trans people... they have equal the number of attacks and yet are a much smaller number of the population. yes, it was wrong. but I am so grateful the words were included in the bill. I'm not trans but all trans legislation directly effects me.

At every corner on my way out of DC, I was called sir. By the taxi driver, by the hotel maid, by the stewardess... over and over and over.

it was LGBT. for the first time. remind barney that's why I bitched so loudly about ENDA.

I wondered why there wasn't a woman and/or trans person on the bill too, Diego.

Sara - how did you wrangle that invitation? :)

And, as an aside, I've always found Tammy Baldwin to be the least friendly of the LGBT Congressmembers. Barney and Jared have both talked with me at length for the site, but each time I've approaced Ms. Baldwin she's run for the hills. Remind me to tell you about how rude she was at the DNCC some time - half the room left thinking, "What a b---h" when her lackey kept shoving people away from going near her, hustled her out the door so quick she only had time to say hello to three people, and started telling people, "If you don't walk away..." as if she were going to call Secret Service or something.

Barney though - class act. He'll stop and talk every time. Jared is the same way.