220 minutes with … Sarah McBride
New York magazine|January 4-17, 2021
Strolling Wilmington with Delaware’s history-making new state senator.
BROCK COLYAR

On the tree-lined, redbrick residential streets of northwest Wilmington, newly elected state senator Sarah McBride is high-school-cheer-captain level popular. “Hello!” says a woman pushing a baby stroller. “Hello!” greets a man walking his dog. “Hello!” squeals a trio of children in the yard of a Catholic school. “Sarah!” exclaim two middle-aged women in a Christmas-wreathed, red-Adirondackfronted coffee shop. “Congrats on the new house! How’s the renovation going?” McBride shoots back immediately to one of them, making a “Yellow Wallpaper” joke about the woman’s actual soon-to-be removed yellow wallpaper.

It’s a brisk, sunny day in mid-December, and McBride—who was elected to represent Delaware’s First District in November, securing her place as the highest-ranking openly transgender elected official in U.S. history—is living up to her high-school nickname: Tour Guide McBride. She waxes poetic about state history, “constituent services,” and how to pronounce the name of the city of Harrington like a true Delawarean. Dressed casually in loose jeans, tennis shoes, and a gray jacket with a stain on its furry white lapel, McBride has a charm that’s part corny grandfather (“I like a little coffee with my cream and sugar,” she says, winking) and part super-eager, super-nerdy Rachel Maddow. Her cheery chatter is often accompanied by snorty laughs.

“The thing that I love most about Delaware is that we are a small town but a state at the same time,” McBride told me when we first spoke the week before. “When you have that ‘state of neighbors,’ there’s just a deeper sense of home that you feel no matter where you go.” At the time, it struck me as unusual that a transgender politician would be so passionate about the small, homogeneous city (population 70,000) where she grew up presenting as straight and cisgender—after all, moving to a big city to escape small-town bigotry is a queer coming-out trope—but as we walk past well-manicured lawns, some still staked with McBride’s campaign signs, it seems obvious that she would want to settle down here. At only 30, she has already spent the majority of her life thinking about how to make life better for the people in her state.

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