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The cut, the cut, cut, cut, cut, the cut. The cut. You know, there's that New Yorker cartoon that's like, who's sick of these elitist pilots flying the plane, who thinks I should fly the plane? That's just like some random passengers, like we should be the ones to fly the plane. And that's just been like the sentiment in the United States. There's been like huge distrust of experts and politicians and like, quote unquote, insiders.
But then people come along like Alexandria, Castillo, Cortez, and it's just like, oh, maybe there's something to this expertise matters. But it's not the only thing. It's like, oh, there are people who are really smart, really capable out there in the world.
We'll see. That's where I would disagree with you.
Oh, this is Jasmine Aguilera, our new supervising producer at the show. I don't think that calling people who have lived experiences, not experts. I think they are experts. Yes, that's lived experience, expertise, maybe not expertise on how to work the system, but its expertise on what the problems are and what needs to be fixed.
No, totally. That is that is such a good pushback to me. You're just I think you are the perfect kind of person who should run for office. And I don't know what it would take to make someone like you run for office. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is because, like, ever since you've come on at the show.
And you've taken on this sort of like running shit, you're also extremely likable and you also listen, you know, I have considered the idea of being a politician before, but for the longest time, I felt that running for office was a pipe dream, a career meant for those who had never done anything wrong, or at least those who could pay someone to make the mistakes go away. But since twenty eighteen.
How are you feeling? Can you put it into words? No, I cannot put this into words. All right. Here for you.
I will I will say that AOC did change a lot of things for me because up to before her, I did not ever think that my personality would vibe well for actually campaigning. But since AOC, obviously I've changed a little bit, it's made me reconsider some things. And now it's like, could I actually do this? OK, so before I start making buttons and signs, I wanted to look into exactly what it would mean to run for office, not just in general, but for someone like me, because as much as Aoki is inspiring, I still have many, many questions.
Can I actually hang with the reality of what running would be? Would it be worth it? What would I have to give up? So I decided to talk to someone who is running right now.
My name is Jaslene Carr. I'm a candidate for New York City Council and District twenty three in eastern Queens.
When I first started looking into Jaslene Car, she felt really familiar because we have a lot in common.
Actually, she and I are both first generation, but her parents are Indian and minor Mexican. She was a model U.N. kid. I was a drama kid. Our names even sort of sound the same.
So for me, Jaslene Cars City Council campaign is like watching a case study, a trial run of how someone sort of like me could run for office. So for her, it all started when she had been asked to staff a seminar, a training for people considering running for office.
She was only there for work, but the seed was sown after after the course and they met someone who was actually in my hometown, was telling me all about this council seat.
So Jaslene worked for an organization that helped immigrants run for office.
So she wasn't exactly new to the game, but she had never really considered it for herself until this person at the seminar told her about this open city council seat. Her city councillor, Barry Grodner chick, was retiring, leaving an open race for District twenty three, her home district.
The more I started to dig into exactly who has been leading the seat, I started getting into this Wikipedia rabbit hole actually of like going back. OK, who has represented the seats of like a hundred years ago and it was only ever white men. And so I know what the shape of my community is like. I grew up here. That is not indicative of the kind of leadership that we need to serve this community. And so that's started getting the gears turning.
Was there anything that made you feel like. Maybe I shouldn't do this. What was going through your mind? You know, the thing about like running for office, especially in New York City, is that your address is public record.
Oh, my God. I didn't even consider that. Oh, my God. So anyone could show up if they wanted to to any number of candidates homes, to all of these things are going to be in the public realm.
Yeah. So obviously, running for office is a very public thing to do.
And that means you have to shamelessly and publicly ask for help, a lot of it.
And that is one of the hardest parts about being a candidate. Right. And this is an immigrant. People of color who grew up working class asking for money is one of the hardest things to do, you know?
Because it feels so vulnerable. You don't want to be there's like a certain kind of like shame that's attached to it because of the ways that we grew up. And we're just hesitant to ask for it. But one of the most important things I learned is that you don't get what you don't ask for.
And it's not just money. You're also asking for a lot of people's time and attention.
And it was a lot of anxiety of like putting this out into the world for the very first time to complete strangers.
Does that mean that, like, you have to be extroverted to run, like you can't be shy, right?
Yeah, actually, you can't. You really can't.
As much as people hate making phone calls, text aren't the same. You got to make the phone call. So we got to talk to people.
You know, again, you never know who you're going to meet. You never know who's going to be the one to throw down for you. I've reconnected with old friends from middle school and high school who are like, oh, I saw your poster. How can I volunteer? Can I make phone calls for you? So I don't think people realize how even in such a local election, like we have like over two hundred volunteers and it's probably going to double.
You need people like an army of people, like putting out these pieces of literature on people's doorknobs in their apartment building or in their houses. It took somebody to even collect the data to see which doors you're knocking in the first place and to narrow down a field of one hundred thousand voters in an area to just like fifty to seventy five doors and knock it a day.
And so it's those like little little calculations that you think, oh, this could be done with like fifty. No.
How do you get that many people like do you need a certain amount of capital to get this going? Did you have a go fund? Like how do you start that? That seems so huge.
So we do this thing called friend banking or peer to peer fundraising. I call up ten people that I know. I will go through my phone. I go through my Facebook, I go through Instagram.
Welcome everyone to Instagram, like for New Year's Eve Kickback fundraiser.
Before we say every single person I've had to touch with and ask for money. If you want to help us raise a thousand dollars before the end of tonight, I need you to head up our ActBlue account right now.
And luckily for Jaslene, New York City has programs to help candidates who don't want to rely on funding from special interests and lobbies.
So your contribution gets matched eight times because of our city's matching funds program.
So even ten dollars can mean if you put together a certain number of dollars, you get a massive payout from the city.
So I put NYC City Council matching funds program into Google and found information on it pretty quickly, which is awesome.
But the thing is, I knew exactly what to Google to find this. Jaslene told me about it already, but if I didn't know any of that information, would it be so easy?
OK, starting from scratch, how would I find this Web page?
OK, so I'm just going to Google how to run for New York City Council and see where I go.
OK, first Link tells you how to register, getting started in New York City Campaign Finance Board. Oh, boy.
OK, so first you got to get an employer ID number, lots of tax stuff, bank account stuff.
Then you've got to register with the Campaign Finance Board and then there's just a lot of conditions.
OK, so it's not hard to find, but it's hard to understand.
There's a lot of careful information where if you haven't worked on political campaigns before or if you've never been to a training before, if you don't have someone who's in your corner who knows how to navigate these things, it can feel really insurmountable because it's hard to navigate and it's not made for people like us, people like us, people like me and people like Jaslene.
So as much as it is encouraging to know that people like us have networks and communities behind us, it still feels like a really big sacrifice to run.
Because even after you jump through all the bureaucratic hoops to actually start your campaign, then you need to open yourself up not just to the voters, but to the very real possibility that your opponents are going to try to drag you. And this is where Jaslene is a much better candidate than I would be because I looked for dirt on her and I couldn't find anything. And all you have to do to find dirt on me is to look at my Twitter page.
I put it there. All my shit's right out there in the open.
All right, here we go. Jasmin's problematic tweets. Let's air that dirty laundry. Well, no one in my profile picture, I'm wearing earrings that clearly say bitch, so that's probably not great.
Here we go. Manifesting bad bitch energy via liquid metallic eyeshadow is the closest I'll get to spirituality. Someone talk me out of getting a nose piercing quick ire up the old Penis Blatner. Would I be stupid if I matched with someone just because I really, really want to snuggle their dog? Not giving one micro fuck about astrology? I feel like the octomom, but for podcast people who have no vices during the pandemic. How? OK, so not the best, but not the worst either, so I decided to ask for an expert opinion just in case.
Can we can we do like a just kind of a quick I'll tell you about me. And you tell me if if something is a deal breaker or.
Oh, that's good. That's good.
I reached out to Stephanie Shryock, who's the president of Emily's List, a full blown political organization solely focused on electing Democratic pro-choice women.
Emily's List helps women run for office at all different levels.
And all over the country, they provide training, help, gather financial support, and they'll even drag your opponents for you.
So I had to ask, could I even is there stuff that's a non-starter in my life that would prevent me? Because it's got to be those, right? So I am a young woman, Latina. I'm divorced. People could find in my digital footprint that I have done drugs in the past.
Am I screwed? No, no, absolutely not.
OK, why did you murder anybody?
So it's really like that that one's harder. I've never I've never had to deal with that.
Yeah, I'm not trying to be glib here.
There are serious things, but if you have explanations for those activities, I'm not saying they may not be used against you. Yeah. And and and the one I would say is like drug use, though, at this stage, like the world, it depends what and it depends on the situation.
And you got to tell the story if it's going to come out. Yeah. Do you have control of when it comes out or not.
I almost always recommend if there's if there's a flaw that you think is that kind of damaging, we would want to talk through, like if we get ahead of it and how do we do that?
OK, so let me give this a shot.
Jasmine Aguilera grew up in Santa Cruz, California, a surf town known for its beautiful beaches, hippie artist, community and sticky chronic bud. No, no, that's not going to work. I mean, George W. Bush used drugs in the United States. OK, but George Bush's dad was president of the United States. My dad was a Votto in East L.A. And part of it's also like where you live.
And if it's a conservative area versus a more progressive area, you have to think about that, too.
But again, it's back to just be prepared for what they could come out with.
But that's what Emily's List is for, right? They encourage and recruit women like me to run for office. And I definitely did feel like she was nudging me in that direction.
So say that there's a candidate like me, for example, like I don't come from a wealthy family. I'm not connected to people. I would have to give up my job to even consider running because it seems like a full time job to campaign. I couldn't support myself that way. You know, like what does this actually look like for people who are trying to get their foot in the door?
Well, you've brought up a couple of challenges that are really significant are core early support is less about dollars and more about. Let's help you figure out how to do this.
Let's let's sit down, which, by the way, we're more than willing to do as I'm listening to this conversation to think through what kind of office you're thinking about running.
It depends on what you're running for, whether or not you have to give up your job or not. You know, if you're running for a local office or in some places, state legislatures in various and different states, you're not going to have to give up your job to do this. But it's hard. I'm not I'm not going to try to, you know, blow sunshine here.
OK, so they need people like me. But that's not the question at hand. I know they need people like me, but do I need this? And right now it feels like I need months of unemployment, stress and public scrutiny, like I need a hole in the head.
One of my big questions, and I think you can tell from how I'm dressed, it's like I have a very particular, very extra style. I really like bright colors.
I really like to dress up for things at some way you have to change or at just how you look to be palatable to the people who are voting for you.
Do I just have to accept that? Like, do I have to put away my wigs and stuff?
I don't want to wear a pantsuit.
Yes, I do not.
Here's the good news. Your senators. Yeah. So I'm from Montana, so you've got a little bit more flexibility.
But the truth is, is you have to win. You've got to convince enough voters in that district to vote for you and they've got to be comfortable with the choice that they're voting for. So do you have to lose all of your animal print?
Probably not. But you are going to have to think about what makes sense and what would be. Yeah, so it's like a job interview.
Your your whole campaign is a job interview. Yes. But can you imagine dressing like a job interview every day? I dress formally like that maybe once every two to three years. I feel like dressing so formally every day would change me somehow. Just the thought of being on a months long job interview sounds personality altering.
And I wonder if someone doing this for the first time, someone like Jesslyn, feels that you start having a little bit of an identity crisis of exactly who am I and who do I want voters to know me as right. So my friends know me in one capacity, my parents knowing another. How are voters going to perceive me? So it's definitely a really big shift to be like, OK, who the hell am I as just lean as a candidate versus just lean from Glen Oaks talking to Jaslene, I do feel like I know what kind of person she is.
She seems warm, but driven like one of those people you might see doing a blood drive. You know, I help her, but of course, I'm interviewing her and we don't actually know each other. I'm interviewing Jaslene, the candidate.
In some ways, it feels like you have to kind of pause your personal life. Does that keep you like it rings true, like you have to square your brand with who you are on your own life for a little while?
Oh, absolutely. I can't tell you how many times I've given, like, the same speech to so many different groups of people. But I have to remind myself that even though I've heard it a million times and I'm sick of it sometimes there's so many people who are hearing it for the first time. Right. And it still has to resonate the same way.
But sometimes it feels limiting. But at the same time, it's like I see it as a new opportunity for people to get to know me. And that's always reassuring. But something I wish I was told more explicitly to write, that you're going to be confronted with yourself and some of the most intimate ways ever, like you really will have to dig deep of what parts of what parts of your story do you want to tell people and what parts are you ready to be public about to?
I think a lot about Stacey Abrams and how she handled her debt. It is never easy to have public conversations about personal finances and folks, we're going to use that against her.
But I have two parents who were nearing 70 and 11 year old niece and a nine year old. And instead, she got ahead of it by anecdote.
I was standing in the airport and a man walked up to me and just hugged me and said, I have student debts and my mom lives with me. And he said, You got my vote and he walked away.
I ended up in this very genuine and understandable and authentic moment.
What people see is that I have a real life and that I have the lives that they have, that they are being compelled to make choices on where even 10 years ago that kind of debt would have been. You used against you so badly because you get your own mismanagement.
You know, she said, no, this is the lives of how many Georgians who are carrying debt. And we got to fix that. And I get it. I get that experience. I can and I'm going to help us overcome it. All right, so not to split hairs here, because we all know that there were a lot of shenanigans going on in Georgia at the time, but Stacey Abrams still lost. She put her soul out there and lost.
And that's the real risk here, isn't it? And this really hits home for me because actually this happened to someone in my family, my cousin ran for office back in twenty eighteen and he lost and it was devastating. I come from a working class family in a working class community. We are a diverse and passionate people. We pick one another up one way.
When I started this, how are you? His name is Alejandro Lagos and he ran for Arizona House of Representatives. It was a pretty big deal in our family because he really put his all into it.
This is why I'm running for the Arizona House of Representatives in the district that I grew up in. We need representation that reflects the needs of our community. Our diversity is our strength.
OK, so when you started when you decided to run. How much of your self, your money, your time, your family, did you sink into this campaign? I put my life on hold, if that answers kind of that I ended up leaving my job two months into the into my campaign. Luckily, I had some money saved over and then my sister moved in with me. So that allowed me to have my family with me, which was a crucial part in staying sane and keeping the house from falling over ultimately.
And my campaign office was out of my house. So every day just high energy, it takes so much energy, especially for someone like me that does not like to ask for strangers for anything. And I had to every day, hey, believe in me, hey, believe in this vision. I had no name recognition. I had a lot of support from my childhood friends, from my community, because I've been in the community. So but, you know, I needed three, four or five thousand votes.
I didn't get I didn't get that. So.
So you sunk everything into this? More or less. And then when you lost, how did how did you recover from that? Like, what happens after that?
I think the hardest part is that it went from one hundred miles per hour every single day to zero. And at first it was like, oh, I got to sleep. I think I slept. 16 hours the day after the election. It was hard, it was it was a grieving process because I was in love with the movement, not everybody takes a while and myself included, it was tough. It lasted months, if I'm honest. I remember looking at the t shirt that has the slogan, and I had just had my name like very small at the bottom.
You wouldn't notice it, but it was a slogan.
And I remember like hugging it. As if it were a person or the shirt of a former lover or a teddy bear from my childhood, it was like, oh, I'm sorry. You know, this is hard for me to hear because I remember seeing his campaign ads and donating, I remember how proud we all were about it, how my mom told me if he could do it, I could do it, too.
And then it was over. And I'm not going to say I understand the pain he went through, but I can definitely feel it there. And I don't know that I would be the kind of person to risk it all like that. Not one I can see the toll it takes, would you run again? I would run again. At this moment, I don't have much of a desire or want to be an elected official or to run for office again, but.
I'm open to it. We're two and a half years now after the election, and it was the biggest honor of my life. Looking back now. I'm extremely proud of everything I would say. To anyone running for office, document every moment and enjoy every moment, because if you want to look back and say, hey, this is the first election I won, or hey, this is the first campaign I ran and lost. Either way, it's empowering and it's beautiful.
So after all this pondering and research and interviewing people who have gone through this, I'm sort of right back to where I started, what I ever consider running for office.
Sure, I might even be closer to it than I was before.
And all my hang ups about inappropriate tweets or questionable fashion choices aside, it seems like there's a much wider lane for folks like me to swim in, but that doesn't mean the risks aren't still there.
Just like any kind of race, you can always lose or embarrass yourself publicly.
But if you're prepared, if you have a story to tell and the wherewithal to get that story out there, well, maybe it's worth it.
For me, I still like where I am right now, and I don't think it's my time to run. But at least I'm no longer making that decision out of fear and who knows where I'll be in the next few years, I just I just want everybody to take the risk, if you can.
Don't let your own doubts be the reason you don't take the risk.
Maybe you can't take the risk because there's something going on with your family right now or the financial question is too daunting right now. Or maybe the kids are at the wrong place in school. You know, just there are real reasons to hold off. And I respect that your kids are going to be older in two years. So great. We'll talk then. Don't let your own debt like I don't know if I can do this. You can do it.
You can do it. We could figure that stuff out. You just don't let society beat it out of you. You got it.
You got it. After the break, we hear almost the inverse version of this story. It's a story of a politician who from a very young age, knew she wanted to run for office and crafted and honed her entire career and resume to get elected. But as life does, complications and outside factors get in the way. And this politician had to decide how honest to be about herself and her story with the general voting public. If you're having trouble meeting your goals or focusing at work or if you're feeling stressed and having trouble sleeping, I mean, who isn't these days better help is here for you.
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So as we heard in part one, so much of being a politician and running a campaign is about storytelling and that you're kind of whoever you decide to be and how you decide to present yourself, although sometimes there is a core throbbing truth that you can't really hide around or talk your way around.
And this came up a lot in the story of Sarah McBride, a state senator from Delaware, over a series of in-person conversations in Wilmington and remote calls cut writer Brock Coulier got to know Senator McBride as well as her constituents do.
So this is actually this is just a den that when I first met with Sarah McBride, she's kind of the camera around to show me something.
But this is the side room where I told her I'm Tranz McBride came out during her junior year of college.
And first her parents were worried about what this meant for her safety and well-being. But soon they came to support their daughter completely, as did the entire student body. When Sarah came out in an op ed in the college newspaper, she wrote. For my entire life, I've wrestled with my gender identity at an early age. I also developed my love for politics. I wrestled with the idea that my dream and my identity seemed mutually exclusive. I had to pick, so I picked what I thought was easier and wouldn't disappoint people.
Sarah was frightened of what her trans identity would mean for her political ambitions. I mean, this just wasn't supposed to be the plan. Sarah McBride had done everything right. She had honed and crafted the perfect recipe for a young politician. And 11 years old, Sarah McBride walked into a local pizzeria and met then Senator Joe Biden, who gave her a copy of the sketch most of the day and signed it. Remember me when you were president? McBride was intrigued by politics and began volunteering on statewide campaigns in middle school by the time she was in high school.
She had already worked with local politicians like Attorney General Beau Biden and Governor Jack Markell. She even helped to the governor write his speeches sometimes.
I then fell in love with politics and government and saw that the story of of our history is the story of an ever expanding, deepening understanding of our humanity and a widening of justice and equity for more and more people for college.
McBride tells the very political American University in Washington, D.C., where she was elected student body president after knocking on every single door in every single residence hall at her junior year. She started to feel that our political freedoms and our personal identity might be at odds, like when she led a successful fight for gender inclusive housing on campus. Afterwards, someone asked about the inspiration for her effort. Why did this straight boy and a fraternity care so much about LGBTQ issues?
McBride felt hurt. Internal and external facades begin to crumble. Even though she expected her coming out to squash her political ambitions, it seemed to be doing the opposite. After graduating, she became the first chance intern at the White House. Interning in the Obama White House, you know, when I would give a talk for the White House, it was about what happened in the spaces, what history happened in that room, and that history could happen in this space if I can bring it alive for you to feel it.
Then maybe you can feel that you can make history, too. And there in the halls of the White House, McBride fell in love and cry, was a handsome trans man who worked on career health care issues at the Center for American Progress. After the two started dating in 2013, McBride temporarily moved back home. She joined Equality Delaware and the fight to legalize gay marriage and pass a Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act. And the state make bridesmaid calls matched with politicians and spoke on the floor of the chamber.
She wanted to be elected to.
My name is Sarah McBride and I'm a transgender Delawarean. The last time I spoke in this chamber was when I participated in the Youth in Government program four years ago, but I'm here for a different reason. To ask to simply be treated fairly. Delaware became the only state to support both marriage equality and equality in the same year, many Delawareans, including the governor himself, credited the success to the conviction and determination of this young TransAfrica.
When I was in that chamber as a twenty two year old advocating for trans rights, the idea that I could serve in that chamber would have seemed so impossible that it was almost incomprehensible.
McBride then returned to D.C., where she landed a job working alongside her boyfriend and at the Center for American Progress. But their life took a tragic turn in September of 2013 when Intercrime was diagnosed with cancer. They rushed to get married on a D.C. rooftop in just a few days after.
I met Andy, who was a transgender man fighting for equality and we fell in love.
Senator McBrien has been an open book about her grief and her and her personal story, even when she was the first trans person to speak at the DNC, turning 16.
And yet, even in the face of his terminal illness, this 28 year old, he never wavered in his commitment to our cause and his belief that this country can change knowing. And he left me profoundly changed. But more than anything else, his passing taught me that every day matters when it comes to building a world where every person can live their life to the fullest. Vulnerability is an important component of advocacy. I don't think everyone should have to feel the need to be to bare their soul in order to be treated with dignity.
And I just don't think you can capture.
The full essence of what was going on with Apple, including that for the honor of being vulnerable and sharing things that, you know, might be embarrassing, just three years after that speech at the DNC, I decided to make history again when a long serving state senator decided to leave their seat first district.
This was a very warm and embracing community. You know, I don't think I think there were probably a lot of people when I came out who had never met a trans person in the past. They knew. But you know, the old saying that difficult to heat up close walking around Wilmington with McBride. It was obvious that she was popular like high school cheer. Captain level popular.
Hello. Hey, are you all having fun?
I'm putting a face to the identity by humanizing words like transgender and non binary career politicians aren't getting elected across the country in a historic election for the city of Minneapolis made history overnight here in Oklahoma.
Voters elected two openly transgender people to the city council, first transgender person elected to the statehouse from a city elected, the first publicly non binary state legislator in the United States. Last November, Kansas and Oklahoma both elected queer people to their statehouses, Stephanie Buyers', a trans Native American representative, and Morrie Turner, a non binary black Muslim. Minneapolis now has two black people on their city council, Phillip Cunningham, a trans man. And to Andrea Jenkins, a trans woman.
It's not in big, urban, supposedly queer, friendly metropolis. That's where career politicians are getting elected. It's happening in their backyards where people know them. One question McBride tells me she has to ask herself in something she's learned from other trans politicians.
Is that how you do justice by the trans community while also doing justice to your whole self and not being sort of siloed and reduced to one amazing and beautiful identity that you're incredibly proud of? But if you're limited to just that, it doesn't count for your full humanity and and all that you have to offer. I think from an early age grappling. With my gender identity and the sort of constant pull and push of do I stay in the closet or not?
I think it forces you to confront. It's a really deep existential questions, even as a young person before long before so many other people do have like what is a life, what is a life worth living? What. At the end of my life, what will I have, what I wanted to do in my life and who I want it to be, and then I think frankly, compounding that early, grappling with sort of the purpose of life was that my experience with A&E, which only underscored the preciousness of that time and, you know, we never know how long we have.
In our morning together, I saw Sarah McBride as her constituents to a friendly neighbor, someone with the kind of politics of Mr. Rogers, a person who has lived through deep pain and suffering victories in only three decades. And when someone like that is excited about where they're from and hopeful about the future and about the possibilities of what the government can do, it makes me excited to. This episode was written and reported by Jasmine Aguilera and Brock Collioure with help from Bob Parker and me, produced and scored by Jasmine Aguilera, an executive produced by Stella Buckbee, Hanna Rosin and Nishikawa, mastered and scored by Brandon McFarland.
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