Transgender activist and prominent AIDS leader Diego Sanchez has just been appointed Congressional Representative Barney Frank's top legislative assistant, making him the first transgender staff member on Capitol Hill. If his name sounds familiar, it's because Sanchez has consistently made headlines through 2008 since his appointment as the first transgender person named to a Democratic National Committee was announced early this year. Since then he was named among the Top 100 Most Powerful Latinos in Corporate America by Hispanic Business magazine and one of the 100 most powerful Latinos in Massachusetts by El Planeta newspaper. Sanchez is also the director of public relations and external affairs for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and has served on numerous health-related committees. Sanchez told the Bay Windows that his top priorities would be to advise Frank on issues regarding healthcare, veterans, labor, the U.S. Census, and LGBT rights. Sanchez also said that Frank's top items for LGBT issues would be the passage of transgender-inclusive hate crimes legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). From Bay Windows:
Diego Sanchez (L) and Congressional Representative Barney Frank (R ). Photo from Pam’s House Blend.
"I believe that the opportunity for impact is one-on-one, and Barney has consistently said that the most important part of getting an inclusive ENDA passed is getting people to meet with their representatives," said Sanchez. "I think what this does is give us an extra opportunity. ... What I envision in my head is I will find it most interesting to sit with someone and have them tell me why they think I'm less than human and why they think my community should be treated as less than equal."Despite Frank's introduction on a transgender-exclusive ENDA in 2007, Sanchez told reporters he was confident of the congressman's commitment to a fully inclusive bill for 2009.
"I think that leadership has its obligations as well as its privileges, and Congressman Frank's leadership means that he has to ensure that the appropriate numbers, the necessary number of votes are present," said Sanchez. "He clearly has appointed someone in the trans community who is going to be part of his initiative to push forward a fully inclusive ENDA with gender identity and sexual orientation."Autumn Sandeen, a transgender blogger at Pam's House Blend has a wonderful first-hand account of Sanchez's appointment here. In her column, Sandeen mentions that Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman has employed a transgender staffer, Susan Kimberly, as his Chief-of-Staff for several years in his home office.