Born June 8, 1934
Broward County Democratic Executive Committee Area 1 Leader
Lauderdale Lakes, Florida
Elected May 1999
Diane Arnold made national news when she was voted into office by Democratic Party members to represented five cities in central Broward County. She decided to transition from male to female in her mid sixties after her wife of 23 years passed away. Arnold worked for many years at the county sheriffs office.
Interview with Diane Arnold for Out and Elected in the USA
Q: What is your job with the party and how did you get it?
A: In April there was an opening for an area leader for the Democratic Executive Committee, and I decided I wanted to be the area leader. The people who voted for me, they knew who I was before, they knew David. But they still voted for me because they felt I could do the job, which is why I was elected. I wasn’t elected because of the fact that I was a transsexual or gay or anything. I could do the job. The person before me didn’t do the job, and he was gay! I knew I could do the job.
I’ve been very open. I go in front of various clubs in my area and tell them, “Listen, we need your help. We want to elect good Democrats and we need a strong party, and the only way to have a strong party is to get people involved in the process.” This is the grassroots. You start with the precinct. I recruit. I recruit people to be a precinct leader. Everybody is in a voting precinct, and you have a precinct captain or leader. You have one male and one female. I recruit because there are too many open seats and it shouldn’t be. I tell people, “Bring a friend.” I call meetings every couple of months. You don’t start with U.S. Senator or President; you start at the local level with precincts. You get people in the precincts to work and help you, and then it goes up from there.
Q: How has your family handled your transition?
A: I’ve told my family what I’m doing. My sister is 100 percent supportive. My daughter – I have three children – one daughter and one son, I don’t see them anymore. I haven’t seen them in about twenty years. But my daughter that I’m with more often than anything, I told her. She has two children. Her husband is very conservative. Will not allow Diane to see them. They came down here last month and I had to go in drag. I had to be David. I wasn’t happy about it. But, I accepted it because it is their right. I could understand why people do some things, and so I can’t argue about that. My daughter, in all probability, if it were left up to her, would be very supportive. If not, it’s her husband. He is a good father. He is a good husband. And that’s it. You know, I’ll tell you something. My son-in-law, his parents are Yugoslavian. One is a Serb, the other is a Croat. One is a Roman Catholic, the other is Eastern Orthodox. And their only son married a Jew, and they weren’t happy about that.
But, what can I say – I’m living my life, I don’t bother anybody, I don’t intend to push myself where I don’t belong. I don’t tell anybody else how to live their life, don’t tell me how to live my life. When Jerry Falwell or James Kennedy, or Fred Phelps, or any of the others start with their haranguing people, making a statement that I’m not human, that what I’m doing is evil, that what I’m doing is wrong – well when I read what happens in this country, like with Mathew Shepard, it makes me sick. Brandon Teena, it makes me sick. There are other stories – Tyra Hunter, lots.
We have a website, Remembering Our Dead, and to see three hundred names of people, transsexuals, who have been murdered in the past couple of years, it is to me horrific. To me, you know, I die a little inside when I read these stories. This movie that came out, Boys Don’t Cry, I haven’t seen it. I really don’t want to because I know the story, but I probably will get it on tape when it comes out. These things are important, they have to be said, they have to be sometimes shoved down people’s throats – that we have a right just like anybody else. I’m also a member of the HRC. I’m not too happy about their exclusion of transgendered people, but they’re coming around. Even Barney Frank is coming around. You know he originally said, “This is our time, you wait your turn.” To me, what is the difference? A person has the right to employment non-discrimination, civil rights. It’s all the same thing.
Q: You’ve been active in politics for a long time. Do you have other political ambitions for yourself?
A: Three years ago I ran for mayor of Lauderdale Lakes; I lost. Of course at the time I was a guy. I am considering running again, but this time as a woman.
For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at firstname.lastname@example.org.