PHILADELPHIA (CBSNewYork) — Activist Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender person to speak at a national political convention Thursday.

“It’s about time,” U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., said as he introduced McBride — national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign — at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

McBride went on to identify herself as a “proud transgender American.”

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“Four years ago, I came out as transgender while serving as student body president in college. At the time, I was scared. I worried that my dreams and my identity were mutually exclusive,” she said. “Since then, though, I’ve seen that change is possible. I witnessed history interning at the White House, and helping my home state of Delaware pass protections for transgender people.”

But McBride emphasized that despite the progress, a great deal of work remains.

“Will we be a nation where there’s only one way to love and only one way to live? Or will we be a nation where everyone has the freedom to live openly and equally – a nation that’s stronger together?” McBride said. “That is the question in this election.”

McBride said the struggle for equality became all the more urgent when her then-future husband, Andrew – a transgender man – found out he was battling cancer.

“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,” she said.

McBride said she married Andrew in 2014, and just four days afterward, he died.

“Knowing Andy 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,” she said.

McBride said Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton “understands the urgency of our fight.”

“She’ll work with us to pass the equality act, to combat violence against transgender women of color, and to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic once and for all,” she said. “Today in America, LGBTQ people are still targeted by hate that lives in both laws and in hearts. Many still struggle just to get by. But I believe tomorrow can be different. Tomorrow, we can be respected and protected, especially if Hillary Clinton is our president.”

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