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Sharon Brackett, gender rights advocate, engineer and Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee member, dies

Sharon Brackett founded the PTR Group, a defense contractor, and served as its president and CEO.
Sharon Brackett founded the PTR Group, a defense contractor, and served as its president and CEO.

Sharon Brackett, a gender rights advocate and member of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee who was also an engineer, died in her Locust Point home Monday. She was 59.

Her son, Steven Brackett, said she had “chronic illnesses that manifested themselves in cardiac arrest.”

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She was born in Batavia, New York. Her parents were Philip “Joe” Brackett and Doris Brackett. Family members said she gender-transitioned many years ago and was an ardent and energetic proponent of gender rights.

“She was a positive, active and intelligent person,” her partner, Sara Law, said. “When she set her mind on something, she got the job done. She went above and beyond the ordinary. She did more. She formed a group called Gender Rights Maryland and did the pushing for three years. She also got some gender rights bills passed in some of the counties.”

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Ms. Brackett and other advocates were initially defeated in the 2010 state legislature in their goal to bar discrimination against transgender people.

She and her group changed directions and sought gender protection from the counties. In 2011 she pushed Howard County to take up a bill that added gender identity and expression to its anti-discrimination laws.

“The state hasn’t done the job,” she said in a 2011 Baltimore Sun article. “If there was a statewide law there wouldn’t be a need in Howard.”

“You probably know a transgender person but you don’t even know it,” she said in 2011.

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Ms. Brackett also assisted Chrissy Lee Polis, a 24-year-old woman who in 2011 was beaten in a Rosedale McDonald’s restaurant. The incident was caught on a cell phone camera and made national headlines.

“That could have been me,” Ms. Brackett said in a story that detailed how she lent Ms. Polis money, paid a cell phone bill, advised Ms. Polis to lie low as she pursued legal action, and urged her to get a GED diploma.

Ms. Brackett’s friends recalled her personality.

“She had a dry wit. She was sardonic and loyal. She loved sci-fi movies and was highly social,” said a friend, Kevin Gillogly. “With her friends she had a weekly breakfast meeting, maybe at Jimmy’s at Fells Point. We rotated around the city.”

She earned an engineering degree at Syracuse University.

After living in Connecticut and Manhattan, she settled in Maryland in 1989. She founded the PTR Group, a defense contractor. She worked with the group from 2000 to 2011 as president and CEO.

“She was an embedded systems engineer. She worked in computer components that work within devices from motor vehicles to satellites,” Ms. Law said.

“She worked on projects that were both classified and nonclassified. She worked on a large Naval telescope in Flagstaff, Arizona, and optical devices in hospitals,” Ms. Law said. “Most recently she was working on a portable ventilator system. She was skilled in the art of three-dimensional printing.”

In 2015 the Howard County Economic Development Authority announced her appointment as CEO/president of Tiresias Technologies, as engineer-in-residence at the 3D Maryland Innovation + Prototyping Lab, in Columbia.

“This state-wide leadership initiative was launched in 2013 to increase engagement between 3D printing and additive manufacturing, regional businesses, industry and entrepreneurs,” said a 2015 county statement published in The Sun.

“Brackett’s more than 25 years of experience in developing complex technology systems ranges from medical imaging and scientific instrumentation to electronic systems and product development,” the article said.

In 2018 she ran successfully for the Baltimore City State Democratic Central Committee.

“We were having breakfast one morning and everyone there pushed her to run for the office,” said Dr. Dana Beyer, a friend who lives in Chevy Chase. “It was a last-minute idea and I looked at her and said, ‘You can do this.’

“She was a fully rounded individual who transitioned later in life. Her life was flourishing. She maintained her love of engineering and teaching. Transition just made her better at what she was. Personally, she had struggles at the time of her transition. She got pushed out as an executive at one point. Because of the state of the laws, she had no recourse. She gave of her time freely to help everybody and in spite of the personal loss of her company job because of a loss of legal protections.”

She was a mentor for high school students in a group called the Baltimore Bolts.

She was also a master in the Boy Scouts of America. Friends described her as a “diehard Orioles fan” who purchased season tickets. She played in marching and jazz bands.

In addition to her son, who lives in Glen Burnie, and her partner, Law, who works in financial services, she is survived by a daughter, Jess Brackett of Laurel, and a brother, Jeffrey Brackett of Rochester, New York.

Plans for a service are incomplete.

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