I had an interesting experience recently, jumping into the world of politics. Last year I was asked to consider becoming a member of our town council here in Colorado, but at the last minute I decided against having my name considered. Local politics can be brutal, particularly for a transgender person, and I was not convinced it would be good for me or the church I served.
In February I was contacted by the Mike Bloomberg campaign to ask if I would be willing to serve as one of 11 members of his LGBTQ leadership committee. I said yes and a few weeks later was asked if I would be one of the co-chairs of his Women for Mike leadership committee. Again, I said yes.
I was skeptical when Bloomberg first became New York City’s mayor. I was aware of many of the crude comments he had made about women and transgender people, but I also saw that his policies in New York were different from his actions with his company, where his misogyny was little in doubt. In New York, he blew it with stop and frisk, but he apologized for that mistake and supported policies that helped minorities.
When it comes to the fall election, I am a pragmatist. I believe another four years of Donald Trump will threaten our democracy. The Republican Party has proven to be spineless in the face of Trump’s tirades, and Mitch McConnell’s actions, beginning with his refusal to bring Merrick Garland’s name before the Senate, have been reprehensible. It is time to vote out of office those who threaten our nation’s survival.
After the early unforced errors of Joe Biden’s campaign, I agreed with those who believed we needed an alternate voice who could actually defeat Donald Trump in the fall. Therefore, when Bloomberg’s campaign came calling, I joined. I found his campaign to be extremely well run. They involved me in ways appropriate to my skillset and circle of influence, and I loved working with the staff assigned to the two committees with which I served.
What I was not prepared for was the anger from my friends on the far left, most of which are dedicated and tireless workers for the oppressed. Not only were they angry, their rhetoric was caustic. They exhibited the same lack of tolerance for an opposing view that I have seen far too often from the far right. I appreciate their idealism, but I am old enough to know that idealism is not what brings down tyrants. It is the general election I am worried about, and the unfair electoral college that served us poorly in 2016. I am now a supporter of Joe Biden because I believe he has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump in November.
This past Saturday I gave a keynote presentation at the Mark Leadership Conference at Rutgers University. I was impressed with the dedicated students who crowded into the sold-out conference to listen to ideas about how to lead our world toward greater justice for all. I loved their enthusiasm and commitment.
What set this conference apart was that I heard no polarizing rhetoric, no cancel culture, no denigration of those on the right. The extremely diverse group of students were coalescing around a message of dignity and hope, the kind of enthusiasm that can reverse the polarizing rhetoric we hear too often.
In addition to my keynote address, I presented a workshop on gender equity. The workshop attendees were thoughtful, expressive, and open to all sides of the issue. Some of the women thought I had been too tough on men, and it’s possible they are right. The men in attendance were open-minded and desirous of recognizing their male privilege. The whole day was quite a contrast to my experience with those who attacked my involvement with the Bloomberg campaign. It gave me hope that we can bring people together instead of driving them further apart, allow for divergent opinions without vitriolic rhetoric, and make progress pulling our nation together.
I am currently reading Colin Woodard’s book, American Nations, in which he writes about the 11 distinct cultures that have made their mark in our US experiment in democracy. The book has reminded me that we have never been a melting pot, but a stew pot, with each region and people maintaining their own distinct identities. That we have managed to last 244 years is a testament to people like the Rutgers students, committed to unity – not uniformity, equity – not equality, and respect for all.
After transitioning and going through the massive rejection I experienced from the church, I have developed a pretty tough skin. But I don’t think I want to make any more forays into the realm of politics, at least not in the near future. I’ve faced enough poison arrows from the far right. I don’t need any more from the far left. The wounds accumulate and you get weary. I would like to live in relative peace for a while, at least until my memoir comes out. But then I’m pretty sure I left relative peace behind when I transitioned. It’s one of the prices you pay for believing the call toward authenticity is sacred and holy and for the greater good.