I have been reaching this conclusion gradually over the past few months. It's not a threat, not a promise, not a definite of any kind. I'll surely weigh in on political issues in the future.
But I've given up thinking that politics or politicians are going to help us. There are so few transgender people, and so few of us in a position to do anything but scramble to try to make it through another day. Spending time on politics is simply a luxury that our community cannot afford.
I'm not mad at President Obama, or the Democratic Party, or Barney Frank or Nancy Pelosi or any of them. They're good people trying to do good work.
The operative word is "trying."
Nancy Pelosi's announcement last week that ENDA would be put off indefinitely was no surprise.
Here's how I knew I was really done thinking of politics or politicians as potentially helpful.
I have been asked to present on November 4 at the American Bar Association Labor & Employment Section's Annual Conference in Chicago on "Best Practices for Implementing Workplace Policies to Accommodate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Employees.
My first thought was "I can't go -- it's election day!"
My next thought was "Hmm, vote for feckless, continually disappointing Congressmembers, OR go educate a hundred lawyers who advise employers on how to make workplaces better for LGBT workers?"
My answer is that I will be in Chicago on election day.
Why? It's not because I want Republicans in office. But there are choices to be made in life.
I hear some of you audibly gasping. Don't I remember the Bush years?
Yes, I remember them. There was much to be disappointed in. But was life intolerable? Not for me. During the Bush years I managed to get a job as a secretary, then go to graduate school on a full scholarship, and then to get a tenure-track job as a professor in a college in the Northeast.
Is my life much better under the Democratic Party? It's okay. Frankly, I think President McCain would have fuddled his way through the economic crisis and the BP oil disaster and the wars about as well. The Democratically-controlled Congress hasn't done anything spectacularly better than the Republican-controlled ones, as far as I can see.
I was never much interested in politics over the course of my life. I learned my disinterest from my family, Jews of Eastern European heritage, who had pretty much been the losers in the game of politics, over many countries and many generations.
In fact, I rarely read a newspaper for many years. Practicing law is pretty much all consuming, and I enjoyed spending the little time I had with my family, rather than anonymous people blathering on about nonsense.
But, of course, I haven't got much of a family anymore.
My efforts on ENDA were born of the frustrations of working as an academic on the issues of transgender workplace law and policy, and seeing how the inability to get a job devastates our community.
I was very personally devastated by the events of 2007, when the transgender community was thrown out of the ENDA bill like so much trash. When the bill was reintroduced in 2009, I was determined to do my utmost to see that did not happen again, and to help pass the bill. My first post on the issue of ENDA was on June 9, 2009.
As my polisci teacher told us on the first day of class thirty years ago, politics is a way of allocating resources. Not just material resources - public and moral goods too -- the right to be included in public life, the right not to be spit upon in the street, the right to marry, and raise children, and have a job and be yourself without fear or favor.
Here's what I learned from my year of political thinking: Political activism can change how resources are allocated. It can also be all-consuming. It can also result in remarkably little. Even when there is a vote, the inevitable necessity of compromise takes away a lot of the force.
Oh, I'm not against the political process, or the compromises involved. It's just that I write so remarkably slowly.
Let's see, about 200 posts over the past year, and I spent about two to three hours on each one. That's about 400 to 600 hours. And then there was the Inclusive ENDA Facebook page, with over 5,000 members, and the RallyCongress petition, and coordinating the blogswarn, and a dozen other side campaigns. What could I have done for my community with that time? How many employers could I have educated? How many more books and articles could I have written?
I have learned something from my year of intensive work, day in and day out, on a major political issue like ENDA, and getting to work with lots of very interesting political people around the country in places like Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina and Alaska.
It wasn't worth the time.
Oh, I'm not saying politics is never worth the time. There are lots of example of how our community has been helped by politics, like funding of AIDS research and medicines, anti-discrimination laws all around the country, and marriage equality.
But I now think my time would have been better spent making actual improvements in the lives of our community.
Oh, I'm glad I did it. It was a wonderful learning experience. I do think many people who had never heard of our issues learned something. So education did occur.
But the Democratic Party which swept into office with President Barack Obama has delivered very little for my community.
President Obama himself I believe to be sympathetic, and his Administration has done some good things for transgender and transsexual people, as well as for the LGB community. I'm grateful to him for that, and I would vote for him again.
I believe he will continue to do good things for us here and there.
But the Democratic Party itself? That has been a big bust.
I thought they were a progressive party, but I see that they are run by the Blue Dogs, which in my book is another name for Republicans. I don't see a big benefit in voting for one group of thieves over another with a different name and ad campaign.
I'm particularly angry, of course, about ENDA, but I'm also dissatisfied with progress on health care, financial reform, immigration reform, and climate change.
When President Obama started talking about hope and change, I responded to that message, and I and many others came out to vote in the Democrats. We've been promised, time and time again, that ENDA would be voted on and we've been working hard on lobby for those goals. It appears, however, that we are not, in fact, very important to the Democrats.
Their main goal seems to be keeping themselves in power, rather than accomplishing justice with that power. People who just want power, but not to use it for good, don't deserve it.
To the members of Democratic Party who have worked hard on LGBT issues:
Thank you for all of your efforts. Thank you for your friendship. They are much appreciated. But, as a whole, the Party has failed to be the progressive force for change that was advertised. It's the same old laundry soap with the words "New and Improved" on the packaging.
That's why I'll be in Chicago in November.
Do I want Republicans in office? Well, that's the wrong question.
The question is how badly do I want Democrats in office?
The answer is that I want Democrats in office, but I have other priorities, just as the Democratic Party had other priorities than me.
I'm not saying this to try to "get them back," or anything so childish. I know they would have voted for ENDA if they could have. But the truth is that the Democratic Party is too weak to make much happen.
Meanwhile, my community is suffering. If I were on the Board of Directors running my life, I would say that we've backed a weak horse to try to help the community. Better to put our time and effort into something that is actually going to make a difference for our people.
I'm not against the Democratic Party. Let's just say that I'm not a strong advocate.
No, I don't really want Republicans in office. It was upsetting to live under Bush and his policies, and he made a lot of mistakes. But his conservatism was moderated by a lot of influences, and the truth is that a lot of Congressional Democrats cooperated in making those bad decisions.
I'm over the idea that politics is going to save us.
I really will try my darndest to make it for the 2012 election.