Abraham Lincoln once said, "Am I not destroying my enemies, when I make friends of them?"
In that spirit, when I saw Jim Torrey (ultra-conservative corporate candidate for mayor) schmoozing at the Regional Transportation Planning "workshop" last night, I made sure to meet him. He wasn't too eager to meet with me at first – he's on the record stating that transpeople should have to present medical documentation to use gender appropriate public restrooms, so he knew right off I'm not one of his supporters. He saw me at one of the tables and briefly spoke, then quickly turned away.
A little later, I approached him when he was speaking with two other people, and he couldn't turn away without being rude. He was forced to meet and speak with a transwoman.
Now, I could have put him on the spot about his positions on certain issues near and dear to my heart, like discrimination against transpeople. I've been known to do things like that in the past; at the first all-city staff meeting for the new city manager, I stood up in front of several hundred people and questioned him on just that. And given the fact that I would risking my life or my health to enter a men's room, I think I'd be justified in it.
I chose not to do that to Jim Big-Bizness Torrey, however. I thought about what he needed in that moment, and he needed ease, he needed to look good. Putting him on the spot wouldn't win any goodwill, and it wouldn't do anything to change his judgment of transpeople or his views about us. Instead, I spoke about the price of gas, and how that will affect transportation trends in the city, and so on. I was as friendly and charming as I know how to be when in the presence of someone who has, by implication if not explicitly, avowed himself to be my enemy. He shook hands and said it was a pleasure to meet me.
I hope that's true. I don't expect that I changed his mind last night, but I hope I planted a seed.
Because I really believe that the better he knows me, the harder he's going to find it to discriminate against me.
No matter how much he, or his backers, want to.