Very few people are single-issue voters, including LGBT individuals. Yet there is an increasingly widespread belief that it is okay to attack queer Republicans on account of their sexuality. Admittedly, I am guilty of this belief in the past; however, upon further inspection, this stance is especially problematic.
These attacks take on many forms. For instance, many queer rights advocates were thrilled by the losses of the Republicans’ two gay congressional candidates–not because they were Republican, but because they were gay. There is also more open hate directed towards gay Republicans than there is towards their heterosexual counterparts; some people go as far as calling these queer individuals “traitors” to the community. Even on “liberal” college campuses such as Princeton, LGBT Republicans are vilified to a troubling extent. When left leaning people criticize queer Republicans, rarely do they speak on the issues which they disagree on with the individual. Rather, they make erroneous claims such as “He’s gay! He should know better!”
Not only do attacks on gay conservatives fail to advance a constructive dialogue, but they also have damaging effects on the progress of LGBT rights, to the point that I stop just short of calling these attacks homophobic. The logic behind this open attack stems from the notion that queer people should blame their oppression on the Republican party and cast their ballot appropriately. And while a lot of the problems faced by LGBT individuals come from conservative policies, this is no reason to hate gay Republicans.
When we blame LGBT individuals for the wider oppression exhibited by the group they partake in, we stop directing our anger from constructive avenues and begin to direct it towards the most tragic victims of this oppression. Not only are they threatened with alienation from the Republican community, but they face alienation from queer activists; they have no haven. It is not their fault that there is a significant amount of homophobia within the Republican party. In fact, their very presence within the party has a positive impact on the future of queer rights.
When we attack these individuals for being queer, we provide the Republican party with an easy cop out; it is a lot easier to maintain homophobia when the other party is helping you weed out homosexuals from the party. But, when we refrain from attacking gay republicans over their sexuality, we allow them to rise within the party and we force the party to engage in a dialogue which will ultimately lead to a higher rate of acceptance within the party. A recent study published in the journal Science found that just a 20 minute conversation with a gay person could change someone’s opinions on same-sex marriage in the long term. It’s for much the same reason that coming out has been so effective at changing minds; it forces people to confront their preconceived notions of gay people and realize the humanity and diversity present within the group.
That is not to say, however, that we cannot still call out the party for its homophobia, as we should with diligence. There is valid evidence to suggest that the Republican party, as a whole, is opposed to equality for Gender and Sexual Minorities: the very first plank in the “Renewing American Values” portion of the party platform is opposition to marriage equality, Republican legislators have enacted anti-gay laws, and for each aspect of LGBT rights, there are only five to ten Republicans in each branch of Congress who are on the right side of history. But, there are glimmers of hope.
The momentum for a shift in the Republican party towards acceptance is evident. Today, a majority of young Republicans are supportive of LGBT issues such as marriage equality and according to the same study, nearly four in ten Republicans support marriage equality today. Additionally, Republican politicians across the country are embracing marriage equality and other issues. These politicians, and the people who support them, don’t change their views due to scathing criticism from liberals; they change due to personal experiences with gay family members, friends, and colleagues.
Additionally, though still generally more accepting than its counterpart, the Democratic party cannot claim it has always been the party of queer liberation. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he led a charge against homosexuality in the now infamous Newport Sex Scandal. It really wasn’t until 2012 that the Democratic platform embraced marriage equality. In fact, President Clinton signed more anti-gay laws than any other president, including the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriages, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, which doubled the rate of gay individuals who were discharged from the military, and a ban on a ban on entering the country for individuals with HIV. Additionally, it wasn’t until 2012 and 2013 that President Obama and Hillary Clinton openly supported same-sex marriage, respectively. If we were to shame gay people for identifying with parties which run counter to LGBT equality, regardless of their personal views on the issue, we would have to shun Harvey Milk– a Democrat and gay rights icon– for identifying with a party which, at the time, did not embrace LGBT individuals.
Thus, it’s clear that while the Democrats may have made strides in the advancement of queer rights in the last few decades, we must ask who are we to stifle Republican evolution on the issue? We can counter LGBT Republicans for their political views; however, we should not do so solely because they are LGBT.
Queer individuals are diverse and do not fit a strict stereotype, and being a part of a group does not mean you support every view that group holds. More factors go into our being than our sexualities. Some LGBT people listen to country music (I do) even though Southern culture is often equated to homophobia and heteronormativity ;some LGBT people choose to retain allegiance to churches which are known to speak against homosexuality (I used to); and some LGBT people are Republicans (I used to be one). So attack us for listening to country music. Attack us for attending homophobic churches. Attack us for being Republican– don’t bring our sexuality and/or gender expression into it.
(Title image via).