Every time I enter a discussion on gay political issues, I find that the issue of gay conservatives is bound to come up. I also find that many liberal gay people have a hard time accepting and understanding the fact that there are many people who share their sexual orientation and differ drastically from them in terms of their political ideology.
"Gay Republicans?" someone said, "I find it interesting that a gay person would support a political party that once used the demonization of homosexuals as its central recruiting theme. It's just another silly contradiction. I find their existence very unlikely. Even if they do exist, it's quite pitiful. They're probably just a confused bunch."
"Why must every gay person be a Democrat, like you?" I asked. "You don't really expect everyone to bandwagon and nose-dive into a lockstep mode of conformity, do you?"
"No. Still, how can one be gay and support a political party that's anti-gay?" he insisted.
"Do you base your every political decision in terms of how it coincides with your sexual orientation?" I replied.
One cannot be both gay and conservative? It's like how I once remember being told by someone that you couldn't be both gay and Christian, that the two were just incongruous.
"The gay lifestyle and the Christian faith simply don't compute," she said. "You must pick one over the other."
First, one erroneous assumption that constantly gets made is that my being gay is a "lifestyle". This assumes that there is a monolithic concept of the gay individual. Gay people come in countless varieties, just like heterosexual people do. We have different tastes, opinions, and feelings. We come in all races, classes, and social-economic backgrounds. Many of us are religious and were brought up in faith-filled homes. This idea of there being only one kind of gay person is as absurd as the idea of there being only one kind of straight person.
Another flawed presupposition that comes with the use of words like "lifestyle" is this idea that all gay people share the same ideology. There is no all-encompassing way of thought that all gay people share. We vote both Democrat and Republican. I, myself, am a centrist libertarian and base my vote mainly on the issues involved. I am socially liberal and economically conservative. Not even all gay people accept their sexual orientation. Some haven't come to terms with it and are seeking to be "cured". Some commit suicide.
This conservative Christian woman I spoke with shocked me when she handed me a pamphlet detailing how "all" gay people were atheists and were "going to burn" in hell for "rejecting Jesus" and not professing him as their savior. What she didn't know was that I myself grew up in a Christian fundamentalist household and had once shared her rigid beliefs. I became a conservative Christian long before I ever realized that I was gay. It was fundamentalism's hateful sentiments to the outside world, inherent superficiality, and logical contradictions that caused me to leave, not my sexual orientation. My being gay had nothing to do with my religion. However, it was my denomination's characterization of homosexuality and misuse of biblical passages that gave way to my final decision to exit from it. I figured I could find better acceptance in more liberal, mainline Christian churches.
Likewise, a gay conservative is confronted with the same dichotomy. He is unfairly told that his sexual orientation puts him in a different camp, that his love for other men like him would require him to sacrifice his most deep-seated beliefs and way of life.
But, being gay and opposing gun control have absolutely nothing to do with each other, right? How about favoring the privatization of Social Security, school vouchers or favoring a conservative mode of tax reform? Entirely separate issues, right?
We tend to base our politics in light of how they might benefit us most. Sometimes we disagree on certain issues with those we elect into power. We figure that if we work hard enough, inside the system, and make our own voices known that these officials will eventually realize our point of view. Though we don't get everything we want, we still feel that it's better than letting the other political parties take a hold of things.
Let it be made clear that I'm not arguing whether or not the conservative political viewpoint holds legitimacy. That in itself is worthy of much debate. However, what I do want to instill in the reader is a realization that people come in all shapes and sizes and that one's sexual orientation does not have to be the overriding factor in one's political ideology. As I made clear in my column Cultural Marginalization & The Gay Male (9/02):
"The only thing nearly all homosexuals have in common, apart from sexual orientation, is the level of cultural marginalization we've experienced growing up in a hard and unaccepting world, and our struggle to find equality in an otherwise unequal society."
Those on the religious right would love for there to be a colossal gay "lifestyle". After all, it is indeed much easier to deny civil rights and to denigrate a group of people if what is being criticized is a way of life or a philosophy, instead of an individual's very personhood. There are common trends within the gay population, but these trends in themselves do not make "culture". There are gay people who go to bizarre extremes to demonstrate "visibility" during gay pride week, but these things don't make them any more "truly gay" than the tough, young football quarterback who happens to find that likes other young men.