The New LGBT Closet: Conservatism

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This month is a month I always cherish, it’s a month that celebrates the LGBT community and what we have been through to get here. It celebrates our struggle to fight for civil rights, the fight for our families, the push towards finally having the loves of our lives recognized as our legal spouses, a rich and special history. It celebrates our pride and our community, but this year is different than past years for me because my own community has put me in to a whole different closet. I have been silenced, ridiculed and told to shut up because I am a traitor to my own people. The same community I have poured all my love in to for 15 years, has told me I have no place and I am no longer valid in the movement. I have seen countless people and heroes give their blood and their lives to defend our community and rise up against the forces trying to pull us down. I think of those beaten, cast out and killed and their sacrifices and I wonder what would they think now if they were still alive to see our own community building a new closet for some members of the LGBT community? Why have I been pushed in to another closet because I am gay and a conservative?  In our current climate they say you can’t be both.

For any LGBT person coming out is hard, and the road they will walk is paved with many obstacles and struggles specific to their identity. Fifteen years ago when I came out, I felt relieved and I grew up as a millennial grateful that the path of those who came behind me would be slightly less difficult because we had already paved the way. Today, my own community has tried to shove me back in the closet, saying my political identity is not acceptable. The sad reality is, coming out as gay was easier and less controversial than coming out as conservative. Half of America doesn’t like conservatives and most of my own community is included. Speaking out or up means you will lose friends, you will be ostracized, you will be discriminated against in the LGBT community.

In June we march, we fly rainbow flags, we parade down streets and we celebrate our identities openly and loudly, proud to have the right to do so and grateful for those who came before us and paved the way. Yet, there is a stigma around being conservative in the LGBT community, one that says we are working against our own people and our own interests. I fail to see how conservative ideas on immigration, economics, or public policy delegitimize being gay but on the left they view it as a betrayal. Coming out conservative is dangerous; it leads to discrimination in the community and the erasure of your existence. It’s the new closet. This closet is isolating, its dark and lonely and sometimes you want to pretend that you aren’t who you truly are for the sake of getting along and ease of blending in. The thing is we shed blood for these opportunities; did we not fight for the right to intersectionality and ability to harness all our identities freely and openly?

I have laid down my own blood and my own safety for the cause. I was a hate crime victim, attacked physically in public for being gay, but yet I persisted in my identity. Now I face the threat of violence or intimidation within my own group and the greater American public. The LGBT community has long been advocates for two major things, tolerance and diversity. Yet, we have no tolerance for those who view the world differently than us. No tolerance for those who dare to speak against the common narrative or engage in activism for their cause, but we fought so hard to get here, and to be seen as human not as simply someone who is gay. Why does the community tear down its own people and not support their voices, or opinions that differ even if they do not harm LGBT rights and protections. There is no tolerance in reality. It  is expected we all be liberal and we all think alike. Why are my views on economics, education, or immigration seen as means by which it is ok to be excluded from the LGBT umbrella and be treated as a member of the out-group versus the in-group?

The LGBT community pushes for diversity and inclusion. It champions the cause of all being welcome and respected, of safe spaces for those who feel unsafe in their daily lives. We have many leaders who preach a message of love over hate, but we don’t practice what we preach in our own community. Gay conservatives are not embraced, are not made to feel safe within the LGBT community. We stand behind our liberal brothers and sisters, we fight for the same causes to protect and expand our rights as community yet we stand alone day after day. As a male stranger beat my partner and me at the time simply because we were hanging out with friends in a public place and gay, running through my head was the will to never back down. I swore to always be bold; to always be proud of who I was and to never let a stranger dictate my life. I was fighting for freedom. I was fighting for all the young women and men who were going to come after me.

I have always viewed that event as a reason to stand firm in my beliefs, to have a strong inner core that stands for what I think is right regardless of consequence or fear. I defended a community that 11 years later would abandon me and those who are like me. I cannot breakup with who I am and my identity, but the LGBT community and I have been separated for a while now and I’m not sure that we will ever get back together. While we fight for diversity one thing is clear, diversity of opinion is not supported. You must remain in line with the party line, with the community rhetoric and speaking out, dissenting, from those unwritten rules will not be tolerated. If I could survive that moment of hatred against me by a stranger, a moment where my insides trembled so much I thought they may fall out, than surely I can handle standing on my own, alone. My hope is that some day our community will embrace all differences, we will be truly united no matter our political ideas or affiliations, we will not try to put those who do not think like the majority of us back in to another closet. For now, I refuse to go back in and I shine a spotlight on those who face the same and similar struggles within the LGBT community. We are strong, we are here on the backs and the pain of those who came before us and for them I will be proud and I will not live in a new closet, the closet of conservatism.

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