Saturday, August 07, 2010

Meanwhile, on the fringe

I originally heard about these two over at Joe.My.God. in a non-video post. Going on the text excerpt provided, I commented on what appeared to be their internalised homophobia because “supporting a ‘movement’ that wants to force us back into the closest doesn't sound like the healthiest choice to me.” Others were far harsher—and a few comments actually offended even me.

I now think I judged too harshly. In the video above—from a tea party YouTube channel—the two explain their thinking in a little more detail. The one on the left (who seems better versed in the issues) talks about getting government out of the marriage business altogether, requiring instead that all people have civil unions, and leaving churches to perform marriages for whoever they want to. I’ve talked about the same thing many times.

However, he makes an assumption typical of folks at the ends of the spectrum, namely, assuming that everyone who agrees with you on a point or two is really the same as you. Very few people are wholly one thing or another and, in fact, are somewhere near the middle (even if they’re squarely on one side of centre or the other). What these two don’t seem to understand is that people stake out a political position, and preferred party/candidate, based on the totality of evidence.

It’s well-known that in the US gay people tend to support Democrats and the Democratic Party far more than they do Republicans. This isn’t because they’re blind or have “drunk the kool-aid” (in my opinion, using that phrase should be a capital offence). Rather, it’s because most Republican politicians are anti-gay, usually strongly, whereas Democrats are—at the very worst—only mildly anti-gay or—far more likely—moderately or actively pro-gay. Republican party activists call their politicians who aren’t strongly anti-gay “RINO” (Republican In Name Only).

For gay voters, as with any other minority, it’s a case of enlightened self-interest: Voting for the least harmful candidate—or, with luck, the most helpful. Nearly every time, that candidate will be a Democrat. This will remain the case until being gay is no longer a reason for persecution and until GLBT people finally have full legal equality. For gay conservatives, gay issues aren’t important, either at all or not as much as other issues.

These two whining about how they’re treated in gay bars sounded a bit precious to me: Those evil liberal gay people disagreed with them, and were being mean to them. I couldn’t help but wonder how much of that perception was imagined, and what they may have done or said that could’ve been considered provocative. Still, some people can be incredibly intolerant of people with whom they disagree, and gay people are no different—regardless of whether they’re on the left or the right.

I admit that I still don’t understand how any gay people could align with the teabaggers; that once libertarian movement has become thoroughly co-opted by the christianist, extremist far right, and their vision of America doesn’t include us as full and equal citizens (and some want to quite literally destroy us).

Nevertheless, I think that these two, believing as they do, can do good for the greater community by being there proudly and forcing some of the homophobes in their movement to confront their bigotry. Every activist I’ve ever known has said that the single most important thing necessary for us to achieve full legal equality is for gay people to be everywhere and known by everyone. I believe that gay conservatives can help in the overall goal of achieving that familiarity, even if I disagree with their positions on various issues.

If we’re truly about freedom and liberty for gay people, then we must also support the right of gay people to be politically active as conservatives, too. They confuse me, they frustrate me, I think they're naive and I will work in opposition to their political agenda, but I absolutely support their rights, too. It would be hypocritical not to, I think.

But I’ll still keep trying to convince them they’re wrong, of course.

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