By Deena Lilygren
In 2019, Queer Kentucky’s Instagram featured a snapshot of a young gay Kentuckian enjoying a drink on a Churchill Downs balcony. As always, the snapshot was accompanied by the subject’s bio, which in this case included a quotation about how hard it was to be a gay Republican. The queer community, he complained, is an unwelcoming place because his fellow gays are turned off when they find out he’s a Republican.
This happened few days after new information emerged about the Trump administration’s plans to draw very narrow lines regarding sex and gender, and in the same time period as Trump’s ban on transgender soldiers. It was a time when we were still agog over how much of Trump’s cabinet was openly homophobic.
In solidarity, Queer Kentucky followers pointed out en masse how tone-deaf it was to feature a self-pitying gay Republican at that point in time.
To them, it felt like the guy who just punched us in the face was now crying about how much his fist hurts. After all, Republicans like him put Trump in office.
Screenshots from this poor, persecuted Republican’s public Facebook account—as well as those of the friends he invited to the comment section—were quickly collected and passed around by internet sleuths. Predictably, there were abundant misogynist memes and comments–the same thing you’ll find on the page of almost any Trump supporter. One of their favorite schticks is to mock the queer community for standing against Islamophobia. The reality that many Republicans portray is that Muslims are required to murder all gays. However, this is not true.
The contempt definitely flows both ways.
Queer Kentucky listened to feedback, took down the post and issued an apology for the timing, but timing isn’t the real issue. The post was taken out of the archive after midterm elections because Queer Kentucky believes in the conversation the post created is important.
An Instagram post isn’t the issue. There’s a reason that LEO Weekly’s advice columnist Minda Honey has devoted at least two columns to readers facing dilemmas like whether to sleep with a Trump supporter (her verdict: no) or do business with a Trump supporter (also no). There’s a reason conservatives keep whining about how suddenly, since 2016, no one wants to fuck them.
Republican policies are the reason.
It takes either a troll or someone completely out of touch with reality to complain about the gay community not accepting the way they choose to vote.
Republicanism isn’t just another difference to embrace. It’s not a personality trait; it’s an action, with consequences. Just ask all those immigrant parents whose children were stolen (and remain stolen) by the Trump administration. Just ask the trans people who had military aspirations. It’s not being a Republican that’s objectionable; it’s voting Republican, especially in the time of Trump.
So why do queer people vote Republican? And why do we feel so furious and disoriented when they do? I decided to find out.
My first stop was the well-established Log Cabin Republicans. I figured they’d be interested in fostering understanding, but when I asked if they could explain how they reconcile being gay with Republican, the communications director responded with this email, which I suspect was already locked and loaded:
“This quote can be attributed to Gregory T. Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans regarding “reconciling” being a gay Republican:
If you get it, no explanation is necessary; if you don’t get it, no amount of explaining will do.
In other words, they can’t.
I contacted Jimmy LaSalvia, former co-founder of GOProud (exactly what it sounds like). He was unable to speak with me due to the conditions of his current project, but he suggested I read his book, No Hope: Why I Left the GOP and You Should Too.
And so I did. While his reasons for leaving weren’t surprising—homophobia in the GOP, the GOP’s unwillingness to evolve on social issues, period—the book didn’t provide me with any insights about what the Republican party had to offer the queer community.
LaSalvia uses the term “freethinker” to describe gay conservatives, which sounds about right. The most common reasoning I’ve heard from other LGBTQ Republicans is that they’ve transcended identity.
In their view, they’re sophisticated for not letting one identity trump the others. They’re actually very logical, in their opinion, as opposed to the overly emotional gay community.
For women, this will sound familiar. For decades, the “I’m a girl, but I relate more to guys, since girls are the worst!” line has been hooking young women desperate for a little respect—or, perhaps, safety. In pursuit of male approval, they take on misogynist beliefs, much like the gay Republican groups I explored on Facebook, which were full of mockery, disdain, and hatred for the gay community.
One post that gave me pause was a meme about CNN’s Don Lemon’s statement on how right-wing white men are the biggest domestic terror threat in the U.S. The group was furious about this injustice to white men (and, presumably, right-wingers, who have indeed committed the majority of domestic terrorism in this country). Reverse racism! Stupid libtards! Apparently, one thing queer Republicans can bond over is their need to uphold white supremacy.
The pursuit of a political group which has literally codified anti-queer values is misguided at best. In fact, one of the four components of Stockholm Syndrome is: “a hostage’s belief in the humanity of their captor, for the reason that when a victim holds the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.” It reminds me of the time my Buddhist, vegan friend declined insect repellent while camping lakeside, saying that the bugs would just sense her alliance with nature, and next day looked like a smallpox victim.
Lucky for queer Republicans, the ACLU is standing by.
LaSalvia’s rhetoric sounds a lot like the founding fathers—lots of passion for the rights of men exactly like himself. Much like Libertarian theory, the problem is government in general, and everything would just sort itself out if the government would stay in its own lane.
I call bullshit. This is the same “every man for himself” nonsense that defines the Republican party. Gay Republicans are just Republicans. What’s the difference between a queer person who votes to oppress vulnerable communities and a homophobe who votes to oppress vulnerable communities?
Should we be hand-wringing over whether our intolerance for intolerance is intolerant? Fuck no. Just as there wouldn’t be space for your homophobic uncle at the queer dinner table, there isn’t room for someone who votes for Republican policies.
It’s not just about sexuality and gender identity—it’s about solidarity with other groups that Republican policies routinely undermine.
Many Republican policies hurt black people, poor people, disabled people, women, immigrants, and certainly queer people. We don’t have to debate which party supports these groups more, because the parties have official platforms and legislation we can read (and I encourage you to do so).
Gay republicanism can be explained with a remix of the Log Cabin response: “If you’re selfish, you get it, no explanation is necessary; if you believe in solidarity, no amount of explaining will do.”
The Root’s Michael Harriot does a very funny “People we don’t eff with anymore,” a list of black people who have done things harmful to the black community, and while it’s a joke, it also does real work of sorting the bullshit. Harriot’s schtick resonates in this situation.
Congratulations, gay Republicans. You truly have transcended your gay identity.
Like all Americans, you’re free to vote however you like, but as a result, the queer community doesn’t eff with you anymore.