GOProud, a gay conservative group that has built its image through identification with the Tea Party, came out recently with a statement condemning the glitter bombing of a family counseling clinic co-owned by potential Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband.
Christopher Barron, chair of GOProud’s board, was interviewed by the Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis and said of the incident, “No rational person can look at that behavior and think that this is actually good for average gay people. All it does is reinforce the worst, most negative, nasty stereotypes about gay people.” The clinic had been a target for criticism by activists and media pundits alike for its use of abusive gay reparative therapy techniques and promotion of the “ex-gay” cause.
Contrary to what would be expected from a group that bills itself as acting in defense of LGBT civil liberties, GOProud has behaved as though the clinic and the procedures it performs are completely irrelevant to their community, and declined to use their position to speak out against reparative therapy. Rather, their greatest concern is that some flamboyant, liberal, activist gays might make gays like themselves look bad in front of the Bachmanns. When pressed by the Advocate for further explanation, Barron stated that he does not believe that the clinic engages in “ex-gay” therapy and called the prospect of having a national conversation about reparative therapy “silly.”
There is a great deal that we can learn from these exchanges. GOProud may bill itself as a gay organization, but its priorities could not be clearer. They simply believe that lower taxes for corporations, repeal of the so-called “death tax” and the privatization of Social Security are more important goals to strive for than any real defense of the rights of LGBT people.
For a national gay political group to take such a posture that is not only conservative but also enabling of homophobia is unprecedented. When the Gay Liberation movement began, it was explicitly leftist. Essays and manifestos from these activists tell us that to be “gay” was meant to be something new. It meant not just having same-sex attractions, but also espousing a certain set of political beliefs. To come out of the closet was not simply a personal choice, but a radical political act. They were believers in social justice. They were against the Vietnam War, and what they viewed as imperialism in the third world.
As times changed and the original movement faded away, the politics became more fragmented. And yet through the struggles gay communities have faced over the past decades, they have always retained the mission of fighting for social justice, at least in name. This is why gays have been so heavily identified with the left and the vision of the nation held by the Democratic Party. But with the achievement of many crucial LGBT policy victories and the rise of a secular (if only in name) conservative Tea Party movement, this Democratic leaning is likely to shift more and more.
Perhaps this apathy toward real gay rights is a sign of complacency driven by years of successes in achieving gay civil rights in this country. In the Obama era, gay people have become more mainstream than ever. But this makes GOProud’s response to the work of people like Marcus Bachmann and his wife, who make a living off the idea that homosexuality is a sickness that needs to disappear, all the more puzzling and infuriating.
GOProud and the gay Tea Party-ers are not the only gay people who are conservative, and they certainly are not the most successful gay conservative group (see recent historic legal victories by the Log Cabin Republicans), but in media coverage they are becoming increasingly visible. As with Tea Party-identified politicians like Bachmann, they have gained more attention by making exactly these types of inflammatory statements and gestures. There is little incentive for them to stop until they get their way.
Perhaps there have always existed gays on the right, closeted and otherwise, who have taken a more extreme stance than simply holding conservative or libertarian ideas on specific issues. These gays have worked for and campaigned and legislated agendas that have explicitly sought to curtail not only their own rights, but to reverse the social and civil rights measures for women and minorities that gay political activists have supported in the past. The rise of a group like GOProud may be a sign that it is becoming more acceptable for these gays to bring their extreme economic ideologies out of the closet.
Sean Cotter is a freelance writer based in New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.