“It is quite a shock at the age of five or six to find that in a world of Gary Coopers you are the Indian.” —James Baldwin
I have always held the above words dear to my heart. At a very young age I stumbled upon the fact that something was different about me. Thus crept into my being a sense of other-ness and a coming molasses-slow embrace of my non-conformity. I expect that many LGBT individuals have also experienced a similarly not-quite-typical coming of age process.
In my long years of establishing a confident place within a reality in which I was “other,” the countervailing force was to me always clear: the predominantly straight, and often hostile, world. In my fantasies I was, at best, a rebel and, at worst, a misfit. Now, as I amble toward my middle years, with the confusing and challenging coming of age process firmly under my belt, I confront a new countervailing force as I find myself again identified as “other.” But this time it is by a surprising group of people: other gays. Specifically, the gay left. In a chilling reenactment of the dreaded grade school recess, the gay left takes aim at conservative gays.
There are many examples from which I could harvest an illustrative example. So I shall only reach back to an op-ed published Aug. 4, 2011, in this newspaper and penned by contributor Sean Cotter. His column initially takes aim at GOProud, of which I am a board member, by painting an association among GOProud, an embrace of reparative therapy and the Tea Party. As much as I am disappointed and wearied by this style of argument, I am getting used to it.
Like many of the other written attacks against gay conservatives and GOProud that have come before it, Cotter’s op-ed posits that it is appalling to be gay and not a leftist, or in the least a Democrat. In Cotter’s view, GOProud is not only conservative, (emphasis mine) but is “enabling of homophobia.” Gay conservatives “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.”
This is the critical theoretical jump: the bridge that the gay left, in publications and in blogs, often constructs to connect gay conservatives to Really Bad Things. Among these Really Bad Things are self-loathing, treason against one’s own, and even being secretly heterosexual and aiming to destroy the gay community. As a side note, I can assure conspiracy weavers that I am indeed gay.
It is sad when a group of gays disputes the sincerity, integrity and even sanity of another group of gays that holds a differing viewpoint. Cotter looks back affectionately to a past in which the gay rights movement “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.”
In this gay dystopia, conforming to a leftist agenda is more important than intellectual freedom. But, in truth, intellectual freedom (in this case holding conservative views) does not make you self-loathing, traitorous or the perpetrator of Really Bad Things. Rather, it makes you fabulous. I do not long for the days of identity politics, when being gay meant being a leftist. I am happy right now, when being gay means I can be myself, a conservative. I hope that one day all viewpoints will be welcome in our community so that we can work together for the cause of LGBT freedom.
Jessica Lee is a GOProud board member.