Last week, at where I’m guessing was the banquet room of an airport Holiday Inn, the Republican Party passed the most anti-gay platform in its history. The GOP doubled down on practically everything gay out there. Gay marriage? Still hating on it. Conversion therapy? Still rooting for it. Trans people using the bathroom? Not on their watch.
So, with it clearer than ever that the Grand Old Party just wants absolutely nothing to do with us, how do we go about breaking the news to the gay Republicans out there that, essentially, he’s just not that into you? And how do you even go about talking to gay Republicans about their politics?
I put it out there on social media. One reader wondered, “How can you have a meaningful conversation with the bathroom stall in the way?” Another said simply when it comes to approaching gay Republicans, “just don’t.” I even advocated going in with a soft, but direct approach, such as “what’s your f#^ing problem?” Nevertheless, I grabbed my gay Republican friend Michael and sat down for a chat. He’s from South Carolina. If gay Republicans were a state, it would be that one, with its charm, grace and seersucker realness.
My only real question for him was how do you pretend to be part of a party that wants nothing to do with you? Essentially, is tax policy so important to you that you will put up with people that actually think you are going to hell?
Michael, like so many other gay Republicans, aren’t quite ready to abandon ship. He sees a party in desperate need of rebuilding and rebranding and after the sure-to-be-shellacking ahead this November, that moment may come sooner rather than later. He reminded me that politics is indeed a game of addition, but the modern GOP, with harsh and hateful tones on everything from immigration to social issues, has only been playing a political game of subtraction. That game simply cannot sustain itself and another presidential loss this November, making this six out of the last seven in the loss column, would certainly trigger a regrouping.
We can hope.
Other gay GOP friends talked about how they feel stuck with a label that means something very different now than it meant even just a few years ago. A friend currently on the Hill tells me he feels like he made a bad bet 10 years ago, wagering that gay marriage would win, and the party would come around, among other wishful thoughts. He reminded me that he has real reasons for being a conservative and that being raised that way is just one of them. He could certainly come around, if only the party was willing to.
History tells us that it’s always dangerous to surround yourself only with those that agree with you (see: fraternities, the Third Reich). Gay Republicans exhibit a certain admirable willingness to sit in the same room with the Mike Huckabees and James Dobsons of the party, challenging them on their views and providing some, albeit small, counterbalance to their vitriolic anti-gay discourse. I did admire the lesbian delegate to the GOP national convention, D.C.’s Rachel Hoff, when she openly challenged her colleagues to start a “thoughtful conversation” on gay marriage. With tears in her eyes, Hoff explained that, “we’re your daughters, your sons, your neighbors, colleagues, and the couples you sit next to you in church.”
No matter how small, stances such as those take tremendous courage, or as my South Carolina friend put it, “balls as big as church bells.”
Watching the convention unfold this week, there is a noticeable absence of party elders. Instead of past presidents and noteworthy statesmen, we’re being treated to has-been soap stars and former underwear models. This illustrates more than anything the apparent rift in a party that may be approaching its rock-bottom moment. And while we are quick to acknowledge the hypocrisy of gay republicanism given current social stances of the GOP, we should all hope they have a loud and strong voice at the table. As a community, we are well served if their voice can help center the party as it rebuilds.
Again, we can hope. So how do you talk to gay Republicans? Maybe at this point, start with, “hang in there.”
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He writes regularly for the Blade.