I was hiking through Patagonia when I heard the news of President Obama's reelection. (I like to say that sentence in the voice of Maya Angelou. I feel it makes me sound more important than I actually am.) The hotel I was staying at had only four rooms, and not one of them had a television set. Being that there was no boob tube, I held my breath and relied on texts from my husband back in the States to keep me informed on Election Day. When I got word that "we" had won, I felt like I could finally breathe again. We had four more years with a president who, unlike his opponent, believed wholeheartedly in LGBT equality.
I returned home with renewed vim and vigor, so much so that I did bell kicks through U.S. customs. (Note to reader: Enforcement officers do not appreciate the Broadway bell kick.) You could imagine my shock a few evenings later when, at a friend's party, someone was introduced to me thus: "This is Mark. He's a gay Republican. He supported Romney."
Now, I had heard rumors that there were such things as "gay Republicans," but not having known any personally, I wasn't 100-percent certain that they actually existed. However, there one was, in front of me, reaching out to make contact. I felt like I was in a natural history program and the soothing voice of Sir David Attenborough could be heard overhead: "Here we have the elusive gay Republican. Don't get too close; their archaic political views make them extremely dangerous and unpredictable."
In the movie in my mind, when Mark went to shake my hand, I held tightly onto him with a firm grip, looked sternly into his eyes and gave him an impassioned speech that would put Julia Sugarbaker to shame: "And that, Mark -- just so you will know -- and your children will someday know...!" However, none of that happened. I was so shocked by his political views that I had to excuse myself and walk away. What kind of internalized homophobia and self-loathing must one possess in order to stand behind a political party that would put our civil rights' accomplishments back decades when President Obama and the Democratic ticket were so vocal in their belief in LGBT equality?
Not only did the Democratic Party make a significant effort to include LGBT rights in the party platform but President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and issued an executive order requiring all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds to respect the right of all patients to choose who may visit them in the hospital and ensuring that the decision making of LGBT patients is respected. President Obama signed into law the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Repeal Act of 2010, ending DADT. He announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, expanded federal benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees and issued a presidential memorandum that directs all federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. President Obama and his administration encouraged LGBT youth who are being bullied by joining the It Gets Better campaign, and perhaps most significantly, President Obama officially endorsed same-sex marriage.
Do gay Republicans who voted for a party that says that marriage can only be between a man and woman believe that they themselves are not worthy of love? Do gay Republicans who voted for politicians who say that gay people should not be allowed to adopt children believe that they themselves are not worthy of family? And what would gay Republicans, who voted for Mitt Romney's version of America, do when their beloved job that gave them their beloved money was taken away from them because they were gay? Who would they call: Lambda Legal? HRC? Ghostbusters?
I have heard gay Republicans say that they vote according to their fiscal needs. So, basically, a vote is cast for their bank account while they remain spiritually bankrupt. What does it say about someone when he or she puts money and monetary possessions above self, spirit and equal rights? I see gay Republicans as Uncle Toms. They give their time, money and voices to a political group that aids in LGBT oppression.
And don't even get me started on lesbian Republicans; I'll need smelling salts. What kind of mind-numbing drugs does one have to be on to be gay and a woman and still identify as a Republican? All the debate from Republicans over who does or does not own the rights to a vagina makes my head spin. I haven't heard that much talk about lady business since the time I drove Eve Ensler home from the gynecologist.
When some religious zealot casts a vote against the LGBT community, we can write that one off as ignorant or prejudiced or say, "If they only knew us." What do we do when the vote is cast by one of our very own? How do we change the minds of those who are against us when there are members within our own community who try to sabotage our social and political gains?
One can only imagine the legacy that gay Republicans expect to leave behind. When we talk about "standing on the shoulders of our ancestors," I think of members of the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn and people like Harvey Milk, Larry Kramer and Barney Frank (to name a few), those whose bravery and selfless acts fought for equality and the greater good of our nation, not those whose selfish, fearful acts stood in the way of equality during the most important political election for LGBT rights to date.
After leaving our friend's house, my husband and I decided to walk home so that I could gather my thoughts and clear my head. As we passed the White House, we stood there, hand in hand, and peered through the gate at that beautiful house illuminated with light. I thought about how far the LGBT community has come since I was a bullied little kid growing up on Long Island. Being gay is not a political thing for me but who I intrinsically am. It's not about being a Democrat or a Republican but about continuing the fight for equal rights. It's about picking up the baton from the generations before us -- many of whom died without ever knowing true social freedom -- and paving the way for the generations ahead. And though self-love and self-worth might not come easily for some, I look at what LGBT people have accomplished throughout history and find myself filled with an unshakable sense of pride to always fight for what is just and to stand on the right side of history. I dare gay Republican's to do the same.
Follow John Carroll on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MrJohnCarroll