Living in a 353-year-old city (with a long and storied Native American history even before its 1659 settlement by Puritans), there's no shortage of people who cling to nostalgia for the "old days," the glory days, when the city's many big textile mills were humming rather than crumbling, and the "Rose City" was the shopping destination of eastern Connecticut rather than a place where Goodwill is one of the city's few remaining, and most successful, retailers.
What do nostalgic old people in an old New England mill town have to do with gay people, who frequently flee such places for the opportunity and anonymity of the big cities (as I did)?
Well, they make me think of gay Republicans. I've never met one who doesn't similarly pine for a far-off, glorious past when the Republican Party stood for something worth standing for, such as limited government and personal liberty.
What got me thinking about gay Republicans was the comments by Speaker of the House John Boehner last week in response to a question from a Washington Blade reporter about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Boehner said, "I haven't seen the bill. I haven't thought much about it."
Really? Clearly he also doesn't know much about the discrimination that faces LGBT people in the American workforce. If he had, he wouldn't have said, "There are ample laws already in place to deal with this."
Boehner's comments made me wonder: Why would someone choose to belong to a political party whose de facto leader, its highest-ranking elected member, hasn't thought much about an issue of such importance to so many LGBT Americans -- as well as to businesses and employers, the corporations about which today's Republicans care so very much?
When I accepted my sexual orientation, in 1981, I left the Catholic church I was raised in, and the evangelical churches I found myself drawn to as a teenager, because those institutions couldn't find it in their allegedly Christian hearts and theology to accept that gay people are equally human and equally beloved of God. I found a place in the Episcopal church, with its more nuanced understanding of life and of sexuality. I've watched with a combination of admiration and sadness as I've seen LGBT people twist themselves into pretzels trying to carve a place for themselves in religious institutions that would prefer that they simply go away.
I can't help but think of gay Republicans in the same way. They want to believe they can recapture what their party "used to be," recover their rosy view of what a formerly great institution once stood for. But to stay, they are forced (well, no one is forcing them) to accept delusion or outright rejection as the price of staying.
And they are tying their wagons to a rapidly falling star. As this presidential election campaign season has made clear, the Grand Old Party in 2012 is exactly that: old, white, male, and not even remotely in touch with the realities of life for the young, people of color, women, and pretty much everyone who isn't themselves.
Why would any self-respecting homosexual choose to be part of an institution that prefers that he or she didn't exist?
Doesn't it make more sense to support political candidates who support your interests? You can claim the Republican Party does that -- if you are a white male CEO. As for everyone else?
Why not join a third party that stands for what you believe in? Ron Paul makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, especially young people, with his calls for a radically different approach to government than what the two major parties stand for. Will his supporters be satisfied to keep voting for "fringe" candidates who don't have a real chance of being elected? Or will they (some of them, anyway) find ways to work within the existing party system to bring about change we can really believe in?
Here's a radical idea: Why not join the Democratic Party, where LGBT people are most certainly welcome, and work from the inside to reform the party of big government and high taxes?
Until gay Republicans can make a party leader like Speaker John Boehner pay attention to issues of equality and fairness (sadly, it doesn't seem likely any time soon), I will continue thinking of them the way I think of the old folks in my hometown. They can sure tell great stories about the old days. But they aren't exactly driving forces in revitalizing the city to become all it can be today and tomorrow.