The difference between what it means to be a gay person on the Right and a gay person on the Left is becoming far more profound than mere political disagreement. Although there is much discussion about the legitimacy of gay conservatives, we often don’t articulate why we reject our socially assigned community, or how difficult that separation can sometimes be.
To begin, it must be understood that the LGBT movement is, at its core, a progressive movement. The very concept of “gay” rights and activism to force a sexual revolution is the basis of today’s liberalism. Gays did not begin by asking for marriage or to be viewed as everyday citizens; the movement grew from social rejection and intentional counter-culture behaviors and worldviews. Being gay was more than just same-sex attraction, it was a lifestyle of rebellion and creativity.
I am often challenged to answer for generally rejecting LGBT activism with the accusation I am taking for granted what my LGBT ancestors fought for. My life as it is today—married, equal, and normal—is argued to be the direct result of the activism I shun and criticize. At best, I am accused of being ignorant of my history, and at worst I have betrayed my own people while benefiting from their hard work and sacrifice.
Politics Is Not the Same as Culture
Like most gays my age, I have a set of common social experiences, but I am told I am not entitled to enjoy or appreciate them. I grew up with a generation of gay movies, magazines, online chat rooms, musicians and, of course, drag queens. But by rejecting what LGBT is today, I am expected to forfeit all cultural experiences linking me to the gay community.
Much of how society views me is structured around media images of gay men, usually originating from “Will and Grace,” “Ellen,” and RuPaul. My friends, family, coworkers, and those with whom I engage online hold a certain set of expectations for me to happily fulfill as their gay friend. Even though most people treat me as a person first, we agree that I have slightly different social expectations.
I can get away with flirting, joking, and certain mannerisms straight men are not allowed, and many women view me as an equal confidant and girlfriend. None of this is negative, and I happily encourage the social interaction because it is part of how I learned to engage with my world. But outside of this, my sexuality is remarkably minimal in my day-to-day activities. Despite my awareness of my social designation, its really only useful in playful social interaction or politics.
This was the stated goal of the gay movement for more than a decade. However, today’s LGBT movement is far more focused on the smallest variation of identity as an absolute characterization of who a person is. More importantly, the movement tends to treat people based solely on who they are not. The growing intolerance of intellectual diversity and the move towards mandatory class and identity association in all areas of life has restricted what was once a uniquely colorful example of freedom of expression.
Gays Aren’t Fun Any More
Gays aren’t fun any longer. While growing up, I watched the gay world through movies, the Internet, and magazines and imagined an environment of laughter, music, and genuine acceptance. Today I see a movement of exclusion, bitter scolding, humorless lecturing, and a constant state of rhetorical crisis. I witness and experience hate, bigotry, and tangible intolerance typically founded on the flimsiest of assumed beliefs and outdated prejudices. I find myself a caricature of what I used to imagine a Republican to be.
I still find joy in much of the culture. I enjoy the remaining artifacts of an era in which biting social commentary and intentionally offensive humor was celebrated. There is a kind of relief in noticing that some still appreciate counter-culture expression. But for the most part I do not see myself in the parades, protests, or social movements.
I do not experience the discrimination, threats, or social rejection that fuels their advocacy. There is simply nothing for me to march for or against as a gay man. I am repulsed by the realization that absolutely everything the LGBT world produces reflects a singular and vitriolic political flavor I just do not appreciate.
I Don’t Need the Gay Movement to Be Free
When I was in high school, I cherished the rainbow flag because it felt like hope and freedom to me. I instantly lit up whenever I saw it, especially in a public setting, and it resonated with me in a deeply meaningful way. It promised a world of acceptance and normalcy where my dreams as a person superseded my limitations as a gay man.
But I no longer have those limitations. I am free to pursue any dream I wish. My sense of purpose and hope are no longer tied to a flag fluttering proudly in the distance. I no longer need the gay community. I am in a position to choose it.
In a nutshell, that has become our most profound difference. There are gay people who have embraced equality and integrated into daily life exactly as they are, without fear or hesitation, and gay people who still believe they must surround themselves with a rainbow flag. Instead of allowing that flag to represent a culture of color, excitement, and acceptance, the community has become insular, suspicious, and angry.
In the freest time of our history in this country, when a Republican president is un-self-consciously gay-friendly and conservatives open their arms to like-minded gay citizens, the gay Left remains under an umbrella of self-perpetuating fear and doom.
What it means to be gay has changed dramatically. For many of us, it no longer has anything to do with politics. LGBT as a movement, however, is exclusively politics. One cannot participate without being marinated in activism. Perhaps that drive gives many in the movement a sense of purpose and meaning, but it holds no attraction to me.
Whatever advances or accomplishments a generation or so before me won, the movement itself has never stepped up to accept it as a victory. I have just chosen to enjoy my natural freedom with additional possibilities that better suit the life I choose to live.
Who I Am Transcends My Sexuality
During the month of June I do not raise the rainbow flag or celebrate “pride” with my fellow gays. Nothing for me changes outside of an intense awareness of just how silly the whining and cries of outrage are from so many LGBT advocacy groups throughout the rest of the year. As I watch the world sing in celebration of all things LGBT, I smile with the recognition that I just don’t need them to celebrate me in the same way any longer. Despite what mainstream LGBT insists, I genuinely do not need them, and they have not made me a welcome member of their group, solely based on my political worldview.
As the LGBT movement continues to move to the Left and its oppressive characteristics grow in proportion, many people happy in their lives as gay individuals will begin to understand what I and other gay conservatives have realized for a long time. Gays who move outside of the limiting political boundaries of the LGBT movement have to recognize that our personal sense of identity with the culture is ours alone, but it will always be influenced by politics. Our favorite movies, drag queens, LGBT events, festivals, and so on will always be inundated with progressive politics and, unfortunately, intolerance and bigotry.
I am a gay person, and that is simply an aspect of who I am. While I am aware of my social status as a result, most of the time it is nothing more or less than an interesting part of my personal story. Politically I am identical to the majority of other conservatives and libertarians I engage with daily, with just a touch of fabulous wit and style.
More importantly, I am finally a person with a life built by my own choices. Pride month no longer holds power or weight in my world precisely because being gay is not the fundamental attribute that defines me. I hope my experience will one day be common for most gay people to enjoy, and the rainbow flag will be just a reminder of a time in our past when culture was changing, and we had something to celebrate.