I am not a sex offender. But a number of my friends no longer have time to see me. Lifelong acquaintances now regard me with fear and distrust. I have been unfriended en masse on social media and excoriated by friends who deign to remain. And I have been singly excluded from social gatherings when the rest of my family was invited.
No, I am not a sex offender. I am something even worse than that. I am a Donald Trump supporter.
I was raised in a liberal Jewish family in Washington DC, where my dad served as a Democratic congressman for Los Angeles. Accordingly, I was indoctrinated with all of the correct values and views.
When I was seven, my dad took me on a celebrity-packed camping trip to Death Valley as part of a campaign to protect California’s deserts. Israel took center stage in family discussions. I attended a Quaker elementary school, where I learned the black national anthem before I knew the “Star Spangled Banner.” In high school art class, I even chose to focus on man’s destruction of the environment. I came out to my family as gay at the ripe age of 20, and they were duly overjoyed.
It was always a given that Republicans are bad people, representative of that shameful sliver of our flawed society that values money above the planet and think the world would be better off if everyone were a straight, white male. At a minimum they are racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Left to their own devices, they would exclude ethnic minorities from everything, kick sinful gay offspring onto the streets, and pave our parks over with oil derricks.
Of course, there are the less malicious Republicans, the ones who have fallen victim to their gun-toting, Bible-thumping families and sadly do not know any better than what they have been told. This type is not entirely to blame for their ignorance; they just deserve our pity. These truths are held by my family and our extended social and political networks to be self-evident.
These Ideas Didn’t Work Out Long-Term
When, in my adulthood, the liberal policy agenda became problematic for me, I found myself at a loss. I began to raise questions with my family and friends, and met resistance. It was not because my concerns were particularly inappropriate; I was just not supposed to be questioning at all.
One could disagree with nuances, but not the judgment of the (then) president, or the party. Period. The irony of this apparent intolerance for diversity of thought by the party claiming to champion the rights of groups underserved by the status quo was not lost on me.
For the first time in my progressive life, standing up for the values that I most strongly espouse—truth, morality, self-reliance, boundaries, tolerance, and a healthy dose of Jewish skepticism—was damaging my reputation and character. When I publicly opposed my dad’s support of the Iran deal, I was admonished. I had few friends with whom I could have a civil political conversation: one stopped all communication with me for two weeks because Trump won the presidency.
If Republicans are bad, Trump is nothing less than Satan embodied. Post-election family gatherings devolved into group Trump-bashing, which intensified as more rumors of my dubious views wafted across town. I did not even bother going to gay pride because it was fused with a Resist march. If you do not want to impeach our president, you have no place in gay life.
I was labeled a white supremacist by a friend I’ve known my entire life, and completely dropped with no explanation by another dear friend and self-anointed giant of the gay civil rights movement to whom my father had introduced me 15 years ago.
Your Platitudes Don’t Work Out In Real Life
Yes, I was in despair, but I was also outraged at not being understood for views that felt so plainly obvious to me logically and experientially. These were not pie-in-the-sky views I was advocating in order to provoke. The Affordable Care Act has made medical treatment of my bipolar disorder more expensive than ever. Under the nuclear agreement, Iran flagrantly continues to enrich uranium and fund terrorist activities.
As a small business owner, I am regularly assaulted with financially crushing, nonsensical red tape and bureaucracy, much implemented as lip service to environmental protection. With few exceptions, every one of my good friends feels more economically hopeless after the “recovery” than before, and abject homelessness on the streets of my beloved city has swelled to egregious levels.
In desperation, like a closeted teenager sneaking into a porn theater, I surreptitiously began to explore the forbidden territories of Fox News and other conservative outlets. Incredibly, I found myself agreeing more often than not.
Fine, I thought, but that is where I had to draw the line. A couple of conservative encounters does not a conservative make, right? Until more liberals began to recognize the disingenuousness and destructiveness of my party’s stances, I just resolved to stick it out. I did everything in my power to avoid that one last unspeakable, fatal option: turning Republican.
Harvey Weinstein Was the Last Straw
Then Harvey Weinstein provided me the impetus I lacked: the media outlets that had enabled and covered up his indiscretions for years were the same major public voices for the Democratic Party, the self-proclaimed party of worker’s and women’s rights. The game was up; two and two could no longer be five. I reached my threshold where no amount of hypothetical Republican bigotry or greed could approach the magnitude of hypocrisy, corruption, or criminality I saw rotting the Democrats to the core. I jumped ship.
I found out almost immediately that the Republican Party is not only not evil, but populated with nice, intelligent, humble people. Days after I added myself to the Log Cabin Republican mailing list, I saw an invite to attend a gathering with Chadwick Moore, an independent journalist and one of two lapsed gay Democrats I had heard of.
When Chadwick spoke, I was stunned: every sentence, every nuance and anecdote of his beautifully articulate, moving talk resonated almost identically with my own experience. From Chadwick and the dozens of other Log Cabin attendees that night, I learned I am not the only gay person to question Democrats or to be ostracized for doing so—by a longshot. The political climate has made it prohibitive for most of us to have a voice and find each other.
Seeing virtue (or perhaps just a lack of evil) in my compatriots finally allowed me to see it in myself. I am now certain that I can be a gay, Jewish Republican and still be a good person and a useful citizen.
I Can Help People Rather than Making Someone Else Do It
I can oppose spending on government programs with no accountability and still volunteer my time at the mental health center to serve underprivileged members of society. I can value work and responsibility but also want a safety net for the sick and unemployed. I can fight for a strong Israel and vastly diverge from the Obama doctrine (or the Trump doctrine). I can be actively engaged in the LGBT community and not be forever outraged at a baker.
It took 36 years for me to see through the Democratic mystique of what the Republican Party is. Having done so has enabled me to affirm a deep part of who I am, which runs deeper than religion or sexual orientation, because it is part of what forms me. Sadly, it was a part that I should not ever have had to question in the first place.
If the struggles of the LGBT and Jewish peoples have taught me one thing, it is that I count, I matter, no more or less than any other man—precisely not because of my sexual preferences, or the God I worship, but because I am a citizen of planet Earth. The knowledge there is a major political party that extends this creed to its members has restored a deep-seated hope inside of me for my country’s future.
My next hope is that one or two readers of this will not struggle as hard to realize the same.