“Why would a person choose a life where they will be hated, judged, and rejected by society?” This was one of the first arguments I learned to defend myself against in arguments about my sexuality. In the late 1990s, it was perceived as a powerful call to the humanity of those who opposed gay rights under the notion that it was merely a lifestyle choice.
The idea was that if we could appeal to others’ sense of compassion for our social plight, perhaps they could understand the effects of their intolerance. I often fantasized about breaking through the walls of prejudice and somehow speaking to the heart of someone who did not yet realize I was just a person like them.
Today I find myself in that same frame of mind and under the same weight of frustration and skepticism, but it’s not because I’m gay. Today I look out across the turbulent sea of political discourse and ask, “Why would anyone choose to be a conservative?” To be a conservative means to openly invite others’ hatred into your life and to lose your humanity in the eyes of strangers who view you exclusively through stereotypes and prejudices.
To be a conservative means to be forced to choose when to speak and when to remain silent, since offending someone on the left, even mildly or by accident, is a social battle you may not be able to win. To be a conservative means carefully regulating your speech and constructing opinions in such a way as to avoid being banned from the public square. To be a conservative means to be a marginalized voice, suppressed and dehumanized; bullied into hesitating to speak out.
Stop Flaunting Your Conservatism
When I was out in high school and complained about bullying, taunting, and rejection from my peers, I was repeatedly told that I should stop “flaunting” my sexuality in front of people. My grandmother would often ask why I felt the need to shout from the rooftops that I was gay. My dad often asked me to tone down my gayness to avoid embarrassment and confrontation.
I did not find my personal expression that outrageous or provocative, but I became far more self-conscious of what I said and how. The complaint was that, by being openly gay, I was provoking people who were happier not being confronted with something uncomfortable to them. Today I hear the same things when I see conservatives express concern over censorship and the left dismisses us as hateful bigots upset that our intolerant worldview is disappearing from society.
Even to bring up the subject is to invite taunting and disdain from the very people we attempt, in vain, to reach out to. While I always hoped that I could break through to a person who saw me as a sinner, I find today that it is impossible to even hold a conversation with someone who sees me as a bigot. Our concerns are mocked and our moments of frustration are viewed as weakness. We find no compassion from our adversaries. In fact, we see them champion silencing us permanently.
In a Vox article written by journalist Zack Beauchamp, titled “Milo Yiannopoulos’s Collapse Shows That No-Platforming Can Work,” the author details the impact of targeted suppression. Beauchamp states:
What this episode shows is that under the right circumstances, the controversial no-platforming tactics — which range from activists noisily disrupting speeches to big tech corporations banning provocateurs from their platforms — really can work. There’s no evidence that Yiannopoulos’s no-platforming led to his ideas and personality gaining a kind of underground popularity, as some free speech advocates believe happens when speech is repressed. Instead, they simply went six feet under.
Yet Beauchamp is careful to caution the left not to celebrate this accomplishment too enthusiastically: “But before Milo’s critics celebrate too much, they should be aware of the flip side to all this: The same tactics that can be used to repress awful speech can be used against speech that’s just unpopular or threatening to people in power. Today, no-platforming may shut down speech you don’t like. Tomorrow, it might threaten speech you do.”
Lumping Milo in With Typical Conservatives
Despite the wide range in differences in style, subject matter, and presentation between Milo and many of us on the right, the left does not see much distinction. I think many conservatives wonder what would happen if their words, which are often mere expressions of unpopular truth, were to invoke the wrath of the left too close to home. Far beyond simple banishment from social media, we realize our lives, careers, families, and safety could be directly threatened.
If the left believes surrounding the homes of political figures and threatening their families is justified protest, what would happen to a person with far less of a powerful voice to fight back? Everything I was told to fear about being openly gay has become a reality in being openly conservative. The fear of being fired, harassed, called dehumanizing names, bullied, and denied access to public life (even violence) are all realities I face today as a conservative.
Their tactics are effective in that we are willing to censor ourselves to fly under the radar just enough in the hopes we will one day have freedom to speak more loudly. We hope to appeal to their humanity enough to one day break through the absurdity of viewing all dissent as dangerous hatred.
But just as I did not choose to be gay, I did not choose to be conservative. My political evolution happened over time as I came to realize that I valued truth and reason over narrative and emotion. I became an outspoken voice on the right because I felt I had no other choice than to speak up and shout the truth, despite overwhelming pressure from the media.
The left has become empowered to actively stamp out our voices. Not just that, but they feel fully justified in doing so. But just as I realized at 16 with my sexuality, I embrace today with my political worldview: I can no more deny what I know to be objective truth than I could deny my feelings about my own sexuality then.
Today I feel the same nervousness and obligation not to hide when I speak about gender or science to the left as I did deciding to go to the prom with a man. When I hesitate to speak honestly about a topic that could get me banned from Twitter, I think back to how it felt to risk public humiliation and judgment as a teenager speaking the truth about who I was inside. Intolerance has no political affiliation.
Social Media Protection For Me But Not For Thee
An article titled “Twitter Is Now Clamping Down On Anti-Trans Abuse” quotes Twitter’s new terms of service, saying:
Research has shown that some groups of people are disproportionately targeted with abuse online. This includes; women, people of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual individuals, marginalized and historically underrepresented communities. For those who identify with multiple underrepresented groups, abuse may be more common, more severe in nature and have a higher impact on those targeted.
Under Twitter’s safety section they state: “Free expression is a human right. Everyone has a voice, and the right to use it. On Twitter, you should feel safe expressing your unique point of view with every Tweet––and it’s our job to make that happen.”
The truth is, I have never faced abuse on Twitter for being gay, but I certainly have for being conservative. I am confident my expression as a gay man would be free and celebrated there and elsewhere, but my unique point of view as a conservative is viewed with suspicion and hostility.
By the very nature of the left’s views on what constitutes “hate,” I am incapable of freely expressing myself on any public forum without very careful editing and presentation. I never truly experienced hate until I came out as a conservative. In their obsession with eradicating language and points of view that feel oppressive to some marginalized groups, the left has pushed others to the margins and suppressed their voices.
I am one of those voices. Just as I dreamed as a teenager of a time when I could live freely as a gay person without fear or harassment, today I hope for a future where my voice and others like me can speak freely without fear of retribution or silencing. Until then, we must never give up, and we must keep fighting. They can’t ban all of us.