“I checked my watch. Yep, it was 2020. We were supposed to have flying cars by now. Instead, gay Republicans can’t even get a booth at their own convention.”
– Marco Roberts, secretary of the Texas Log Cabin Republicans, lamenting how the Texas Republican Party has – once again – refused to grant the Texas LCR (an openly GLBT group) a booth at this year’s state convention.
Damnit! They paid for their tickets, but they still can’t get in through those steel doors! They wear the red, white and blue; display their guns; mock affirmative action; and say they hate immigrants. But, the ballroom guards just won’t let them get beyond the entrance threshold. What’s a queer Republican have to do to get noticed in the state of Texas?
Apparently, nothing. Once again, the Texas GOP has locked out their smidgen of homosexual brethren; refusing to acknowledge they even exist, much less grant them any speaking privileges. As the Texas Republican Party continues along its rightward path, that’s not surprising. Recently they rejected – yet again – the Log Cabin Republicans’ request for a booth at the state convention, denouncing the group as “perverted”. LCR is a political organization that advocates equality for the queer community; essentially a political home for conservative gays and lesbians. They admire Ronald Reagan and oppose the usual “liberal agenda”: big government, taxes, affirmative action, abortion, Mexicans, Muslims and Bill Clinton. One aspect of the liberal agenda they can’t bring themselves to oppose is…well, themselves! Homos, queers, fags, dikes…you know – perverted folks. It’s the oddest of all symbiotic relationships. From the national level on down, the Republican Party has not hidden its animosity towards the queer community. They despise homosexuals more than agnostics and uppity (meaning educated) Latinos and Negroes.
Conservative queers often mirror the general conservative population: mostly White and male. I’ve known a few conservative queers – emphasis on “few”. Literally just one woman and a handful of men. Queer conservatives are a little like snow leopards – rare and practically endangered. The major difference of course is that snow leopards are stunningly beautiful and more deserving of their niche in the world.
Two queer conservatives I knew had been good friends of mine nearly 20 years ago. One was Jewish and a native Texan; the other was Native American from Arkansas and an Army veteran with cheek bones high enough to set Jell-O shots. Together they owned a chain of men’s clothing stores throughout Texas and were, therefore, staunchly pro-business. They eagerly supported Republican Party ideology of low business taxes and few regulations. They didn’t care very much about the environment and – more astonishingly – they didn’t worry how fellow conservatives viewed them. The Jewish guy literally told me that one day! “I don’t really care how they look at me,” he stated nonchalantly. He and his partner were more concerned about the overall welfare of the nation; they stood alongside the party’s general message without hesitation or regret. Their business acumen was so intense that the Jewish guy once dismissed my unemployment status around 2002 in that “you only represent about 6% of the population.” In an interview with the “Dallas Voice” several years later, the Jewish guy openly declared his opposition to diversity in the workplace; admitting he believed businesses should have the right NOT to hire people of a certain race, ethnicity or religion simply because they didn’t like the people within that group. I noticed he didn’t include sexuality in that group of undesirables. I remember thinking, ‘How could someone hate themselves THAT much?’
Indeed, how could anyone with at least half a brain and some semblance of a conscious willingly accept the bigoted philosophy of others among them? Of course, some Republicans didn’t mind if queers loiter among them; as long as they kept quiet and vocalize their support for the party’s agenda. After all, there were some Native Americans in the ranks of the U.S. Army and Jews among the Nazi guard. My two aforementioned friends noted change often comes from within. But, I realized after listening to them, so does support.
Among the many items on the Texas GOP agenda, one in particular has gained national notoriety: support of “reparative therapy” for gays and lesbians. Reparative or conversion therapy is a concerted psychological attempt to change someone’s sexuality from homosexual to heterosexual. (There’s no such thing as reverse therapy, unless you count visiting a gay bar.) Doctors, clerics and various others have tried to “cure” queer people of their “affliction” for centuries, usually through religious means. But, in its present form, conversion therapy has existed since the 1960s. Early attempts often used electroshock therapy; the same kind previously used on the mentally ill. And, of course, queer folks have always been considered mentally ill by many in both the general population and the medical community. Some in both camps still hold that assessment. But, contemporary reparative therapy is generally more psychological in its approach, with a good dose of theological rigor thrown into the cocktail.
Response to the inclusion of conversion therapy has been met with the usual vitriol from gay rights groups and medical professionals. No concrete proof exists that such methods actually succeed, even though there are plenty of people willing to testify otherwise. If anything, the process can be deadly. People who undergo such treatments usually don’t notice a change in their same-gender attractions and – feeling like utter failures – sometimes hurt themselves, often fatally. I don’t think it bothers the likes of Texas Governor Greg Abbott or Senator Ted Cruz that a depressed queer kills themselves. To them, that’s one less degenerate off the streets.
That the Texas GOP should include this mess in their agenda shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with the party, or with the antagonism queer folks feel when confronted by them. But, what of gay Republicans? How exactly do they regard this mess? Well, for starters, Log Cain Republicans has officially denounced the reparative therapy. In that regard, they’re in line with the general queer community.
LCR’s battle with their Republican brethren in Texas is not new. They’ve tried unsuccessfully to become part of the mainstream Republican dialogue. In 1996, when Bob Dole ran for president on the Republican ticket, the national GOP created ruckus within its own ranks when it initially refused to accept a $1,000 donation from LCR. Then, it changed course and asked LCR to resubmit the money, which LCR did. But, responding to internal pressure, the GOP returned the donation. After the very public squabble, LCR officially declared itself neutral in that year’s presidential campaign. They damn well couldn’t support incumbent Bill Clinton. That would – as one LCR official declared – “undermine our credibility.” But, it still couldn’t bring itself to support Dole. It was left holding that $1,000 check and its support, like a teenage boy left holding a pair of tickets and box of Trojans outside the prom venue. And, it’s been that way ever since.
Change may come from within a particular group, but at what point do you finally get it that some folks within that group just won’t change? Steven Hotze, the leader of an anti-LGBTQ religious organization and Republican kingmaker, sent emails to board members decrying the “immoral and perverted sexual proclivities” of gay people.
State Sen. Rob Hall (R) accused the group’s members of promoting “unnatural sex.” Speaking of Log Cabin Republicans, he added, “They don’t have the basic belief in the God of the Bible that we are founded on. I could not find anywhere on their website an expression of their faith in God like you will find on a Republican website.”
Not to be defeated or deterred, a representative from LCR tried to remake the vitriolic rhetoric by saying the number of people who spoke in support of accepting the group’s money to buy booth space was encouraging. Relatively speaking, it was a huge win.
Yes, a win for the party at a state and even a national level. But when will the queers in the trenches finally get it that they’re really not wanted? When will they understand that, no matter how much they try, they still won’t be allowed into the dance hall?