For years I supported your party and platform. I voted in every election possible and sought out the most conservative candidates who upheld my God-fearing beliefs. But there was a problem. I was gay.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't want to be. I didn't act on it. In fact, like your party platform advocates, I went to conversion therapy. I stayed there for seven years, even serving as a leader. I traveled all over the country talking about how God changed me, and how God could change other people, too. I got married and we had two kids. I was living the Republican Party dream. Or so it seemed, to everyone but me.
My wife and I were miserable. So we prayed, went to church, sought counseling and continued to uphold the party line of God and country. But no matter what we said we believed, and how much we wanted it to be true, it simply wasn't working. She wanted more of a physical, spiritual and emotional connection than I could give her. I, too, wanted, needed, to know I was lovable as I was. We tried really hard to make it work, but in the end, after praying and seeking counsel from our pastor, she made the decision to leave. As much as she loved me, she deserved better. She knew it, and I knew it.
Even after losing my family, ministry career, financial stability and everything I believed in, it was six more years before I could come to terms with being gay. I was a Christian. A conservative. I was a Republican! I couldn't wrap my brain around how it was possible to be gay when, for nearly 25 years, I did everything conceivable to make it go away. I teetered between sanity and insanity, trying desperately to hold on to my faith and ideals that simply weren't working. Accepting my reality wasn't simply a choice, it was a matter of life or death. I chose life. Because I've always been pro-life.
When I began to question one thing, I began to question another. Homosexuality wasn't the death trap I'd been taught. In fact, by accepting reality, I met others. There are many, many others just like me. We were conservative, evangelical, God-fearing believers. But when we came out, we had no choice but to leave the Republican Party. There wasn't a place for us. We may look like you, but you've made it clear we don't belong to you. The Republican Party left us long before we left the Republican Party.
You have overly simplified sexual orientation and gender identity. You've made huge assumptions about "those people," when "those people" are you, too. We are your pastors, worship leaders, deacons, husbands and wives. We are your children. Many of us voted to keep gay people from getting married, to remove protections, and to push LGBT people back in the closet. We thought by doing so, it would snuff the fire out within ourselves. It didn't. It drives behaviors underground. It causes men to cheat on their wives and women to live dishonestly. It causes divorce, broken families and goes against all of the "family values" the Republican Party says it stands for.
You probably don't know this, but 20-40 percent of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Nearly 90 percent of them said they were either kicked out of their, often, "Christian" homes because they were abused for being LGBT, or simply because they are LGBT. This is a direct result of the misinformation and lies your big donors are telling your constituents about us. We didn't choose this. In fact, I can say with certainty, many of us would have given anything to get our families back and go back to the cocoon of safety.
The threat on American values has nothing to do with gay marriage, or which bathroom a transgender person uses. The threat comes from people who value dishonesty over integrity, ideologies over authenticity, and power over people. Your organization has become top heavy with all three.
More dangerously, you are allowing religious fundamentalists to impose their narrow and unsubstantiated view of God on your party. You callously exclude those who don't look like you, or measure up to your ideals. Then you pass "religious freedom" laws to kick them when they are down. Please tell me again how you believe in any way this is the party of family and Christian values. I'm not seeing it.
The time I spent in the Republican Party were good years. I felt safe. I felt like I belonged. I felt like we were on a mission to save the world and I believed God was on our side. But it was a false sense of security. When I got honest with myself, I saw how exclusive the Party really is. You've forgotten that the platform you've built is not on issues, but on the backs of real human beings. You crush those who believe differently; who experience God differently, and who choose to live authentically.
You can shake your heads in disdain and point your judgmental fingers in distaste when you see us on TV, in pride parades, or Democratic rallies. But remember, the ones you won't see are the ones sitting next to you at church, speaking at your podiums and on your couches. But they're there. They've always been there. We are you, too.
If you are gay or lesbian and in an opposite sex marriage, or struggling with your sexuality and faith, contact me at TimRymel.com to learn about a private and confidential support group. For more resources, go to TimRymel.com/Resources.
Photo: Flickr/ashley rose