I have an addiction.
And if the first step is admitting I am powerless and that my life has become unmanageable, then I will do so here in this public way.
I am addicted to interacting with gay Republicans.
This is not a joke. I am not making light of addiction. This has become an actual disruption in my life.
Over the past year, I have plunged headfirst into cyber-holes for days in a row, oblivious to life around me as I lose time online trying to prove a point with gay Republicans. Last week here in Cleveland, I encountered them in real life and attempted (and largely failed) to make a point. Sometimes I have read articles written by gay Republicans and yelled my responses out loud in the hopes that they can hear me on some sort of political astral plain.
As Peter Thiel gave them (a modicum of) legitimacy last week and Milo Yiannopoulos continues being an offensive-but-very-visible-harpy, I know there will be even more gay Republicans declaring themselves openly. And thus my addiction to interacting with them will deepen.
But here’s the thing: I have never once had one of these interactions and felt fulfilled. I have never once thought, “Yeah, that went well.” I have never once typed the perfect 140 characters to highlight to a gay Republican why their claims of “I don’t lead with my sexual orientation” betrays a core piece of our individual and collective humanity. And yet my addiction persists.
Over the past year, I have stumbled, changed some tactics and marginally kept my cool in ways I wasn’t able to previously. If you are struggling with the same addiction, I hereby present to you some tips I have learned firsthand:
DO NOT try to change them. Gay Republicans are not morons. You can believe all you want that they are self-hating, self-interested, confused props for a party that betrays them with every vote they take. But gay Republicans have agency. Your efforts to change them (I’ve tried) will make you look like the condescending prick they need you to appear to be to deepen their entrenchment in right-wing ideology.
DO come prepared. Gay Republicans have their facts, stats and figures all lined up. They know their ostracized place and stand at the ready to prove their point as any show of weakness on their part would damage their already fragile standing. If you don’t know what a “well regulated militia” means, you are not prepared. If you don’t know the latest story of an ISIS beheading (and thus their chief reason for supporting Trump), you are not prepared. If you can’t sustain a conversation on why parents should not be able to choose a form of therapy that both doesn’t work and does harm, you are not ready. Say one thing about pariahs: they know what’s coming and are prepared. You need to be too.
DO NOT try to represent the entire LGBTQ community. I’ve done this and it has backfired every time. When you say things like, “The Republicans have disdain for the gay community,” you are giving gay Republicans the opening to say, “No! We are accepted. Don’t speak for us!” The left does not own the LGBTQ community; the left only fights for us, has our backs and amplifies our voices at every available opportunity.
DO speak from the “I." Tell your story. It is absolutely key that you represent your own experience and declare it proudly. Speak about your experience in the workplace, in schools, in society. The most compelling argument will always be, “This is what I experienced.”
DO highlight issues of race. We must, must, MUST keep injecting racial justice into these dialogues. Gay Republicans are aligning themselves with a party that featured 18 black delegates out of a grand total of 2472 at the RNC. To repeat: 18 black delegates. Less than 1 percent. Our LGBTQ fight for equality is intricately interwoven with that of our brothers and sisters of color and we must remind gay Republicans of the white backdrop in front of which they stand.
DO NOT give up. Countless times, friends and family have told me to stop interacting with gay Republicans, that there is nothing to be gained in my attempts. But I can’t. We cannot let these voices rewrite our history and derail progress that needs to be made on blood bans and adoption rights and trans rights and racial justice and employment/public accommodation protections. There is so much more to do and we cannot let this subset of voices try to represent our community and tell the country, “We have everything we need.” Because we don’t.
Look, I’m all for amplifying every voice that wants to be heard. But you need to not lose your mind listening or responding to gay Republican voices. We have to face this new reality. Gay Republicans are (minimally) here, they’re (adjacently) queer, and we have to (reluctantly) get used to it.