At the final night of the Republican National Convention, PayPal co-founder and renowned venture capitalist Peter Thiel made a historic appearance. He took the stage as the first openly gay man to profess his sexual orientation to the RNC. Thiel was proud – not only of his sexuality, but also his identity as a Republican. Many might call this a paradox, but Thiel’s appearance and identity are emblematic of the steps both the conservative and LGBT rights movements need to make to stay relevant. As a gay Republican, I can relate. I am tired of defending my identity on both sides.
Thiel’s frustrations ring true. While Silicon Valley has emerged as America’s most innovative and lucrative community, America’s inventive spirit has faded. History continues to repeat itself. Today, overregulation slows the wheels of disruptive business ideation while it hampers the ability for individuals to grow their own successful companies. While growing incomes continue throughout the nation, small business owners and inventors cannot grow their vision as Ford, Tesla, Blodgett, and many others did before.
Conservatives have watched the steady overreach of the federal government extinguish our entrepreneurial light. Instead of stopping this overtake, our attention and energy have been strategically misguided to picking battles over the personal lives of other people. Fights that Conservatives have lost and will continue to lose.
Throughout the previous three decades, conservative principles like individual autonomy and fiscal responsibility have taken a back seat to “defending the sanctity of marriage” and most recently, deciding which bathrooms are appropriate for individuals to use. These issues are distractions and they directly contradict the foundation of conservatism – limited government and self-determination. Moreover, they have resulted in the left dictating the agenda on these issues and many others.
As a gay man, I find similar contradictions from the progressive LGBT movement. As a self-determined individual, I should be allowed to declare my own sexual, political, and religious identity without the fear of hatred, criticism, or hostility. Instead, some of my LGBT peers believe I have somehow betrayed them because my political views differ from many of theirs. Their judgment about my beliefs often eclipses their respect for my individual right to those beliefs. Such ignorance borders on hypocrisy.
As the country continues to make ground on civil rights as a community, we cannot lose sight of the differences that exist between us, as well as the benefit those differences in experience, identity, and beliefs can bring.
As my people, my party, and my country continue to comprehend the intricacies of our evolving identity, it is important that we take the time to listen. When we truly listen, we start to understand – a verb I think we all can agree would do America some good these days.