"I vote Republican because of economic issues but consider myself socially liberal."
"I am a Republican, but I support you and your family completely."
"I support gay rights but vote Republican because that is just one issue."
Living in southwest Missouri, these are a few statements that I have heard all too frequently. Normally, I respond with a "liberal" sentence or two and then move on because I recognize I live in the Bible Belt where Fox News reigns supreme. However, I was recently asked by my mother, a woman I love and adore and who supports my family completely (I am married to a man, and we have two amazing children), if I would vote for a presidential candidate that aligned with every one of my policy stances except LGBTQ equality issues. Needless to say, I was astounded by this question, simply because I thought the answer should have been obvious to her. I was wrong.
Just to be clear, I could never support a candidate that didn't value the rights of my family or my community. Could one justifiably ask a follower of Islam to vote for Donald Trump after he endorsed a Muslim registry and proposed banning Muslim entry into the United States? It would be equally ludicrous to expect someone to vote for a candidate who expressly stated his hopes to invalidate my marriage and legalize my discrimination.
What her question did do was cause me to reflect on the possible lack of perspective that prompted the question. The fact that many Republican allies still see LGBTQ equality as just one of the many policy opinions they possess is quite frightening because it is so much more than a policy issue. Are people being beaten in the streets because they believe we should be investing more in solar energy? Are teenagers committing suicide because of the bullying they experience due to their stance on universal healthcare? Are kids being thrown out of their homes because their parents discovered they secretly support the Iran nuclear deal?
I am in no way attacking allies. On the contrary, I always stressed with my former Gay-Straight Alliance and continue to stress with my LGBTQ students and friends how invaluable all of our allies are. The majority of my friends and family are allies (many Republican), and I can't imagine not having them in my life. They are incredible role models for my children. They have willingly chosen to support the LGBTQ community. However, with a presidential election swiftly approaching, my mother's words reminded me that sometimes everyone can benefit from a slight perspective shift.
As Atticus Finch, the great literary symbol for justice, explained to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." If allies on the Right could slip into the skin of their LGBTQ loved ones, they would see that LGBTQ equality isn't just one more policy issue to consider this November. They would see how imperative it is to feel valued, respected, and protected by our leaders and how damaging, internally and externally, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and laws can be.
It is very important to note that our allies will not understand any of this if we don't share with them how critical it is that they speak up. We must have these important soul-revealing conversations. We must share with them our fears. We must articulate our reality in such a way that they slip into our skin and see the world through our eyes. It was unfair of me to expect my mom to know that her question would upset me, but after speaking with her I think she understands where I am coming from in a much greater way.
I am not asking Republican allies to abandon their party of choice; I would never do that. However, it is time to be more vocal with your leaders. If you support LGBTQ equality, tell your party leaders. Let your candidates know that their hateful words and discriminatory policies will no longer be tolerated. Those against LGBTQ equality are loud. Be louder. Those against LGBTQ equality are committed to devaluing us and relegating us back into the closets and the shadows. Be more committed.
The LGBTQ community could not have made the strides we have made without our allies on the Left and the Right. I thank each and every one from the bottom of my heart. Regrettably, the fact of the matter is that we need all of our allies now more than ever. We must all decry harmful and discriminatory legislation. According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are currently well over 100 anti-LGBTQ laws proposed in over 30 states. We must also rally behind pro-equality legislation. In my own state of Missouri, LGBTQ activists and allies have been trying to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act since 1998. This legislation would protect against discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Martin Luther King, Jr. called on the allies of racial equality when he said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Let us not look back in a few years and wish we had all been louder with our leaders, regardless of our political party.