ONTD Political

Republican and Lesbian, and Fighting for Acceptance of Both Identities

3:09 pm - 11/26/2012
In 1996, Kathryn Lehman was a soon-to-be married lawyer working for Republicans in the House of Representatives. One of her major accomplishments: helping to write the law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

Sarah Longwell at a Log Cabin Republicans dinner in September. She worries about the party’s ability to attract young people.

Today, Ms. Lehman, 53, no longer has a husband, and no longer identifies as straight. And she is a lobbyist for Freedom to Marry, which is devoted to overturning the very law she helped write, the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Ms. Lehman is still a fervent Republican.

“I’m trying to break the stereotype that all gays and lesbians, especially lesbians, are Democrats,” she said.

Although the Republican Party has long drawn gay men who believe in the party’s message of small government and a strong military, Republican lesbians are a rare political breed.

“Oh, we’re like unicorns,” said Erin Simpson, 51, who cites “personal liberty” as a fundamental value and teaches firearms safety in Tucson. Ms. Simpson, who came out in February, was “very disheartened” by Mitt Romney’s loss — one fueled, in part, by overwhelming gay support for President Obama.

There is no way to measure the true numbers, but gay activists say that in many cases, these “unicorns” were Republicans before they were gay — driven by conservative upbringings, economic issues and libertarian principles. They often did not acknowledge their sexual orientation, even to themselves, until middle age.

In interviews, these Republicans said they often feel like the odd women out, in their party and among other lesbians. But they are beginning to make their presence known, said Casey Pick, a program director and the first woman on the staff of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-rights group.

“There is a presence of mature, established Republican women who are being more vocal of late,” Ms. Pick said.

These women fear that they are losing the younger generations, who are coming out earlier and are even more likely to identify with the Democratic Party now that Mr. Obama has embraced gay marriage.

The election results, including victories for advocates of same-sex marriage on ballot measures in four states, offer ammunition for Ms. Lehman when she talks to Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Lehman said last week that some conservatives had already begun saying to her: “You know, it’s not really worth pursuing a federal marriage amendment. This really should be left to the states.”

“That is the more consistent conservative position,” she added.

Ms. Lehman said she felt no guilt over her role in the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Her motivation, she said, is her gratitude for those who fought for gay rights decades before she knew the cause was her own.

If it were not for them, “I would not be living the wonderful life that I am right now with Julie,” Ms. Lehman said, referring to her partner, Julie Conway, a Republican fund-raiser, with whom she lives in Alexandria, Va.

“I am uniquely suited to do this, so I really need to do it,” she said.

The phenomenon of coming out later in life is not unique to conservatives, but it is more common among women, said Lisa M. Diamond, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah who studies identity and sexual orientation.

“Women are generally socialized to not spend a lot of time thinking about their sexual desires,” Professor Diamond said.

Republican lesbians rejected suggestions that they might have come out earlier if they held more liberal views. In Professor Diamond’s research, the delay usually has more to do with family and religion than ideology.

Cathy Smith’s upbringing was “not rigidly Catholic,” but when she came out in 2010, she said, her mother told her that “she loved me, but she didn’t want me to lose my soul.”

Ms. Smith, a 53-year-old teacher in North Carolina, said that despite signs that she was attracted to women, she was “clueless” in her youth.

“I always wanted to find a husband because my mother felt that women should be married,” Ms. Smith said.

At 18, she registered as a Republican, and though she briefly reconsidered her party affiliation when she came out, Ms. Smith voted for Mr. Romney, albeit reluctantly. Echoing the more than a dozen women interviewed, Ms. Smith said liberal lesbians react more negatively to her political views than conservatives do to her sexual orientation.

“Mention that you’re Christian or mention that you’re Republican and suddenly you just get vilified,” she said. “That may be one of the reasons for the lack of visibility of gay women in the Republican Party.”

Still, she said, “What good are gay rights if your country is falling apart?”

Like many Republican women who have followed her path, Ms. Smith is “still divided in the mind about whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry,” she said, though she supports civil unions.

Younger conservatives increasingly back same-sex marriage. A poll in May by The Washington Post and ABC News found that half of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 44 think it should be legal, compared with a quarter of those over 45.

This shift in attitude — not to mention the election results — led Sarah Longwell, 32, to fear that the Republican stance on gay issues could mean few younger reinforcements, even as older Republican lesbians raise their profiles.

“Now, it is increasingly hard for the Republican Party to attract younger people,” said Ms. Longwell, the only female board member of the Log Cabin Republicans.

“One of the things that’s interesting about these older people in general is that when they were coming up in the world, the Democrats were not any better,” Ms. Longwell said. Because Democrats now support gay marriage, “it posed a much harder question suddenly for gay Republicans.”

Lauren Yarbrough, 22, has, she said, “been lesbian my whole life, also been in church my whole life.”

Ms. Yarbrough has been with the same woman since she was 15, but she prefers civil unions over gay marriage. She opposes abortion rights in most cases, and thinks the government should spend more on the military and less on food stamps and Medicaid. On those issues, she fits into her conservative town, LaGrange, Ga. But she keeps quiet about her sexuality, especially after being fired from a job after her boss found out.

“That’s why I want to get out of this town,” Ms. Yarbrough said. She dreams of moving to California, which she thinks would be more accepting of her sexuality, but not of her politics.

“I can’t win for losing anywhere,” she said with a sigh.

__________________

source has a real hard time feeling any sympathy for gay Republicans
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thinkatory 26th-Nov-2012 10:29 pm (UTC)
I want to care. I really do. I'M TRYING.

But NOPE
sesmo 26th-Nov-2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, people who are well enough off that the economic harm doesn't hurt them, and who believe that "personal liberty" doesn't include the liberty to marry the person you love.

These people are gross. Especially the Republican fundraiser one. Unless she fundraises for the 1-in-100 Republican who is not actively homophobic, she is just ... twitch.
lickety_split 26th-Nov-2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
“I’m trying to break the stereotype that all gays and lesbians, especially lesbians, are Democrats,”

What a noble cause.
romp 27th-Nov-2012 07:22 am (UTC)
*snort*
koshkabegemot 26th-Nov-2012 10:51 pm (UTC)
I guess what they're trying to do in light of Mitt Romney losing is saying, "LOOK, EVERYONE! THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS TOTES INCLUSIVE OF LGBT PEOPLE! JUST LIKE THE DEMOCRATS!"

Except no, not really.

People are free to vote how they want, but . . . I just really don't understand how you can be a woman and vote Republican let alone be a lesbian and vote Republican since the Republican party has made it pretty clear that they're incredibly misogynistic and homophobic.

Edit: Missed this:

“Mention that you’re Christian or mention that you’re Republican and suddenly you just get vilified,”

Funny, isn't that how the Republicans react when you tell them that you're gay?

Like many Republican women who have followed her path, Ms. Smith is “still divided in the mind about whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry,” she said, though she supports civil unions.

What the fuck is there to be divided about? Seriously?

(I am making Joe Biden's thisfuckingguy.gif look right now IRL)

Edited at 2012-11-26 10:54 pm (UTC)
bmh4d0k3n 26th-Nov-2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
And, of course, Christians and Republicans have a LOT more to answer for than gay people.
bmh4d0k3n 26th-Nov-2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
After the shit the Republican party has pulled these last few years, people should be ashamed to call themselves Republican. However, I think it's good for the members of the Republican party to realize just how many (misguided) gay members are among their ranks. The party is so monolithic on so many issues right now, especially in opposition to the Democratic President and Senate majority, it could help break down some of the barriers. Idk.

Edited at 2012-11-26 10:55 pm (UTC)
ms_maree 26th-Nov-2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
I've always wondered if there is merit in trying to change the system from within. I guess there is no way to say for sure if it works.

Edited at 2012-11-26 11:00 pm (UTC)
redstar826 26th-Nov-2012 11:18 pm (UTC)
well, I think a lot of the shift from the Democrats has come from work by queer people within the party. But with the Republicans, I don't know. It's much more hostile territory there...
crossfire 26th-Nov-2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
Ms. Smith said liberal lesbians react more negatively to her political views than conservatives do to her sexual orientation.

“Mention that you’re Christian or mention that you’re Republican and suddenly you just get vilified,” she said. “That may be one of the reasons for the lack of visibility of gay women in the Republican Party.”


Huh. I'd think that a bigger contributor to the lack of visibility of gay women in the Republican Party would be because of how the party actively works to oppress LGBTQ people, but maybe I've been wrong all these years and it's really because liberals are ~mean.

Still, she said, “What good are gay rights if your country is falling apart?”

oh ffs.

Ms. Yarbrough has been with the same woman since she was 15, but she prefers civil unions over gay marriage. She opposes abortion rights in most cases, and thinks the government should spend more on the military and less on food stamps and Medicaid. On those issues, she fits into her conservative town, LaGrange, Ga. But she keeps quiet about her sexuality, especially after being fired from a job after her boss found out.

And yet these are the people she wants to continue to support? People who will fire her for her sexual orientation?

“That’s why I want to get out of this town,” Ms. Yarbrough said. She dreams of moving to California, which she thinks would be more accepting of her sexuality, but not of her politics.

Oh right, it's not the fault of her boss who's a homophobic bigot, it's the fault of mean liberals in California, where she can't win for loosing.

You know, this whole article is bass-ackwards. The problem here isn't how conservatives aren't well-accepted within LGBTQ circles, the problem is how LGBTQ people aren't accepted by the Republican Party. This entire article does nothing but serve that derailment.
executivehpfan 26th-Nov-2012 11:07 pm (UTC)
The entire last bit you wrote. FUCKING THIS.

We're putting the cart before the horse with this article. Backwards as fuck.
executivehpfan 26th-Nov-2012 11:05 pm (UTC)
Ms. Lehman said she felt no guilt over her role in the law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriage.

...no.

Still, she said, “What good are gay rights if your country is falling apart?”

NO.

Like many Republican women who have followed her path, Ms. Smith is “still divided in the mind about whether or not gay people should be allowed to marry,”

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.


I'm really...I mean, I'm trying to understand but I just can't. As a bi/pansexual woman of color...no. JUST NO.


Edited at 2012-11-26 11:05 pm (UTC)
redstar826 26th-Nov-2012 11:15 pm (UTC)
sadly, I think their uncertainty about marriage rights has to do with a big heap of self hatred
endlos_schleife 26th-Nov-2012 11:25 pm (UTC)
'“I can’t win for losing anywhere," she said with a sigh. '

Well maybe you shouldn't be winning anywhere, considering that you seem to think that the "war on [insert who/whatever the US is currently fighting" is more important than supplying your co-citizens with basic needs.

Also I highly doubt that she will continue to prefer civil unions over marriages, when it comes to tax breaks, children and the like.
vanishingbee 26th-Nov-2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
In a way, I can understand this-- in my opinion, the most effect way to change things on a large scale involves changing the values of the mainstream conservative movement, because that's where people linger in their beliefs the longest. When they change, the fabric of society itself changes, because it's a sign that everyone, finally, accept the things the left is first to push for.

So good luck to her. I don't think it's going to work, but I'd love if it did.
ms_maree 26th-Nov-2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
I think I agree with this to a degree. The conservative mainstream anchors the overall culture of society, most especially legislation which is always years behind the left and by nature conservative. If the right moves left, that's how things progress. If the right refuses to move with the times and stand their ground, than it's really difficult for overall culture to progress.
romp 27th-Nov-2012 07:39 am (UTC)
+1
tiddlywinks103 27th-Nov-2012 12:30 am (UTC)
I’m trying to break the stereotype that all gays and lesbians, especially lesbians, are Democrats

It's more a...reasoning, ma'am. Be a contrarian all you want, it doesn't make you 'better' than all those other lesbians, which is the Special Snowflake status I always get from Republican minorities.

"I AM NOT MY RACE/GENDER/SEXUALITY!!!11211! Except when I'm telling you how I'm a special superior kind of Republican due to my race/gender/sexuality. But don't hold me up as a rep of my minority statussssssssssss! Until I put myself there on my own, ignorant terms. "

Edited at 2012-11-27 12:32 am (UTC)
kynical 27th-Nov-2012 12:43 am (UTC)
Self-hatred and self-loathing are a nasty combination. However much, I understand her views in regards to sexuality...I can never understand the point-of-view that wants to increase the defense budget and let people go hungry or starve to death. Classicism--gotta love it.
tsaraven 27th-Nov-2012 01:14 am (UTC)
“Oh, we’re like unicorns,” said Erin Simpson, 51, who cites “personal liberty” as a fundamental value and teaches firearms safety in Tucson.

Because the Democratic party is against personal freedoms and gun rights. Oh wait.
natyanayaki 27th-Nov-2012 01:23 am (UTC)
OK, I understand being conservative -especially fiscally conservative- and being gay, but I don't understand being gay and Republican. It's one thing to be fiscally conservative ideologically, and quite another to be Republican, to be supportive of a party that actively demeans someone, that essentially actively denies that someone is human (and that's true regarding women and nearly all minorities I can think of).

I have the same reaction to this as I do to Meghan McCain, because quite frankly it's not about being either a Republican or Democrat, because there are other choices. Why not refrain from backing any political party? Why not back a political party that has a platform with which you agree with, that also does NOT dehumanize you? I just don't understand the reasoning "I don't agree with the Democrats, so by default I'm Republican even though they don't think of me as an equal member of society."
angelus7988 27th-Nov-2012 01:52 am (UTC)
The bit about losing the young vote due to gay rights just reinforces my desire that the Republican party stick to social conservatism, because there are a lot of people who are more than happy to let the poor starve in the streets as long as they can have their abortions/gay marriage/enlightened immigration policies. Most people only object to conservatives when they're the ones being marginalized.
pinksta_r 27th-Nov-2012 01:56 am (UTC)
She doesn't sound like a person who has fully accepted who she is. How can you say you are a lesbian but not be sure if you should have equal rights under the law?

As the comment above me stated, you do not have to back any particular party. I understand why we have parties in this country but too many people take one issue they agree with and throw all their support behind one or the other. If parties would stick keep their religious crap out of the law things would be a lot easier.
pinksta_r 27th-Nov-2012 01:57 am (UTC)
One more thing. I do feel bad for her because she is clearly still seeing herself as something "wrong".
danger0usbeans 27th-Nov-2012 02:28 am (UTC)
Once again, a queer Republican explains their politics by showing just how blind they are to the state of their own party and how completely misinformed they are about the opposition. Most lesbians are Democrats because the Republican party has absolutely nothing to offer us. The Democrats are far from perfect, but at least the party views us as full citizens and human beings.
othellia 27th-Nov-2012 02:33 am (UTC)
“Mention that you’re Christian or mention that you’re Republican and suddenly you just get vilified,” she said. “That may be one of the reasons for the lack of visibility of gay women in the Republican Party.”

[...]

Cathy Smith’s upbringing was “not rigidly Catholic,” but when she came out in 2010, she said, her mother told her that “she loved me, but she didn’t want me to lose my soul.”

Jesus Christ! Did this person even look at the words they were typing? "Vilified" by strangers for supporting the limitation of your own civil rights vs being treated as "soulless" by your own mother.

GEE. I WONDER WHAT THE TRUE PROBLEM IS HERE.
chibi_lurrel 27th-Nov-2012 02:40 am (UTC)
Still, she said, “What good are gay rights if your country is falling apart?”

idk but they probably would have helped your fellow lesbian Republican keep her job -- I don't think it was her ~ controversial political orientation~ that got her fired.

lil_insanity 27th-Nov-2012 05:13 am (UTC)
Preach it!
angelofdeath275 27th-Nov-2012 03:49 am (UTC)
Ms. Smith said liberal lesbians react more negatively to her political views than conservatives do to her sexual orientation.

damn lie

what they're really doing is not making their homophobia blatant. so fucking tired of marginalized groups in general claiming to me more accepted by the privileged than their kin. All your saying is that you prefer covert -isms, or that you can't notice covert -isms.

gay repubs should stop killing themselves softly and giving passes to the Grand Old Pricks
wikilobbying 27th-Nov-2012 04:58 am (UTC)
oh log cabin republicans. i can muster up enough sympathy for all that internalized bullshit they're harboring because it seriously sucks, but as soon as they start saying shit about, well, everything than frankly it zaps all the fucks right out of me.

i mean, we should be spending more on the military and less on food stamps & medicaid? have they looked at the military's budget? oh right, silly me, everyone but those ~hard working~ republicans are just lazy, expendable piles of meat with eyes.
rkt "PERSONAL LIBERTY"27th-Nov-2012 05:25 am (UTC)
Oh, we’re like unicorns,” said Erin Simpson, 51, who cites “personal liberty” as a fundamental value

word meaning
ladypolitik 27th-Nov-2012 05:37 am (UTC)
Still, she said, “What good are gay rights if your country is falling apart?"

D'fuck does that even mean/imply?
crossfire 27th-Nov-2012 06:33 am (UTC)
I've been trying to unpack that statement all night and all I've got is:

1. Gay rights aren't important like real important things.
2. Gay rights are kinda secretly partially responsible for the country falling apart.

Given the overall "it's all the fault of liberals because they're so mean" tone of the article I think it also has something to do with progress = the country falling apart.

The other thing about it that's got my hackles up is that often when a conservative white person starts talking about the country falling apart it's racially coded, especially if they have Obama in mind. I don't know that's the case here, but it is the same language and it really puts me on edge.

So yeah, that one statement has a lot of fucked up packed into it.
zaure 27th-Nov-2012 05:44 am (UTC)
So, I'm prepared for this comment to end up really unpopular but:

I'm not a Republican, but I can see their point. There does seem to be an assumption that if you're queer, then gay rights (by which everybody means same-sex marriage, let's be real) is pretty much the only metric you can use in determining your vote. I vote Democrat, but I don't care about their stance on gay marriage, or at least it's really far down on my list of concerns. Like, I see a lot of vitrol towards people who voted for Romney and cited economic reasons. Personally, I think the Republicans' financial policies are stupid, ill thought out, and unlikely to lead to economic growth, which is why I didn't vote for them, but for me the economy is more important than gay marriage.

Why? Because I'm single. And not single in the sense of 'I haven't met the right woman yet', but happily so and intending to stay that way. This means I have next to no safety net: I'm single income, there's few social programs for unemployed single adults, and I'm visually impaired. A weak economy could easily result in me ending up as a young, disabled, gay homeless woman. I also have relatives who would be in similar circumstances very easily. Therefore, I consider a strong economy more important than my ability to marry my (non-existent and hypothetical) girlfriend.

Likewise, I'd consider voting for a candidate that was in favor of stopping drone strikes but wasn't for same-sex marriage, because I think not murdering people is more important than people getting married.

I can see where some gay people might be against the idea that same-sex marriage has to be your primary or only voting concern. I hate that I'm expected to only care about my relationship with my hypothetical future girlfriend/wife and nothing else, just because I'm gay. If somebody says they're voting for somebody who supports same-sex marriage because they want to marry their girlfriend, that's fine, but if I bring up that a better economy would help me personally more? That's not okay.
spyral_path 27th-Nov-2012 06:10 am (UTC)
I could.see your point if Republican policies actually did anything for the economy.
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