Must our pol­i­tics re­flect our sex­u­al­ity?

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The first per­son I ever in­ter­viewed was also the most right-wing. He was an anti-abor­tion, pro-free mar­ket ap­pari­tion in a navy suit. His hair – blond, side­parted and large – was true Repub­li­can (he was Amer­i­can). He was also gay.

At the time (my early 20s) I wasn’t sure how such a hu­man could ex­ist. I owed my en­tire hap­pi­ness, such as it was at the time, to lefty lib­er­al­ism. No one in my Guardian-read­ing bub­ble had ever ques­tioned my de­serv­ing­ness, as a les­bian, of rights. That was the realm of peo­ple lurk­ing on the pe­riph­ery of the bub­ble, hit­ting it with rolled-up Daily Mails and gnash­ing their teeth. That was the realm – I had ev­ery in­cli­na­tion to be­lieve – of this gay in­ter­vie­wee.

He was part of a now- dis­solved US LGBT con­ser­va­tive or­gan­i­sa­tion called Go­proud. I’d come all the way to their head­quar­ters in Washington DC, to find out what their deal was. To me, a queer con­ser­va­tive was like a Jewish Nazi. I wanted to know how th­ese pe­cu­liar peo­ple could be so loyal to the very right-wing ac­tivists who re­peat­edly ex­cluded them from the an­nual Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence (CPAC). Economics aside, wasn’t so­cial lib­er­al­ism writ­ten into our rain­bow-striped DNA? It had never re­ally oc­curred to me that there were queers out­side the bub­ble.

As I sat in a Mex­i­can restau­rant a short walk from the White House, munch­ing a salad and pre­tend­ing to be a Real Jour­nal­ist, my new and ac­tu­ally rather sweet and charm­ing gay Repub­li­can buddy told me that he was pro-same-sex mar­riage be­cause he was a con­ser­va­tive. Mar­riage, after all, is a con­ser­va­tive in­sti­tu­tion. If gays were, for some rea­son, ex­cluded from be­ing handed the death penalty, I imag­ined he’d be try­ing to fight for our right to the lethal in­jec­tion.

A few years later, in the UK at least, LGBT Tories are a lit­tle bit more main­stream. And les­bian Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive leader Ruth David­son is some­one I can gen­uinely see my­self en­joy­ing get­ting pissed with. But that isn’t to say I par­tic­u­larly un­der­stand, even now, how any­one who has ever ex­pe­ri­enced ho­mo­pho­bia could vote the same way as their op­pres­sors. Of course, big­otry of all kinds ex­ists on the left too but it isn’t the lit­eral guid­ing force of the ide­ol­ogy. Sure, it was the Tories who brought in same-sex mar­riage. But maybe my Amer­i­can friend had a point. Maybe they did do it out of pure con­ser­va­tive­ness.

I like to think I’d still be a lib­eral lefty if I wasn’t gay. But it would be wrong to say my sex­u­al­ity plays no part in how I read the news. Oc­ca­sion­ally, it feels like I’m only on the left in the first place be­cause I’m a les­bian with some de­gree of self-worth. Then again, to a lot of my queer- Marx­ist-veg­etable-riot-type friends, I’m ba­si­cally a low-grade Mus­solini who’s only ever been to a protest to pull. Un­suc­cess­fully. There comes a point at which you re­alise there’s prob­a­bly more to chang­ing the world than own­ing a pair of DMS.

Like any good gay, though, I have a hand­ful of ac­quain­tances I met at protests (I met a par­tic­u­larly lovely friend at an anti- Putin demon­stra­tion a few years ago), or at Pride. Not that Pride is es­pe­cially po­lit­i­cal th­ese days; but that’s a whole dif­fer­ent story. Hav­ing said that, when you’re LGBTQ, nearly ev­ery­thing you do can feel like a po­lit­i­cal state­ment. Dyk­ily buy­ing ham from the Co- Op. Les­bian­i­cally sign­ing for a de­liv­ery of bulk-bought cat food. It’s hard to feel re­ally and truly Mid­dle Eng­land when your sex­u­al­ity is still of­fen­sive to so many peo­ple.

On the flip­side, there was the time I went to a gig at a queer squat in south Lon­don and ended up sweat­ing in a cor­ner like the M&S sand­wich- eat­ing nark I am. If any­thing, the in­ter­sec­tion of my sex­u­al­ity and my pol­i­tics has prob­a­bly taught me that I’m just not very cool. But I’m still no gay Tory.

When you’re LGBTQ, ev­ery­thing you do feels like a po­lit­i­cal state­ment

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