Pride. It’s a month out of the year where we reflect what being LGBTQ+ means and how we can not only uplift this community, but everyone else. The LGBTQ+ community has accomplished so much over the years, yes, but there’s still so much ground to cover. Very Good Light is celebrating Pride Month through our very own Pride Week where we delve into diverse voices that push the boundaries of what being LGBTQ+ in 2018 means.

It’s June, which means millions of people around the world in cities big and small are celebrating Pride.

The LGBTQ+ community is famously known for its inclusivity, but there is one sect that doesn’t always feel welcomed: Republicans.

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While at a Virginia Pride event, Anthony LeCounte along with his then boyfriend now fiancé, discovered resistance only when he told people they were both Republican. He’s come to expect that kind of prejudice but it still takes him aback.

It wasn’t the first time something like that has happened. He and his fiancé once met someone at a gay bar who proceeded to lambast them in a Facebook post when finding out they’re Republican. The worst part, it all went down while they were standing right next to each other.

Anthony, who goes by Rek to friends, lives in Arlington, Virginia, a city just outside of Washington D.C. He’s black, openly gay and proudly conservative, and if that sounds like a contradiction he wants to dispel those stereotypes. Gay people have diverse views like any other minority group he tells Very Good Light.

Coming from a military family he moved around a lot—Florida to Tennessee, Tennessee to Kentucky, Kentucky to Germany and then back to the States. He’s been out longer than he’s been republican. Anthony came out his senior year of high school but didn’t cement his political ideology until he began questioning and rethinking his assumptions. That was around the same time he graduated from Yale.

Anthony speaks slowly, with the drawl and the charm that comes with growing up in the South. I ask what misconceptions he faces and he returned with a long list. People tend to think gay Republicans are all “super white,” wealthy, privileged and they don’t care about other members of the LGBTQ+ community. The most repeated stereotype: that they are inherently self-hating.

The idea that being simultaneously gay and Republican somehow means you’re uncomfortable with your sexual identity is something that every one of the handful of gay men I talked to have dealt with. It’s flat-out untrue, they emphasized. They are just as proud of their gay identity as anyone else.

(Chicago Pride Parade 2011. Photo by Jamie Bernstein)

It’s that reason, Anthony is sometimes hesitant to tell gay people he’s Republican. In the same way, he’s sometimes resistant to telling Republicans he’s gay. But he says the reaction he gets from conservatives pales in comparison to the vitriol he’s received from gay liberals.

“It stems from this notion that we are traitors to the gay community,” he tells me. “But at the end of the day, that kind of thinking is reductive and kind of insensitive.”

“It stems from this notion that we are traitors to the gay community.”

Gay conservatives often get a bad wrap at least partially because one of the group’s most vocal members is Milo Yiannopoulos, an alt-right political commentator and provocateur who recently said, “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight.” Add that to his already long list of controversies including gamergate and comments that suggested he supports pedophilia. But Milo is nowhere near representative of the group as a whole.

Andrew Dresser, 28, confirms that other gay people aren’t always open to civil political discussions. He’s been called a toxic, self-hating person online and told that “Trump supporters shouldn’t reproduce.” Meaning his parents shouldn’t have had him.

We live in a hyper-partisan world and any community will have disagreements but Andrew says, “the [LGBTQ] community as a whole either outright disdains or at best mildly disrespects people who are republican.”

He’s often accused of voting against his own civil rights. He doesn’t pretend that the Republican party’s been supportive of LGBTQ+ rights throughout history but, believe it or not, he says it’s actively improving. According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of Republicans in the 18-29 age group support gay marriage compared to 69% support by all Americans in that group.

Part of that change, he says, comes from his own advocacy and the work of people like him.

Andrew also lives the D.C. metropolitan area and has been active in lobbying Congress on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. As a board member of the D.C. chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, a special interest group composed of gay conservatives that work within the Republican party, he says they’ve made a lot of headway on the local and federal level.

They’ve worked with Republican members of Congress to help repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a legislative proposal that would ban discrimination in hiring and employment based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and lobby for other issues like marriage equality and gay adoption. Though, Andrew recognizes there’s still a lot they’re trying to do in terms of transgender rights.

“Amicable debates are hard to come by in today’s political climate but are more crucial than ever.”

This year was his fourth operating the Log Cabin booth at D.C. pride and it was his most positive one yet. Aside from a couple of people who were looking to cause strife, people engaged in meaningful, respectful conversations. Those kinds of amicable debates are hard to come by in today’s political climate but are more crucial than ever.

“I think that it’s important, as with any community, that you don’t put your eggs all in one basket,” he says. “In order to be successful on a national level, you have to engage with both parties.”

Dating presents other challenges. Before Anthony met his husband, he was careful about who he shared his political identification with. Andrew’s often wondered if the men who’ve ghosted him have done so because of his political party. Aside from the dual chambers on Capitol Hill, at the end of the day, D.C. is a city known for being able to put aside political disagreements. But politics is also a common conversation topic and it can lead to some awkward moments.

At the end of our conversation, I asked Anthony if there was something he wished people understood. Just like your gender identity or sexual orientation, he says, your political beliefs do not determine your worth as a human being. “Being gay only defines you in the way you let it define you.”

Political disagreements are natural and healthy and ultimately, inevitable, but excluding any LGBTQ+ person based on them is not within the spirit of the community. Debate but do so with respect for others as human beings. Demonizing and stereotyping the other side and creating an intolerant landscape to political disagreements serves no one’s interests.