I’m going to be honest. I’m having a hard time not steering into base tribalism and hating all of you.
It’d be easy. It’s my tribalistic instinct. I want to draw a line in the dirt and say you’re on that side, I’m on mine, and anyone who crosses gets shot.
It’s clearly easy for you. You’re good at grouping others into collective lots. Muslims, LGBTQ people, and anyone who isn’t white or male has been lumped into undesirable masses at some point by your leaders, radio hosts, TV personalities, and panderers — masses they deem are less deserving of rights, freedoms, and basic privileges than everyone else.
We homos should have a harder time returning the tactic. We should refrain. Naturally. But why? Why are we expected to be docile while you are childish? Why should women be calm and polite and understanding in the face of your misogyny? Yes, we know better. We’re the ones with college degrees from liberal arts universities, with herb gardens in our backyards and newspapers and magazines and all that snooty, liberal stuff you fear. We should be the ones saying, “No, not all Republicans are Tea Partiers. Not all Republicans are Trump-ers.”
But it’s getting hard. We have tried to be “the bigger man.” We have made attempts and appeals to your reason and humanity before, only to drag you, kicking and screaming, into social progress. You resist basic human decency at every turn.
For my entire life, there have been consistent enemies that I have painstakingly avoided lumping into one morass, even though it’s easy to do: Conservatives, Christians, and Republicans have become synonymous, at least in the American political lexicon. Thanks to data and numbers and all that “facts” stuff you so ardently oppose, we know we can safely do this. We can lump Conservatives, Christians, and Republicans into one mass. We can do this so easily, with such predictable results, that it would take a kind and understanding man — a kinder, more understanding man than me — to parse through you, to not lump you together, and to say gently, with hands folded, “Now now. Don’t made those sweeping generalizations. Not all Republicans are gay-hating, gun-toting Christians.”
It’s almost funny to imagine this saintly Mr. Rogers floating down from the Heavens to do this, because as far as I’m concerned — and as far as anyone on my team is concerned — you are all that person, those people: bigots, racists, misogynists. Gay-hating, gun-toting Christians. People who chew tobacco on the front porch. People who think Banana Republic is couture. People who turn away from restaurants with white tablecloths, reserving them for the bourgeois liberal elite you so despise. You don’t own passports and you’ve never traveled outside the country and you watch those horrible movies that come along every few years in which a football player rises to stardom or a dog dies.
The truth is, we want to be better than you. In the words of Michelle Obama, we want to go low high when you go low. We don’t want to lump you all together into one enemy, but “live and let live” becomes hard when you continue to attack my people.
You have created an environment in which shootings like the one last June in Orlando happen. Your hatred and prejudice create environments where homophobes like Mike Pence, who think LGBT people are second-class citizens, become Vice Presidents. You foster environments in which those who fall in my camp and on my side of the line get scared.
I would never, ever try to limit your freedoms. I don’t care what you do. I don’t waste any sleep over what straight people do or conservative people do or Republicans do, so long as whatever you do doesn’t affect my ability to do what I want to do. But here’s the thing that baffles me: You do. You lie awake at night, pondering the soul of America and thinking my butt sex has something to do with its moral state. You would lose no sleep restricting my freedoms. And my simple question is: Why? What have we done to you? Why do you hate us? How does a trans person using the bathroom affect you? For some absurd reason, you care deeply about who I am able to marry, who can legally refuse me service, and whether or not a boss can fire me for being gay.
I guess, sometimes, in the dead of night, I understand you. At night, when I lie awake, I remember the people I grew up with, people I used to call friends. When I think of them, I feel less animosity and something like kinship. They’re all in the same small town in Georgia, more or less. They married young and work blue collar jobs. Their wives all teach early childhood education and their husbands all quietly, secretly hate homos. Growing up, I feared them because I was not like them. Our lives today have nothing in common. Most of them will never set foot in a gay circuit party or sex club. Most of them will live happy, contended lives, and sometimes I envy them. Their worlds are smaller and gentler than mine, with lighter battles and less fear. I lump them together and judge them because I do not understand them, and in doing so I realize that we’re both doing the same thing because we both fail to understand each other. I don’t know how to bridge this divide. But one thing I do know is that I’m asking the question — How do I reach you? — and you’re not.
When I think of you, Republicans, and when I think of all the people in your camp — my parents, their friends, the people I grew up with, and every Christian I know — I know the world I inhabit must seem frightening to you. What I fail to understand is why your fear of my world translates to hatred of it — why your failure to grasp me leads to attempts to restrict what I can do or who I marry or where I can buy a pizza.
I get it, you must feel scared. With gay men and women marrying everywhere, trans folk living their authentic selves, queers appearing on every TV show, women demanding justice, and black Americans rallying for police reform, your country must seem like an unfamiliar place. Your privileged seat in the social order, the one you’ve had for so long, perhaps without realizing it, may seem threatened. You know what happened to the South in the Civil War, even if you’ve never read a history book. Honey, it lost.
I guess it would be too much to ask you not to be afraid, and to step into the future with us, but I am asking it. I’m asking you, Republicans, to put down your racism and your xenophobia and your guns and just walk forward.
We are less dissimilar than you might think. Some Democrats believe in a god, some don’t. We both want to protect our families and benefit from a government that represents us. Our biggest difference, perhaps, is that we don’t fear change. We embrace it. Change with us, please, or else our country — our great, strange country, one which, despite what your leaders say, is a good one — will tear itself apart. The choice is yours.