I love political satire. At its best it can make us aware of serious issues in a lighthearted way. At its worst, satire can be an insulting, ineffective way to make a point.
The political stunt that San Diego State’s College Republicans recently participated in is a clear example of satire at its worst. On Feb. 6 the group celebrated Conservative “Coming Out” Day. The conservatives gathered around the main flag pole at SDSU to “celebrate being a proud Conservative.” The innuendo didn’t end there. They advertised the event saying “there is no reason to be ashamed of who you are,” and promised solidarity with fellow conservatives.
This stunt openly mocks coming out, an often difficult and painful experience in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender community, for the sake of attention. Identifying oneself as homosexual is a difficult decision. When someone comes out, they face rejection from their friends and family. They risk open discrimination and marginalization, even among those who are supposed to support them.
Recently we have seen LGBT teens bullied into suicide after coming out to their peers, despite the widespread “It Gets Better” campaign. Despite the possibility of mean-spirited rejection, countless men and women bravely come out every year because they realize the need to express who they genuinely are is greater than the fear of rejection.
This is in no way comparable to announcing one’s political inclinations or party affiliations. To equate them is an unfair attempt to diminish the importance of coming out for the LGBT community. For someone to “come out” as a conservative makes a mockery of the pain and fear gays have to experience when they come out.
Maybe this stunt wouldn’t be so offensive if opposition to gay rights and gay equality wasn’t such a central issue for the Republican Party. Many Republicans have adamantly opposed gay marriage, allowing gays to adopt and admitting openly gay men and women into the military. Rick Santorum has claimed repeatedly that convicts in prison are better parents than gay couples, and that gays should simply consider not being gay anymore. And this isn’t some party extremist; this is a man with a real chance of winning the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Of course, not all Republicans share such strong anti-gay sentiments. But the reality is the party as a whole has built its conservative platform on not extending equal rights to gays. This is the political party College Republicans affiliate themselves with and the party they are supporting with their political stunts.
Now they are stealing the language and ideas from a community their party has fought so hard to ostracize. For Republicans to take the label of victim from those whom they themselves are victimizing is willfully offensive.
The whole charade seems to hinge on the idea that Republicans are somehow an oppressed minority, held down by the evil liberal academic establishment. Therefore they must stand together in solidarity as fellow conservatives. Maybe the College Republicans felt there was a large percentage of the SDSU population who are secretly conservative, scared to express their true political feelings. Maybe they felt an event such as the Conservative Coming Out Day would inspire others to reveal themselves to their fellow peers.
How conservatives came to see themselves as a maligned minority is difficult to understand. Even in California they hold considerable political power. San Diego Rep. Duncan D. Hunter and Mayor Jerry Sanders are both Republicans. Most importantly, there are no anti-Republican movements in San Diego, or anywhere.
There are no anti-Republican marches; no one is attempting to take their civil liberties away by, for example, not allowing them to marry. Whatever consequences there could possibly be — and I seriously doubt there are any — to revealing yourself as a conservative, they are nothing compared to losing your friends and family, or even your job because of your sexual orientation.
To even suggest that conservatives need the encouragement and support to admit their political inclinations that LGBT individuals need to come out is insulting. At best this was an ill-conceived joke, a tasteless attempt at garnering some attention for the College Republicans on campus. At the worst, it was an attempt to play the victim at the expense of those who have been suffering from hatred and discrimination, often at the hands of the Republican Party.
Whatever the motive, events such as these should not find a home at SDSU if we wish to remain an institution praised for our openness to LGBT students.