As a proud gay, vegan, environmentalist, I often astound people when I tell them that I am also a Republican. My political dogma is unique considering I draw upon many different ideological camps and synthesize them into my own brand. I definitely ascribe to the idea of “America First” and the civic nationalism associated with it, along with conservative economic and trade policy. At the same time, I completely support unhindered access to abortion, federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and strong federal protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression–which could be easily be achieved by amending the Civil Rights Act to include these groups. And as a vegan, I support strong environmental regulations and increased protections for animal rights. Despite holding these traditionally liberal views on social and environmental policy, I am a stalwart Republican and voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. My support for the most-recognized name in the Tennessee gubernatorial race and current Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Diane Black, is an exemplification of my political views and how I can support someone who I disagree with on a fair amount of issues.
It confounds me to vote based entirely off one or two issues. This short-sightedness and parochialism eludes me because I am a pragmatic and realistic voter. President Reagan wisely stated that, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally—not a 20 percent traitor.” Why should my political ideology be dictated or bound by my sexual orientation according to the identity politics espoused by the left? It’s simple to me: economic and national security issues will forever take precedence over social issues. I acknowledge that certain factions of the Republican Party have been heavily antagonistic to LGBTQI individuals in the past, but this has largely dissipated.
I met Congressman Black in 2012 when I volunteered on her first re-election campaign, and I have been an ardent supporter ever since. In 2016, I became an official part of her team when she hired me to be a field organizer for the campaign, and continued my work for her in the summer of 2017 as a Congressional District Intern. I would never work for someone who I did not have the utmost respect for, I thought did not care about me, or did not believe in my rights as an American citizen. Diane Black has worked tirelessly in the House of Representatives to push conservative-minded reform that is in the best interest of the Tennesseans she represents.
Diane is strong-willed and one of the most politically shrewd members of Congress, considering she has never lost an election since she entered politics in 1998. I view the Congressman as a feminist who sticks to her convictions even though many would argue that her strong pro-life views preclude her from being a true feminist. I wholeheartedly disagree with this notion—being a feminist myself and a member of the Students for Choice executive board—any woman that can enter the male-dominated world of politics and fight for what she believes is right is a feminist in my eyes. The Congressman has never used her gender as political leveraging, but she has always stressed the importance of visibility and having women in politics and positions of power to show to younger generations of girls that they can do just the same as men. Diane has always been a leader: she led the charge against the proposed state income tax when she served in the Tennessee General Assembly and now leads as the Chairman of the powerful House Committee on the Budget. Moreover, she was able to succeed in the monumental task of getting a budget passed in the House while carefully toeing the line between the far-right Freedom Caucus and more moderate Republicans.
I consider Congressman Black a friend and I know she appreciates everything I, and all of her staff, have done for her. She understands the importance of a great team and how that helped her get to where she is today. I also have respect for her personal beliefs, whether I agree or not, knowing that she will pursue policies that keep our economy stable and our nation secure. Diane knows that I am gay and it has not changed how I interact with her or how she views me, because the important thing is that I have been continually loyal and hardworking. It’s not an impossible thing to reconcile being gay and Republican.
I know that Diane will fight in the upcoming campaign season with integrity. She will break the glass ceiling and become the first female Governor of Tennessee and will be a model leader for all Tennesseans.