Living Up to the Conservative Reputation

I often get into arguments – I’d prefer debates, but they’re almost never civil – with liberal gays and lesbians about my conservative politics. I am often told that I need to think for myself, something that gets under my skin in a big hurry. When someone says that to me, I like to quote Clarence Thomas: “It really bugs me that someone will tell me, after I spent 20 years being educated, how I’m supposed to think.” I do, in fact, think for myself. The fact that I don’t agree with you does not mean that I don’t have an open mind or that I’m only spouting what I’ve been told.

That said, the reason behind many gay and lesbian liberals believing I am a traitor is the base claim of hate from conservatives. Democrats are our friends, they tell me. They’re looking out for us. Republicans are hatemongering bigots who would have us rounded up and put in concentration camps and order us to be executed if they had their way, they say. I and others like me have long contended that this is a hysterical myth. All of us here at have gotten more hatred from fellow gays and lesbians and their straight liberal counterparts than we ever have from fellow conservatives, and that is a sad fact.

Where do they get their ideas, though? From idiots like this guy:

Before you go any further into this post, you need to watch that video. Most of what I say may not make sense otherwise.

First of all, he says “um” and “excuse me” way too much. That sort of thing is annoying and makes you sound absolutely incapable of articulating a complete thought. Second, he’s a couple of fruit loops shy of a full bowl if he really thinks anybody believes his attacks on this kid aren’t personal.

Andrew Shirvell is an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan. He is a Christian and there are some things he says that I would agree with (namely, that transgendered students do not need gender-neutral housing). However, he has taken his after-hours blog activity and turned it into something far more obsessively sinister, and whether I agree with some of his base-level arguments is entirely beside the point. Shirvell is not the norm among conservatives; he is on the far-right outer fringe of wackos who give us all a bad name. Either way, his behavior is what so many liberals point to when arguing with me when they say, “see? You’re a self-loathing closet case!”

Shirvell begins the interview by calling what he’s doing a “political campaign.” Okay…since when does a political campaign include parking outside your opponent’s home at all ungodly hours to get pictures of said opponent? Since when does a political campaign include going after someone who isn’t even involved in politics, for that matter? Shirvell’s blog is titled, “Chris Armstrong Watch” and it is about nothing but Michigan Student Assembly president Chris Armstrong – the first-ever gay president of MSA. The entire blog is about Armstrong’s activities, comments on Facebook, parties, friends and on-campus activities. Shirvell blows every single thing ever said or done completely out of proportion – if you don’t believe me, go see this cached version of the blog. You can only see the cached version because Shirvell, after AG Mike Cox read the blog himself and hinted at disciplinary action, shut it down for public viewing. You now have to be invited to read the actual blog. What you’ll see is everything posted until September 29, just a few days ago.

Anderson then brings up the point that I just did: Armstrong isn’t a political candidate or figure, he’s just a student-body council leader. Shirvell responds by saying (repeatedly) that he’s not the first person to criticize Armstrong. So what? Whether he is the first to criticize Armstrong is irrelevant. He’s the only one going to such extremes to document what Armstrong does. Make no mistake, his behavior is extreme. I don’t care if he is a U of M alumnus.

Shirvell says again that it’s a political campaign and is nothing personal. I beg to differ. When he follows this kid on campus, go to his home to take pictures, picket outside his home, and other such activities, believe me – it’s personal. I don’t like it when liberals protest outside the homes of former members of the Bush administration or bank CEO’s, I certainly won’t condone Shirvell, a grown man and a public official, doing it to a college-aged kid.

And, really – “Satan’s representative on the student council”? What is impersonal about that sort of tripe?

Then he brings up substance. What is the substance to his arguments? Who else has he targeted in this fashion? I don’t think anybody has come under his “political” scrutiny so openly. In a day and age when we have actual politicians doing actual damage to American freedom and culture, why is Shirvell targeting some kid in college who likely won’t go into politics and become the next Barney Frank? Of course, now that Armstrong has had this experience, he may change his mind and do exactly that. If one can survive a smear campaign of this magnitude then a political campaign would be a walk in the park. Do we really want this guy going that route because a conservative freaked him out? Is this the way to win hearts and minds?

The kicker for me is Cooper asking Shirvell, “do you consider yourself a bigot?” I have to wonder why Cooper would ask that question. Even members of the modern-day KKK and neo-Nazi groups would give an emphatic NO. They would tell you they are trying to have pride in their race the same way other races do. Of course Shirvell doesn’t consider himself a bigot. He likely thinks of himself as a Christian warrior girding himself for battle against “Satan’s representative on the student council”. Even to me, that sort of thing is silly. I do believe in balancing justice and mercy according to the Bible, but I do not believe in using our faith to batter another person into folding in fear. Armstrong recently obtained an order of protection against the AAG; Shirvell has taken a leave of absence from work and Cox’s staffers are hinting further at disciplinary action against him.

Mr. Shirvell, you are not in a political campaign. You are grown man stalking a college student and you’re using piss-poor excuses to rationalize your outlandish behavior. You’re a creep. Grow up or get out of public office. Idiots like you may be few and far between, but you are the reason that rational, reasonable conservatives end up being painted with the same broad, extremist brush.

Tip of the mean, black cowboi hat to my roommate, Katie, who attended U of M.


8 thoughts on “Living Up to the Conservative Reputation

  1. I couldn’t even watch the whole video. That guy is bat$h!t crazy! I can’t believe he still has a job. I’ll disagree with people but there is no rational way to justify the nutty things he’s done. AndyB, Nh.

  2. This guy embodies the stereotype of the closet case that we have all known, and this is the kind of crap we have to overcome every time we have those arguments/debates.

  3. I want you guys to read this and provide some feedback if you can from a gay conservative standpoint. I understand this is one issue out of hundreds in the political arena, but I am curious to know hoe you guys feel. This was written in a debate in a conservative right wing forum in response to questions regarding the conservative influence on the recent (publicized) wave of gay suicides. It is emotional, as it was an emotional debate. From an “objective” standpoint, I really am curious to know how gay conservatives view this.

    Much appreciated,

    The core of what we are facing here, unfortunately, is political. I hate politics, and I hate politicians even more. But, also unfortunately, the right-wing mentality does not separate church and state. Therefore, the operational equation goes like this:

    Conservative Religion = Conservative Leaders = Narrow-mindedness = Politically-Positioned Educational Failures = Prejudices = Self-Hate and Bullying = Loss of EITHER Life itself or Quality of Life. Period.

    Now, getting made fun of because you are overweight, or short, or black, or white, or whatever makes you “different”…this is difficult for any child. (Note: gay people are also overweight, short, black, white, etc., so this bullying applies here too). However, ADD TO THAT the shame you are MADE TO FEEL for being gay…shame that is CONSISTENTLY underscored by the conservative moment in this country and passed from its leaders, to the communities, to the parents, to the children. Conservative religious “Christian” groups send the messages loud and clear, from fighting to overturn equality-based legislation to campaigning AGAINST tolerance in our schools. Then ADD TO THAT things like the fear of being rejected by your family, or what’s worse, actually being rejected; Being abandoned by your peers and/or subjected to even MORE harassment; The inability to seek comfort in your own faith because its leaders (NOT GOD) have condemned you and are insisting that you are CHOOSING to be gay, and “being” gay is damnable, so therefore warning that you must sacrifice partnership and any hopes for companionship and a family of your own. “Being gay is a choice, we think. But even if it’s not, then being gay in action is still wrong. So in order for us to accept you, and for God to approve of you, you must live your life alone with no partnership, intimacy, companionship, or a family of your own. Your straight peers can have this, but you can’t, because it’s a sin.” This is a promising hope for a fulfilling future for our gay youth, don’t you think? What is it going to take for Catholics/”Christians” to understand that THIS IS NOT A CHOICE WE MAKE??? If the visual of the lifeless bodies of 13 year old kids hanging from trees isn’t convincing enough, then you are all sincerely beyond help.

    And per all of your “confusion” as to why these kids are killing themselves: Well, let’s add this up: Let’s take an “awkward” 13 year-old who is a different ethnicity than the majority of other students in his school…maybe has glasses, or braces, is a little shorter than average, doesn’t wear the designer clothes that the other kids wear, is a different religion than most, is quiet, and is a good student. Odds are this child will most likely be picked on. That in and of itself is painful. Oh but wait…I forgot: He’s gay. And by gay, I mean not out performing sodomy on anyone; Not engaging in those “horrid and disgusting AID-causing acts;” I am speaking of MERE AWARENESS THAT HE IS ATTRACTED TO PEOPLE OF THE SAME SEX, WITH NO ATTRACTION TO THOSE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX. So let’s not sell his soul to Satan just yet, okay? So add to the mix: Increased loss of self-worth, instillation of self-hatred and shame, fear of possible–and too often actual–familial rejection, worries of possible social repercussions, additional harassment, bullying, isolation, homelessness (yes–that does happen), personal safety/security, religious abandonment, and warnings about any kind of “morally acceptable” future involving dating and companionship. Don’t think kids/teenagers think about all this? Think again. How is anyone, much less a child, supposed to handle all of that?? The feelings self-hatred and isolation are debilitating enough alone WITHOUT any bullying. I challenge anyone to parallel this type of society-inflicted suffering for a child. This is what makes THIS ISSUE in need of immediate attention. This is not something new. And that is a sad fact that only reinforces the need to act now. This has gone on far too long.

    This country needs to wake up, and again, it has to happen NOW. I am gay. Are any of you that continue to downplay the significance of this issue? How many of you have experienced this firsthand? How many of you have sat in your Church and watched members of your family sign a petition being passed around to prevent you from ever having the ability to adopt a child while listening to a sermon about how wrong–and “disgusting”–YOU are? Do you have any idea what that does to a person? To a child? Now sit there and tell me I chose this, or better yet, tell me that I have to live the rest of my life without companionship/partnership or else I will be damned by God and deemed morally deplorable by the rest of you. And after you tell me that, think about how a 13 year-old would feel hearing that. Those who continue to turn the other cheek to the legitimacy of gay equality are continuing to contribute to the very ignorance that is destroying so many lives out there right now. And then they have the audacity to reference a gay agenda, or question why conservative politicians and religious leaders have accountability here? Are you serious? Their words become your words, and you are passing these words to your children. Maybe someday those that continue to fight this issue will be on the other side of the fence, and it will be their child who is no longer here. Maybe then this will all sink in.

  4. First of all, Greg, a lack of response within one week does not mean we have nothing to say. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I have two jobs. I don’t get to check my personal email as often as I would like and when someone offers something like this I will respond when I have the time to offer a proper – not rushed – response. While your first comment began with statements that seemed to request dialogue, your second proves you were merely trying to incite us or stump us. In short, you were looking for confrontation. I will, however, give the response I had intended to give anyway, though I doubt you will give it an ounce of consideration.

    I didn’t have an easy upbringing. I was taught that being gay was wrong when I went to church even though I knew from the time I was in fourth grade that I liked other girls. My father knew when I was younger than that I would likely come out of the closet one day, and it didn’t bother him. My mother was another story. She did everything she could to force me to be girly in the hopes that she could train it out of me. I always flatly refused to give up my GI Joe, He-Man, Karate Kid and war games. While my little sister played with her dolls, I was always on the other side of the room using Cobra Commander to bomb Barbie’s Beachhouse.

    I was also bullied constantly. Every school I went to, I was always the ass-end of someone else’s joke. I was even bullied at church (part of that came from kids at church whose parents thought they did no wrong, and part from kids who beat me up at school visiting my church and finding out I went there). I know what bullying is like. I’ve been laughed at, beat up, kicked around, spit on – you name it. By the time I was in junior high school back in Texas, my classmates were making fun of me for supposedly being gay. I didn’t know what gay or lesbian meant, so I denied it. I was one of those kids who was incredibly book-smart, but had been very sheltered thanks to my mom and didn’t understand a lot of the things that were going on socially. My parents didn’t have money, so I didn’t wear cool clothes. I didn’t own a brand-name anything until I reached adulthood and bought a brand-name guitar.

    I was accused of staring at other girls in class. Accusations usually preceded beat-downs. One Vietnamese kid I went to school with would walk up to me in the cafeteria every single day and say, “hey, are you a lesbian?” loudly enough for everyone to laugh at. To this day I like to imagine walking up to one of the little bastards who made my life a living hell, introducing myself, reminding them what they did to me and giving them the beating of their life. I’d never actually do it, but it’s nice to think about on those days when I can’t get their words out of my head.

    I know as well as anyone who’s survived that kind of thing that it never leaves you. I used to come home from school and lock myself in my room; I’d play guitar and sing for hours, imagining that I was a rich rock star and every one of my old classmates finally felt some pang of guilt for what they’d done to me.

    Do you know what I learned from all of that? Religion only accounts for maybe half of the anti-gay sentiment out there. Most of the kids who made fun of me back then didn’t go to church regularly and didn’t believe in God. They viewed being gay as something just a little more icky than being fat – it just wasn’t cool. It didn’t matter how much you denied being gay, if they thought it bothered you they’d make fun of you for it forever.

    Religion and conservative politics are, for me, two separate things. A lot of conservatives I know see it that way. Believe it or not, very few conservatives in my circle (and many of them are straight) base their politics on their religion. So right now, I would like you to make the distinction between religious zealots and those who espouse conservative politics. The problem most liberals have is that they tend to see all conservatives as bible-thumping hypocrites who believe that their political beliefs are a mandate from God. That’s why liberals frequently lose the debate.

    The most important thing you can remember is that if you pin all of the animosity towards gay people on religion, you will lose the battle. Period. It’s not a party problem or a religion problem – it’s a people problem. Take a look at racism; it’s still alive today, and I know people of all races who are avowed racists and believe they are superior. Anti-gay sentiment will be with us just as long as racism is. You cannot legislate anyone to think a certain way.

  5. Mel,

    Thanks for the response. First, let’s remember that I am on your team here. For me, the person comes first, and I relate to you as another LGBT person way before I view us as “conservative” vs. “liberal.” And I know everyone is busy, but there are many new threads posted here with all kinds of new dialogue. I just thought maybe someone would have taken the time to respond to this issue. And you did. So again, thank you. Much appreciated.

    I’m sorry you went through all of that. I am right there with you. School was brutal for me too. And I respect your commentary as well. I guess where a lot of people disagree when this topic comes up is the direct impact vs. indirect impact of conservative religion. For example, you stated that maybe 50% of the kids who bullied you believed in God. But I guess where I am coming from is that, for the other 50% who didn’t and viewed gay as being “uncool,” what is the real basis for their ignorance? If we trace it to the root, a large percentage is due to lack of education reinforced by misguided conservative beliefs. For example, while a child may not be a devout Christian, he/she may attend a school where homosexuality is not spoken of because it is not allowed to be, and it is not allowed to be because of the controversial nature of it as based on its roots in conservative religious beliefs. These same beliefs are also at the root of much of the shame that gay youths are made to feel about themselves, regardless if they are religious or not. So the impact is felt on various levels, both direct and indirect. And while we may not be able to change these beliefs in all denominations, we can keep them separate from our law-making. And this is what we need to do.

    I don’t believe all conservative politicians are fully grounded in religion, but percentage-wise, I think the greater number tends to be. It is a movement known for lack of separation between church and state, and this “marriage” is harming us. It has been for years. I agree that it is a people problem too, but it’s a people problem rooted in ignorance which is rooted in conservative religious beliefs and subsequent conservative political maneuvers. Racism is still alive today, but we are quite a distance away from having a classroom react to the word “faggot” or “dyke” the way they would to the “N” word. We have a long way to go. And it’s this exact surrender-to-ignorance mentality that has held us back. I agree that you can’t legislate anyone to think a certain way, but you certainly can influence them. And this is what has been happening.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to respond.

    Take care,

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