This was my second year at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference held annually in the Washington D.C. area. Obviously I was a lesbian the first
time I attended, just as I am now, but this time I was far more open about the topic with other attendees and therefore I thought it would be fascinating (given my recent book release) to write an article about how my sexuality was received at the conference.
To be honest both I and Erica, my co-host, were a bit apprehensive at first. I think that always comes with the territory of publicly “outing” yourself. Online we’ve rarely had any negative response to the fact that we are gay conservatives, but in real life we weren’t really sure how the reactions would go. Would we get accosted by Rick Santorum acolytes? Told we were going to hell by Mike Huckabee voters?
So our first day of the conference we donned our shirts and headed down to the convention center at the Gaylord. The very first reaction we got set the tone for the whole event from there on.
“Oh my god! I love your shirt! Where can I get one!” came from some perky blonde attendee who was far more of a morning person than we were* and that’s how the whole weekend went.
Personally I didn’t feel judged or uncomfortable even once during the event. It was a constant barrage of people asking me if I had a card for my show (which I did) or telling me how glad they were that I was here. I even had a conversation with a self-avowed social conservative who said directly that she completely accepted me as a member of the party and welcomed my contributions (that was mildly stilted on her part, but she made the attempt and I appreciate it, especially as she said it in front of her two teenager who were with her).
Now I will admit that since I naturally avoid confrontation (I hear you all laughing, I mean in real life, not online) I avoided the extremely socially conservative groups that were espousing traditional family values and maybe next year I’ll talk to them, but despite the fact that I think their rhetoric has no place in conservatism I still don’t feel like fighting it out with them will change their stances.
The only negative experiences that Erica and I had at the convention center were when a particular social conservative group (I won’t name names) came up to Erica and let her know “don’t worry, we don’t think you are mentally deficient”. To which my response, when she told me about it later, was “oh yeah thanks, if you don’t think so then WHY bring it up!” Because, here’s a clue for the group whose name rhymes with “Knife Kite”, if you have to say you don’t then you probably do. I don’t tell people “don’t worry, I don’t think you have zero fashion sense” if they have great fashion sense.
Oddly enough the most negative reaction either of us could pinpoint at the entire event was not from CPAC attendees at all. At the same time as our conference some sort of dance competition or camp or…something was scheduled in the other wing of the center and let me tell you what, those Dance Mom shows are doing them a favor…they are way crazier in real life. Not only did they glare at Erica and I multiple times and keep their kids far away from us (in opposition to this, a CPAC attendee I was conversing with on the last day and who knew full well that I was a lesbian, let me hold their baby.), but I also watched one practically get into a shoving match with a hotel security guard at one point.
We met up with some great people who were extremely excited to have more gay conservatives in attendance. As you might know the Log Cabin Republicans had a booth this year in the exhibit hall as well as being listed as a sponsor for the event, which russelled a few peoples jimmies I’m sure (which may have been the reason we didn’t have much social conservative interference, they may have boycotted because of LCR’s inclusion). I also met a handful of other gay conservatives who were there with other groups.
I was also interviewed by two different television stations, one out of my home state of Arizona, and one out of Illinois. Erica and I were also interviewed for a documentary about LGBT diversity in the Republican Party which is being prepared for release at SxSW this year.
All in all, even with the specter of Donald Drumpf hanging over us, this CPAC has made me feel more optimistic about the future of conservatism (if not the Republican Party, which may very well be dead this time next year if Trump is selected as the nominee). I think we are well on our way to opening up Reagan’s big tent to all sorts of new voters…now if only CPAC could stop advertising religious films in between speakers.
I’ll write again soon to discuss some of the speeches and panels I saw at the event.
*no offense to perky blondes. I’m blonde and can be extremely perky…after 10am and 3 cups of coffee.