To the homophobic Newt Gingrich and his homophobic campaign workers:
Tonight, I was a victim of blatant homophobia and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
When I heard the campaign was coming to Oklahoma City tonight, I jokingly texted a few of my politically-aware gay friends that we should go glitterbomb you (I’ll get to this form of “activism” later). While I was joking, one of the friends I contacted, Tyler, was serious about going and talked me into going up from Norman to see you. It should be noted ahead of time that I’m rather leftist and in fact think Obama is pretty moderate, but I’ve been to some town halls in my life, surrounded by people I probably don’t agree with much on. We went anyway. We’re Americans who wanted to actively engage in the political process. We are also college students who took time out of our busy schedules to go see you (yes, some college students are busy - I’m taking 17 hours, working 30, and have five extracurriculars).
Tyler and I got to the meeting, were approached by some Ron Paul supporters who were going to interrupt your event with singing and wanted us to join, but politely declined. We were there to see you. We stood in the back, eager to hear what you had to say, all the while taking in subtle judgmental looks from the occasional person in the crowd. (Neither Tyler or I are very flamboyant-presenting gays, but this shouldn’t matter anyway - something else I will mention later.) As you began your speech, you talked about how America “is the greatest country in the world” and how it’s a nation that since its creation has been fighting for justice and equality for all of its citizens. This was funny to perhaps the only homosexuals in the building who because of this aren’t afforded protections against hate crimes, job discrimination, marriage or its benefits, but we continued to listen. You talked about energy independence, job creation, foreign policy, national security, the Constitution, the difference between liberals and conservatives, and other talking points. To be honest, I don’t think I remember agreeing with anything you had to say but this is actually beside the point. Again, we were there to see you.
You served as Speaker of the House for four years and because of this, played a significant role in American policies and politics. Whether or not I agree with the policies implemented directly under your leadership is again beside the point. I acknowledge the fact that you did affect change in the United States. And indeed admire you for your leadership.
As we listened to you speak, we later reflected that we remember feeling like we were being watched from the minute we walked in. Your security personnel monitored us from the back and front of the room the entire time you were speaking. As your speech ended, we made our way to the front of the room to meet you like everyone else. We waited our turn and even remained patient as other people asserted themselves in front of us to get to you, the entire time being shadowed and eavesdropped on by a rather indiscreet plainclothes security officer. (The reason I was so hyper-aware of all the security is due to the fact of my travels to seventeen countries as a study abroad student in the past year - you learn to watch your back.) Tyler took a picture of the sign that was hanging on your podium which read “Drill here. Drill now. Pay less.” Again, while we didn’t agree, we were to get a better perspective of conservative ideology and this one was aspect. Almost immediately after Tyler had taken the picture, one of your aides came over, made eye contact with us, and held some paper over the sign as another took it down and eyeballed us some more. The entire time we were waiting, we both kept receiving what felt like judgmental gazes and whispers into coat sleeves and blazers.
As we got closer to you, we endured ever-increasing monitoring and stern glances. At one point, one of your female security personnel pushed herself between Tyler and me (for what reason, I have no idea). Again, we endured ever-increasing monitoring and what seemed to be judgmental gazes by your personnel. Tyler laughed that it felt like as we got closer, there was a magnetic force pushing you towards the door with our advances. I won’t go on to describe the whispers, giggles, and more gazes we endured, Speaker Gingrich. But I will note that Tyler and I both made eye contact with you personally. You met Tyler’s gaze as you were taking pictures with a couple of children. Smiling, your face quickly turned stern and somber. I received the same reaction. Your staff were similar. The closer we got to you, the closer you got to the door. We simply wanted to have our picture taken with the former Speaker of the House. Eventually, I guess we got too close for comfort (don’t want to catch the gay, huh?). Your (I assume to be) senior staffer made final eye contact with me, whispered something in your ear, and the announcement was made that you were leaving.
My coming out story is pretty bland and supportive with a couple exceptions. But never in my life have I experienced such blatant discrimination and homophobia. Never in my life have I ever felt so second-class, marginalized, or judged. I realize that your staff were trying to avoid another glitter bombing incident. But there are several things to say to this.
- Not all gays who go to your rallies are glitter bombers. In fact, I would dare to say most are not. How very fatalist of you.
- In my opinion, glitter bombing is a terrible form of activism, however peaceful or comedic its intentions. It’s a terrible reinforcer of gay stereotypes.
- Regardless of how Tyler or I were dressed or what mannerisms we presented, discrimination is wrong. I don’t care if we were in assless chaps and S&M clothes. (We were actually both dressed in slacks and button-down shirts.) The fact remains that we were Americans who wanted to engage in the political process and to meet the former Speaker of the House and Presidential-hopeful.
- Discrimination is not a quality of a leader and most certainly isn’t conduct worthy of a President.
- Just as glitter-bombing reinforces gay stereotypes, your discrimination against my friend and I reinforces the stereotype that conservatives are homophobes and bigots.
As stated previously, I knew about you and your policy stances coming in tonight, but any chance you had at redemption as a decent human being in my eyes has been lost. I hope in the future you will come around to actually believing your own rhetoric about Americans and equality. Because until you embrace homosexuals and diversity the same as you embrace all the white people in the audience tonight (I counted maybe five individuals of racial minorities), that’s exactly what equality is to you: rhetoric.