Waking up on a Sunday morning, just in time to make it to a church for the first time in a while, I lay in bed and pick up my phone to turn off the annoying alarm that I kept snoozing. Once awake, and as expected of a 24 year old millennial, I go on social media to see what’s new, possibly laugh react at some memes, but most importantly, to see if Washington DC has addressed any important issues such as reopening the government. However, the first article I ran through spoke of an issue, an issue that to me now seems to be not much of an issue.
The headline reads “Tulsi Gabbard’s Homophobic Remarks Surface…” and I curiously click on the article to see what exactly these remarks were. At first, as an openly gay man, I felt personally insulted. Gay people seeking the right to exist legally and share the same rights to marriage aren’t “extremist.” This almost made me reconsider my post on social media fully endorsing her candidacy, which I had posted just a couple hours before that. However, something didn’t add up, my gut feeling drew me into skepticism of the article. “There was no way” I thought to myself “that the woman who resigned from her DNC position to fully support Bernie Sanders in 2016 would hold such views, at least currently.”
Almost immediately I took to Instagram, where I messaged her account to try and find out. I wrote to her;
I’m so glad you’re running for president! The (I will omit naming article platform) just ran an article on some comments you made about 15 years ago regarding same-sex marriage. As an openly gay veteran, I would like to know where you stand on a subject so deeply embedded into my life… Please do not let those accusations of homophobia go unaddressed…”
To which she replied;
Thank you so much for your support and reaching out, and thank you for your service. My views have changed significantly from when I was younger, and I have publicly apologized for those things I said in the past.
Please know that my record throughout my last 6 years in Congress speaks to my commitment to fighting for LGBTQ equality, including a 100% rating by HRC.”
After receiving such response, I decided to look on my own for her votes on LGBTQ issues, and found that she has truly being consistently pro-LGBTQ. She voted for the Equality Act of 2017, which amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. Among other legislation she voted for and co-sponsored, there are the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Restore Honor to Service Members Act, Repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act, Safe Schools Improvement Act, Designating June 26th as LGBT Equality Day Act, and many more.
However, it still did not make sense, at least to me, that after such a strong record voting for and co-sponsoring pro-LGBTQ legislation so many news networks and groups would run articles on her past comments, as if these were her current views.
It didn’t make sense to me that our movement, which bases its entire argument on love and acceptance, would find it now impossible to apply that same love and acceptance to an ally of our community simply because she wasn’t always an ally.
This issue brought back memories of my own. When I used to nod in agreement to vile remarks against us coming from the altar of my church. When I used to make fun of and express disgust towards other gay men. When my own family spoke of “beating the gay out of children” and I laughed along. At some point I believed homosexuality was a disgusting sin, and even after coming out, a lot of that stayed with me and manifested through the lens of a “no femmes” caption on Grindr, which would translate into absolute repudiation of femme guys when I walked the streets of Hillcrest in San Diego. I was 21 years old when I found out what voguing was, and furthermore when I realized that my hatred and fear of it came from being publicly embarrassed in front of my family for tuning in to RuPaul when I was younger.
My parents and most family members were openly anti-gay until I came out. We cannot burden ourselves with holding on to past mistakes. There’s room for personal growth and change. There’s room for forgiveness. This is the same forgiveness, I, a gay man, am giving Tulsi Gabbard. She has shown in actions that she changed, that her views are different, that she is an ally. Why would we want to lose that? What kind of message are we sending to the rest of America who’s hearts and minds we’ve won over?