Missouri Republican Zach Wyatt Comes Out Against “Don’t Say Gay” and Also As Gay

While the concept of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill may have been popularized by Tennessee, it’s also popping up elsewhere in the nation. Last month, Missouri also introduced a bill that would outlaw any discussion of sexual orientation or LGBT issues in schools, and which could potentially be used to restrict or prohibit GSAs. Specifically, the bill’s language says that “no instruction, material, or extracurricular activity sponsored by a public school that discusses sexual orientation other than in scientific instruction concerning human reproduction shall be provided in any public school.”

While the bill seems to have gained traction with many conservative voices in Missouri, one freshman Republican legislator isn’t a fan of it. Rep. Zach Wyatt spoke out against the bill last week, writing a letter to the media expressing his disappointment in the Missouri GOP and publicly opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Today, he continued his campaign against the bill by coming out as “a proud Republican, a proud veteran, and a proud gay man.”

Rep. Wyatt had actually already announced his intent to withdraw from the Missouri House to pursue a degree in marine biology, but right now he’s the only out gay Republican currently holding state office. In his statement, Wyatt expresses regret that he’s toed the party line on issues of discrimination and school bullying in the past, and talked about a desire to help kids rather than allow the same kind of bullying that he’d experienced in the past to continue.

Among the things Wyatt said in his speech was that he is “not the first or last Republican to come out,” which is true, and that “being gay has never been a Republican or Democrat issue, and it should never be,” which is debatable. But Wyatt’s story does make an important point, which is that being gay is a fact of life for people in every demographic, regardless of political affiliation, religion, race, or culture. The “culture war” against queer people assumes that they belong to some monolithic group with identical (and imaginary) shared values, like “recruitment” or “cargo shorts.” But when people like Zach Wyatt come out, it helps illustrate that that isn’t true, and a bill that tries to erase gay people threatens everyone, and that even if Republicans don’t want to talk about the fact that gay people exist, we always will — and sometimes we’re sitting right next to them in a matching suit and tie.

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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11 Comments

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    As someone who grew up in Missouri, and is usually embarrassed at the political atmosphere there, I’m glad to know this guy exists.

    Thanks, Rachel!

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    It’s been hard returning back to small town Missouri after A Camp. Me and my partner have had to explain our relationship two days in a row now. It was nice not having to do that for a change. It’s people like Zach who help make change happen, or at least plant a seed. It would be nice to be recognized in schools, at this point we can only hope we move to a more open minded area before our daughter has to face any hate or misunderstanding.

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      Sometimes I don’t understand it either. A lot of republicans are assholes but I feel like they at least wear it on their sleeve whereas a lot of liberal people like the idea of acceptance and diversity as long as it isnt sitting next to them. Truth is I knew I was a republican before I knew I was queer. So I stopped voting. I can’t stomach voting for any of the current candidates. Maybe if they actually ever learn how to separate church from state in their politics.

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        I very much respect the Log Cabin Republicans, even though I don’t agree with their political beliefs. I feel bad for people who are gay and fiscal conservatives, it’s a hard place to be, ‘cuz really, who DO you vote for?

        In a sense I have it easy, I have both CARGO SHORTS and SOCIALIST stickers, which go hand in hand :)

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    I’m living in Missouri now, and despite the bad rep we have (that is sometimes legit), we do have a lot of people who support the gay community here. An organization called PROMO(Promoting Equality for all Missourians) is helping fight this bill. There are a LOT of people who are against it, and there is even a website where people are posting videos asking for our representatives to vote no: http://www.oktosaygay.org

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