On Loving My Republican Brother Who Loves Me

Have you heard of Frank Schubert? The Advocate wrote a scathing profile about him on Friday, referring to him as “the man who orchestrated the Prop. 8 win…the person who is most shaping the outcomes on behalf of the antigay side.” Schubert is the PR strategist behind the Prop 8 ads that employed scare tactics, threatening that a “no” vote would lead to kids learning about gay marriage in schools (heaven forbid!), and he is the man behind the wins for gay marriage opponents in Maine and North Carolina. He is the new political director for the charming National Organization for Marriage, and a few months ago he left Schubert Flint Public Affairs, the firm he created in 2003, to focus on conservative issues. But what struck me most about the Advocate’s op-ed was a small statement, a qualifying phrase tacked on after a hateful quote from Schubert, but an interesting factual nugget nonetheless. Schubert “happens to have a lesbian sister who is in a long-term relationship with two children.” Well then.

This is Frank Schubert via The Bilerico Project.

We’re no strangers to politicians in high places who have siblings in the GLBT community, yet continue to hold homophobic perspectives near and dear to their hate-filled little hearts. In September 2010, Rachel and Riese wrote about Christine O’Donnell, the Tea Party Delaware Senatorial Candidate who has a lesbian sister, reminding us that “gay family members do not a homo-friendly politician make.” We chronicled a bunch of well-known gay family members and the (not so supportive) families that birthed them, asking, “What do Americans learn about how to treat their GLBT relatives from watching politicians fully willing to not only vote, but push forward legislation and ideologies which exclude the family members they allegedly care for? Are these really the “Family Values” our country ought to endorse?”

This is Anne Marie Schubert, Frank’s lesbian sister via Queerty.

In a word, no. It’s really fucked up when politicians say they love their GLBT relatives and then turn around and make and support laws that prove they’re all talk, and it’s also really sad and possibly damaging when the GLBT community apologizes for and excuses this behavior. But when I googled Frank Schubert’s sister, Anne Marie Schubert, I found a Queerty post that takes Anne Marie to task for not standing up loudly against her brother, and I found myself feeling sorry for her and the harsh words the author penned against her. Granted, Queerty and I clearly don’t see eye-to-eye on many things (no matter how much I dislike someone, I’m not really comfortable referring to that person as a ‘marriage rights rapist’) but I managed to get past the troubling first sentence and read not only the article but also the comments. In the comments, “John from England” (who seems to be the author of the original post) writes, “I’ll put a disclaimer that I’m prolly [sic] being pretty harsh and unfair…But during the whole prop 8 thing…why didn’t she make herself more visible?…This could’ve really helped, the fact that this bright, woman with a brother that is ‘normal’ (in these homo haters eyes), is ‘just like you’?”

So we move past the question of what the general public learns from politicians who ignore their GLBT relatives’ well-being when pushing legislation that harms the GLBT community, and we arrive at a new question: What is reasonable to expect from members of the GLBT community when it comes to speaking out against their siblings who are running around the country pushing and passing incredibly damaging laws? Do we need — or should we require — every queer-identified person to become an activist in the face of oppression? Should we allow high-profile homophobes the luxury of their relatives’ “no comment”s? What is our other option? The Queerty article rubbed me the wrong way because we have no idea why Anne Marie didn’t make herself more visible. She’s a Republican, and she was running for the position of judge in Sacramento County Superior Court. She has a family who she may not want to drag into the spotlight. Maybe she hates all other gay people except her domestic partner and herself, I don’t know! (I’m being facetious. I don’t really think Anne Marie hates all gay people. Duh.) But she probably has several reasons for not making herself more visible against her homophobic brother, and we don’t know any of them because… she hasn’t shared them. Do I wish she would be more visible, more vocal, more publicly outraged? Well, sure. But do I think it’s fair to pit her against the GLBT community and act like her silence is a tacit indication that she supports her brother and his actions? Not really. We’re all doing the best we can every day. I can only assume she’s doing her best, too.

While reading about Frank Schubert and thinking about siblings and Republicans and expectations, I found myself taking it all kind of personally. Why? I don’t have a Republican politician who hates gay people in my family. Rather, I have an amazing, intelligent little brother who is one of my best friends in the whole world. He loves Ani DiFranco and Andrea Gibson. He’s the first person to whom I came out and was the first person in my family to meet my current girlfriend (and they are super close and when we hang out I end up feeling like the third wheel while they talk about comic books and beer, so.) He is unbelievably supportive, he chastises my mother when he thinks she’s not showing me enough acceptance, and he is socially liberal. He will also be voting Republican in the November 2012 presidential elections.

Things my brother likes: Andrea, Ani, and Mittsy

It’s not the same at all, having a brother who heads up NOM and has gone on record saying he doesn’t accept your gay marriage and prays for your children, and having a brother who is loving and supportive and just happens to prefer any human who isn’t Barack Obama when choosing a president of the United States. It’s important that I’m clear that I’m not equating my own little brother with Frank Schubert, and I am not implying that my brother’s decision at the polls is anywhere near as dangerous as Schubert’s actions and mission. But learning about Schubert and his sister brought a lot of personal feelings I’ve been having to the forefront of my brain, and it’s bringing me to another question that I find just as compelling as the one Rachel and Riese asked in 2010. My question is this: How do we reconcile the fact that our relatives who love and support us may have strong political opinions that encourage them to vote for politicians who are hell-bent on discriminating against and harming the GLBT community? What can we reasonably expect from our relatives when it comes to voting?

Though my brother and I have disagreed on many political issues from the time he started reading and agreeing with The Wall Street Journal (approximately 2009, his senior year of high school) I think I’m feeling particularly contemplative because this is the year that things get real for us. My family has had Canadian citizenship up until literally last month, so even though we’ve lived in a suburb outside of Boston since 1999, we have never voted in a presidential election (also my brother wasn’t legal voting age until 2009, so I guess citizenship would’ve proved irrelevant up until now.) This is the first time in our entire lives that we will be eligible to vote. So suddenly all of our dinner table conversations about politics, the time I left my brother’s birthday dinner crying over a conversation about late-term abortion, the time my brother emailed me an article from the WSJ asking for my opinion and I copied it into a Word document and sent it back to him, annotated, with a note asking him not to take my harsh tone personally because it was just tough to disagree with such an asshole in a neutral tone… all of those instances are going to boil down to a concrete thing provided to us by this democratic nation: a vote. All the hypotheticals, all our feelings, all our disagreements will mean something this November. I will vote for Barack Obama, and my brother will vote for Mitt Romney. And I guess what I’ve been trying to figure out is, if a newspaper called me up and asked what my brother’s vote meant to our relationship… what would I say?

Relationship deal breaker? Totally. Unless you’re my baby brother.

As I said, my awesome baby brother is absolutely nothing like Frank Schubert. His reasons for voting Republican have nothing to do with hating gay people, and his social politics are liberal. But he truly feels that voting Democratic is not an option this year, because of Obama’s economic policy and foreign policy, and while he doesn’t like the idea of identifying as a Republican, he acknowledged that in the United States of America we have two major political parties, and most people align themselves with one or the other, often choosing the “lesser of two evils.” His choice is the Republican party, though he finds their social politics “repugnant.”

So I’m left with the question of what I should think about all this, and if I need to have an opinion one way or the other. I have always said that I could never be in a serious relationship with someone who does not have the same political ideologies as me, and that’s true. If you vote Republican I don’t want to hold your hand, I don’t want to snuggle you, and I don’t want to go to bed with you at the end of the day. I get a lot of flack from friends and family members for my constant refrain that “not all opinions are created equal,” but let’s be real, how can they be? If your opinion is that gay people do not deserve basic human rights, I think your opinion is wrong. But the truth is, I am in a serious relationship with someone who does not have the same political ideologies as me: that person is my brother, and our relationship is super serious. I adore him, I consider him my best friend, and I enjoy our disagreements because he’s smart and can back up his opinions, even when I think they’re wrong. I honestly can’t think of anything he could do to change or harm our loving relationship. Even if he votes for Romney in November.

He’s probably reading WSJ, I’m probably reading AS.

What do you think, fellow queermos and humans who may be involved in serious familial relationships with people who do not hate you — who love and respect and admire you — but who will be voting for people who do, in fact, hate you and want to harm you? My brother may not be the one in Washington pushing policies, but when his vote contributes to a decision that will ultimately affect my life — even if he is technically on my side when it comes to his social politics — do I hold him accountable? And for what?

I’m honestly not sure. For now I believe that I will continue to love my brother, no matter what November 2012 brings. I think this conviction — this love in the face of extremely different political choices — comes down to three major things: history, intent, and hope.

It’s easy to meet a fellow grown-up and dismiss the possibility of fostering a relationship (platonic or romantic) because we disagree on fundamental issues. It’s a little bit harder to dismiss the person who hosted Easy Bake Oven tea parties with me when we were little, who I sat with at every brother-sister lunch at sleepover camp from 2000-2009, who said easily, “I see why you like her,” when the rest of my family said, “I thought you liked boys.” My brother and I have a past, and so far nothing that has happened in the present can erase what those memories means to me.

His unconditional love and acceptance also make his political ideals harder to hate. Were he actively anti-gay rights, I would be unable to make excuses and our relationship would likely suffer. But he’s not. His intentions when voting Republican are not to harm me. The fact that his vote may put a man in power who undoubtedly will is tough to swallow, but I’ve managed to separate his intent and the ramifications of his vote in my mind, and it allows me to keep loving him. Were he Frank Schubert, I doubt that would be possible. But he’s not.

And honestly? I really hope Obama wins. If I never have to confront the reality of Romney in office, it will be that much easier to forget that my brother wanted him there. And it will be that much easier to do what my heart really wants to keep doing for the rest of my life, regardless of what happens during election season: loving my little brother.

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. My extended family is conservative, very much so. I can really understand your conflicted feelings here, although my little sister is my biggest supporter who would not vote for anyone if Romney were the only option on the ballot, so I got that going for me.

    What I come away with is super biased, of course. I feel like there is such an attack on basic human rights in this country, for women and the GLBT community, the poor and the sick, that I do not understand not voting along the lines of our social beliefs this year (or ever, really, but I am a hopeless case where that’s concerned.) I’m not saying those other things aren’t important, and not to make this political, but I have no idea how a person could look at Romney and think “better in foreign and economic policy” either, despite the statistics my family members trumpet on Facebook daily.

    You are your brother’s concern. He never really has to look outside of that, and for the sake of your love for each other, it’s really okay if he doesn’t. I am a veteran of loving people deeply for our shared history over our sharply divergent ideology. It isn’t easy, but it is not easy either (or even possible, for many of us) to live outside of our history and the people who give our lives shape, no matter what we may think of what box they check in November. Good for you for putting this out there — I’ve tried to write it before, and it’s not easy. You’re still beyond lucky to have each other, no matter what.

    • Thank you for this comment! As a general note, I’m thankful for all the comments on this article, as this is an issue I think about a lot and was definitely tough/personal to write about, so I’m grateful for all the dialogue/personal stories/opinions/etc.

      I appreciate what you’re saying about me being my brother’s concern. And I think on a visceral level, I am. If anyone tried to hurt me in a personal way — hurt my feelings, hurt me physically, etc — I know my brother would be there to help me/support me in an instant. I think when it gets down to the political, it can be really tough. You say that you cannot understand not voting along the lines of social beliefs this year — and I agree with you! All the time, as well! I’m totally hopeless like this, too! — but I know that my brother believes otherwise, and his belief is as strong as mine is in the opposite direction. I guess it boils down to me choosing not to be hurt enough that it ruins our bond when I consider what his vote means. As I say in the article, it’s easier when I envision a future where Obama wins, and it’s easier still because he is voting in a state that will almost 100% go blue, so it doesn’t feel as though his personal vote will change the overall decision.

      Is that a cop-out? Maybe.

      But you’re right — I am incredibly lucky to have my brother, and he is lucky to have me, if I do say so myself…no but really, we are both so lucky to have our close relationship and I know that we both treasure it — for us, right now, political decisions will not harm our relationship.

  2. (And now I feel guilty for speaking for my sister. Maybe she would. But I really don’t think so. ;))

  3. I’m an only child, so I really don’t know what it’s like when this happens with a sibling. My only possible comparison is with close friends who I thought loved me as I loved them, but who then insisted on doing something that was either directly or indirectly harmful to me as a gay person. Sometimes it’s little things – telling a friend about Chik-fil-A’s anti-gay support and watching them shrug and say they like the food too much to stop eating there, and sometimes it’s me telling someone that a politician is vocally anti-gay and hearing that they’ll vote for that person anyway due to their fiscal/foreign/domestic/etc. policies. What that says to me is that they’ve weighed things and they value the choice they’re making more than the effect their choice may have on me. Is this a selfish way of looking at things? I think it is selfish to the extent that what they’re doing affects my very self, and that my self is my primary concern when it comes to safety and security (perhaps another difference – if I had a sibling, perhaps I would focus on their safety and security on an equal or greater level than my own). I’m not accusing your brother of placing something above his love for you – I acknowledge that people can hold conflicting or different beliefs without hierarchically ranking them. But to me, when it happens, that’s how I perceive it, and it makes me feel really shitty every time.

    • I understand what you’re saying. I’ve posted several links to articles about Romney’s beliefs to my Facebook with very simple commentary: “This is why it hurts my feelings when people say they are going to vote for Romney.”

      Are they (not so) subtly aimed at my brother? Sure, of course they are. And it does hurt my feelings, definitely. But all I can say is that somehow, with my brother, it is different than with a friend. That’s part of why I wrote this — to figure out why. I don’t think I have all the answers yet…I just know that for now this is my personal truth.

    • As I live in Texas, I know and love many people who vote Republican despite having gay friends and family they support. Usually, they say it’s because they believe that although the Republican candidate has social policies that will hurt gays, their fiscal policies will benefit everyone: gay, bi, and straight. On the flip side, while they know Democrats tend to be more pro-gay, they believe their fiscal policies will harm everyone: gay, bi, and straight. So it’s not that they are disregarding the best interests of their gay friends and family. They truly, honestly believe that it is better for everyone to live in a country governed by fiscally conservative leaders, no matter what. To them, they are going to be doing something harmful to you as a gay person no matter which side they chose, so they might as well go with the side that will cause the least (to them) amount of damage.

      Thinking of it that way is what has allowed me to be at peace with their decisions in November. I do truly believe that these people love me, and have my best interests at heart, even if we may have disagreements about whether it is most important to vote based on fiscal or social policies right now.

  4. Vanessa, this is something that has been bothering me for a few weeks about my own family, so I’m really glad you’ve written this. I have a conservative by default sister and mother who were both phenomenal about me coming out; still, they both want to vote Republican in the upcoming election. It’s really hard for me to deal with because, unlike your brother, it’s not a vote based on any specific policy, but simply because they’ve been thinking Republican for a long time and think it’s a Godly thing to do. I think since your brother is awesome and has really sincere intentions with his vote, it sort of makes it okay–at least for me it would. If I felt like my family were voting based on policies they really believed it, I just couldn’t fault them for that, even though I think this is a crucial year and marriage equality is the #1 priority if you just so happen to not have that right. Ultimately, people we love will continue to vote and act selfishly because their rights aren’t at stake. I think we have to both encourage them to do more and come to terms with it. Wonderful piece.

    • Thanks so much, Heather. I think your second-to-last sentence completely captures my feelings: “encourage them to do more AND come to terms with it.” I guess I could cast my brother out of my life, as a few people have implied they would do were they in my situation. But to be completely honest, that has never ever occurred to me. I couldn’t do that. I don’t want to do that.

      I’m really sorry you’ve been having a tough time dealing with your own families voting practices. Religion doesn’t play a role in political discussion in my house, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a family member want to vote Republican because it’s a Godly thing to do. I do understand people clinging to what they know, or what they’ve always felt comfortable with. I think at a certain point you decide if their political perspectives are harming you personally or if they are livable. We all create our own narratives to make our lives, our choices, our circumstances livable — make sure to take care of yourself and try your best to teach your family what you know and what you believe to be true. Sometimes coming to terms with your family exactly as they are is the best gift you can give yourself. I hope things get easier for you!

      • Thanks, Vanessa. I think we have to give our families time to grow and realize, for some of us, we are they’re “gateway gay” so it would be a pretty big leap for them to just suddenly act totally PC and start volunteering for Obama. Personally, I’ve decided to send my mom and sister a 2012 election fact sheet (complete with links!) to help them stay informed and make sure they are hearing the same things I am (vs. watching Fox News). For my sister–who is on the fence about even voting at all–I’ve told her that if she doesn’t think it matter, throw it to Obama, because of how much it would matter to me.

        The good thing is they aren’t outspoken or even that political, so it’s not as if they’re freely telling me all of this anyway, I have to pry it out of them ha. But I think there’s some gray area in the discussion of how our families should support us (especially when thinking about who quickly they have to do so), so I really appreciate your narrative here. I think the gut reaction for a lot of people would be (haven’t had a chance to read the other comments yet, so many!) to turn your back on him, but that doesn’t seem like Love at all, and I thought that’s what we were all about?

  5. Yeah, I wouldn’t even speak to him, so…

    I don’t associate with people who prefer to put “economics” (what, fair taxes and health care piss you off that much?) ahead of the very real threats to my rights as, not only a queer person, but as a woman.

    Your brother is making the choice to vote for someone who has proven himself dangerous for all women, everywhere, and that is quite frankly, unfathomable to me. As is why you would tolerate and even rationalize his decision to do so.

    • It’s unfathomable to me that any sister would let a politician ruin a lifelong relationship with a brother, no matter how different their views.

      • I consider the sibling relationship pretty messed up already if one sibling is able to say “hey, i value foreign policy decisions over your right to make decisions about your life and future based solely on your gender. I know voting for this person will greatly diminish your rights, but I don’t care.” and the other is supposed to say “well, I don’t understand, but I love you! Its totally fine to make political decisions that will greatly hurt me!”

        I mean, her brother has basically told her she is worth less to him than his fiscal ideals. I get that its hard to really do anything about (coz your original family is always your original family), but I don’t understand rationalizing it like this. She says “His intentions when voting Republican are not to harm me.” Intent, it is NOT fucking magical. (reference: http://genderbitch.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/intent-its-fucking-magic)

        • Intent is not magical, but it’s also not nothing. I’m personally, not a huge fan of someone who votes for Republicans based on economics (though, granted, as a democratic socialist I think that the no-holds-barred, totally unregulated capitalism they advocate is shitty “economics” anyway) and disregards their lack of support for the queer community as not as important, but there is a world of difference between them and the people who are also supporting homophobia by applauding the anti-gay views of these politicians rather than holding their nose at them, and actively supporting anti-gay causes and voting for gay marriage bans. And I think that Republican politicians are increasingly come to learn the difference, in that they often can’t get away with the frothing-at-the-mouth, blatant homophobia they used to take for granted (except for people like Rick Santorum or Michele Bachmann because the libertarian wing of the party would never vote for them in a million years anyway). It’s not a guaranteed vote-winner anymore, and the party knows it. Say what you will about Republicans, but their ability to find common ground with people on the issues they do agree with rather than break ranks over where they disagree – even when they really should – has accounted for a lot of their political success, when a lot of liberals go spitefully fleeing to the Green Party every time Gore/Kerry/Obama/etc. says something they don’t like.

          Secondly, I don’t know your particular background but I get the feeling that a lot of people here getting down on Vanessa for continuing to have a relationship with her brother are people who probably don’t have to deal with these issues in their families, who are mostly from liberal backgrounds. I’ll admit that as I’ve moved to a blue city in a blue state, and mostly distanced myself from the more conservative parts of my family (for other reasons), that yeah, the number of people in my social circles who are conservative, especially social conservatives, has gone down. Because if I can be friends with someone who supports who I am and who I can discuss politics with without going into feminism or social justice 101 every single time, I would prefer that. But a lot of people really do not have that option. And as someone who has had to do the cutting-family-members-out-of-my-life thing, it is a very difficult thing to do that opens you up to a lot of judgment from others. It’s not the same as breaking up with a girlfriend (unless it’s a really long-term relationship, I suppose) or distancing yourself from a friend. So you try to find common ground wherever you can – especially if there’s potential that they might come around eventually. My little sister has a lot of religious views I found abhorrent, and she also frequently victim-blames me in terms of my reasons for cutting out the aforementioned family members from my life. But I’m not going to dismiss the years and years of good memories we have, or the things we still have in common, over that – and that’s significantly more than just voting for the wrong person. Like, Vanessa and her brother clearly have way more common ground than my sister and I do. And at the end of the day, Vanessa really is the best judge of her relationship here, not anyone else.

          To me, the ability to treat this so flippantly is an example of, dare I say it, privilege. Because, at least in my personal experience, the people who’ve had to make these careful balances in their everyday lives between politics and interpersonal relationships aren’t the ones who lecture other people that they’re doing it wrong. Those are the people who’ve had the privilege to mostly be around other liberal, accepting types throughout their lives, who’ve never had to make these tough decisions.

          Lastly, I’m a bit skeptical about anything that comes from Genderbitch because she’s often a huge privilege-denying (w/r/t her race) jerk on Tumblr, one of those who uses “intent is not magical” as an excuse to be unnecessarily cruel to people who disagree with her on social-justice issues.

          • Well said, Rose. I think you’re onto something with your mention of privilege–some people simply don’t have liberal enough circles to afford to kick every conservative friend (or family member, for that matter) to the curb.

            I do think there’s a hole in Vanessa’s brother’s argument about foreign policy–like you mention about economy–because Obama’s SOS Hilary has impressed Dems and Republicans alike. I don’t think it’d be a terrible idea to try to have more conversation with a brother like hers, trying to make sure his views are SOUND if he is voting the other way, but I have family members who I know are voting Republican and if I tried to talk politics with them, it would just create a huge distance between us. So, to each her own on that one I think.

          • “Secondly, I don’t know your particular background ”

            Yeah, you really fucking don’t. And you’ve got it all wrong in regards to me and where my views are coming from.

            “Because, at least in my personal experience, the people who’ve had to make these careful balances in their everyday lives between politics and interpersonal relationships…”

            I have a feeling we had to make very similar balancing acts, but here’s the shocker: I came out with a different view point than you. Deciding that my experience and reaction to other’s people’s experiences is formulated through this magical bubble of privilege you’ve decided I’ve had is just ridiculous.

        • I think it may be easier to understand when you consider how many people vote against their *own* interests. My dad, for example, has always voted Conservative, and probably always will, despite the fact that *any* more socially liberal English political party (Labour, Liberals, Greens) would benefit him more. People can just be a bit crazy when it comes to politics. It’s really not personal; it’s a kind of blindness where they convince themselves that this is the right thing to do, regardless, and they really do not see the consequences.

          It’s also worth considering that her brother is really young, if this is the first election he is old enough to vote in. His opinions and politics may well evolve with experience and with exposure to different views. Personally, I am a great deal more politically liberal and understanding of other people’s issues and points of view now, in my 40s, than I ever was at 18. That evolution may never happen if his sister stops speaking to him and so denies him insight into her experience.

          Like, my nephew is currently an over-privileged, right-wing, homophobic, sanctimonious twerp, but I keep him on my Facebook, because then he gets my comments in his feed (assuming he hasn’t blocked me!) and it may enlighten him a little. Maybe he won’t always be a right-wing, homophobic sanctimonious twerp. We shouldn’t all be permanently judged for our opinions and actions in our teens and early 20s: I’ve met some people who were frankly arseholes at that age, but who have improved immeasurably with age. ;)

          There’s no excuse for my dad, though. :P

          • Really good point — I think age is a component I didn’t focus on enough in this essay. My brother is 21. I don’t think a person’s opinions are invalid simply because they’re young, but I do think we should allow room for growth. Some people never change, but some do. Thanks for bringing this up, I think it’s super relevant.

      • this. I agree completely, no “compromise” for basic rights… but its a lot harder to cut ties like that when it your family.

        • Yeah. I had falling out with my north-carolina-transplant aunt (…she moved there from her home state of CALIFRICKINFORNIA) about abortion (she’s a scary catholic adoption house kind of person) when I was a wee charged up college student. She hasn’t stayed at my parent’s house since. I haven’t even considered telling her I’m out, and last time she was here my head almost exploded with tension. It’s sad to contemplate the hate and ignorance I know is just waiting for me, and I am definitely a coward.

          • If you’re close, I think she’ll come around… being gay is a little less arguable of a subject than being pro-choice, as its sort of a thing about you not a thing that you think.
            If not, then don’t waste your energy

          • True, but I don’t think she knows that it isn’t arguable. Anyway. She lives 3000 miles away and clearly does not enjoy living near us, so… but thanks for the sound advice. I’ll keep it in mind.

          • I don’t think being afraid to come out to someone who you know won’t accept you — especially a person who is supposed to be “close” to you, like a family member — makes you a coward. We are all doing the best we can and your safety/comfort always needs to come first <3

  6. Kinda want to send this article to my dad, who votes Republican for reasons I honestly can’t figure out because he’s not particularly socially conservative and Republican economic policies do not work in his favor. I’ve tried to emphasize that, should Romney win, I will literally be screwed, but he seems to just laugh it off. I’m pretty sure he’ll be voting for Romney, but I think when it comes down to it, I’d rather just not know. It makes me too sad to think about my own father voting for someone who hates me and actively seeks to deny me my rights.

  7. This piece really hit home for me. I have an extremely conservative younger brother, who is about to turn 18 and vote for the first time. We haven’t really spoken since I came out to him five years ago and he dismissed me as being “in a phase” and “doing it for attention”

    That said, I really love my little brother, and my parents assure me that he loves me too. It’s really painful to have a family member who is so outspoken against gay people (and women and minorities and liberalism in general. unfortunately his politics line up with most of our extended family’s politics, so I’m always the one left out. I can see where, if he became a politician, I would not want to speak out against him for the sake of avoiding family drama. They already pretend I’m not related to them, so if I were to be vocal it would be messy, and honestly I pretend I’m not related to them either.

  8. For your brother, since his social politics are liberal, I really recommend pointing him occasionally, subtly, toward Shakesville. Melissa McEwan does a great job of elucidating how economic issues really are social issues and how liberal economic policy is super necessary in order to advance social equality. This is a good one: http://www.shakesville.com/2008/10/justice-for-all.html

    And I think this gets at the larger issue–engaging loudly and confrontationally and constantly does not work when you already have a personal relationship with someone. It’s totally, totally counterproductive. It’s slow, and you pick your battles, and you do it in a way that is not obvious or pointed.

    When I first discovered feminism and fat acceptance in college, I had a lot of really stressful, heated conversations with my mom. And then I just stopped trying to engage her, and posted things to Facebook instead, and answered honestly and as calmly as I could when she asked me questions. And I don’t know that she totally 100% gets it now, but she gets it a lot better than she did then. Calling on Anne Marie to try to rein in Frank is RIDICULOUS because all it would have done is drive more of a wedge between them. Shame on Queerty.

    • That article is really awesome! I am totally bookmarking it for future use.

      In general, though, Shakesville wouldn’t be my recommendation for people who are still new to feminist theory because they tend to take the attitude (which they state explicitly in their comment policy) of being an “advanced feminist space” where it’s frowned upon to ask feminism 101 questions. Not that there isn’t value in that for people who are past all the 101 stuff and want a safe space, but it does mean that it’s not the best place to send someone who is new to these concepts if you’re worried they might be scared off. For those types of people I’d usually recommend something more like Finally a Feminism 101 Blog: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/

  9. Even though my family is mostly liberal, I grew up in a conservative area (the suburbs of Detroit, which are a very different world from the city itself – I’ve written about it before here in my articles on my hometown’s new homophobic mayor, Janice Daniels) so I always had friends who were Republicans, though at least when I was little they were mostly parroting their parents’ opinions (as was I, for that matter – now, I still have mostly the same political opinions as my parents but I have my own reasons for holding them). I still have some, but I’ve noticed that as I’ve become more active in politics – and particularly since I a) got really active in pro-choice, sex-positive, feminist causes and b) came out as bisexual – it’s become harder and harder for me to have close friends who disagree with me significantly on politics, because I feel like, especially with the social issues, it’s often indicative of a larger incompatible worldview. How much of my personal life can I really discuss with someone who believes that homosexuality is immoral, or that a woman’s moral rightness is determined most by whether or not she’s a virgin?

    Even economic conservatism is still fairly abhorrent to me, because I feel like so much of the support for that boils down to, as someone growing up in such a baseball-loving family as mine would call it, “being born on third base and thinking you’ve hit a triple.” By which I mean, so much of the libertarian notion that everyone has the same shot at succeeding in their career, education, etc. is based on having a great deal of societal privilege yourself and not acknowledging that privilege. And it’s not like as a grad student who has been dependent upon government loans for most of my higher education, and as someone pursuing a career in classical music, I’m not just as hurt by a candidate who wants to eliminate government funding for student loans or the National Endowment for the Arts as I am by a candidate who wants to make me pay out of pocket for birth control, or make it so my employer can fire me for being bi.

    • I should probably add that my little sister is a Democrat but religiously conservative, and we do butt heads on these issues a lot. Even though she is pro-gay, she is a liiiiiittle too comfortable making excuses for anti-gay religious people for my taste, including choosing to attend an anti-gay college even after my mom, stepdad (who is a pastor) and me voiced our opposition to this. She is more conservative on issues of female sexuality and that is where most of our head-butting happens.

  10. Being a human who aligns oneself with the LGBT community, it is no wonder Gay rights would be the number one concern when considering for whom to vote. Unfortunately for us, that’s not how the majority of the country thinks. I mean, for a lot of people, economic and foreign policies are more important than civil rights. For some people, the right to marry is the main priority, and for the majority of others, it’s not. So even though we may be the sole LGBT identified member of an extended line of relatives, our rights, unfortunately, are not enough to sway a relative who thinks other political promises are more important.

  11. This was a great piece. Makes me feel super lucky, though, because I have the same very close relationship with my brother, but he is if anything more liberal than I am.

    And how awful would it be to have a mainstream politician of any stripe in one’s immediate family? The mind boggles.

    • Thank you! And yes, I agree, I am extremely thankful to have zero politicians in my immediate family!

  12. I have to say: As much as I disagree with a lot of Obama’s foreign policies, I have trouble understanding why someone for whom that is their primary concern would consider Romney a better choice on that front, though. Ron Paul, okay; I can’t stand him, but I will admit that his foreign policy is better than Obama’s (even if it is for all the wrong reasons*). But Romney is likely to be just as, if not more hawkish in his foreign policy. He wants to attack Iran (IIRC) and he wants us to stay in Afghanistan even longer. If you take issue with Obama’s foreign policies why would you see Romney as an alternative, when it’s basically the same but worse?

    *In that Ron Paul is less of a pacifist humanitarian and more of an old-fashioned isolationist who also wouldn’t want us involved with giving other countries aid, either.

  13. Thanks for the article. I wish there were easier answers.

    I can’t imagine facing the kind of stark choice the USA is facing this year, when it goes to the polls. I am not sure I could be as sanguine in the face of that.

    I’ve some friends with very different political views and social views and it does, occasionally, put a strain on our relationship; it will always limit it.

    In contrast my own brother was dearly close to me but we’ve drifted apart a little since his late teens. He’s a conservative by British standards. He’s been the only person in my near family who’s been fully supportive of my identity, but he’s also told me drukenly, and implied at times, that if we were not related he would not give me the time of day. He shares my family’s disdain for and lack of interest in understanding my experiences while acknowleging me as his sister. He loves me and on some level wants to help. Some days I think his, often privileged, comments rely on it.

    I’ve been fortunate, compared to many, to have a circle of accepting long term friends across the political spectrum and a family that has not completely rejected me for my gender identity and sexual orientation, I’ve been working through a lot of things over the years but when I spilled my feelings to another old but more distant friend, about being repeatedly hurt and worn down by their benign indifference, on top of everything else; he articulated it adroitly as heartbreak, and that crystalised it for me.

    So I figuratively ended my relationship with these people. I treated it like a breakup and imbued it with personal significance; I ritualised it, enacted it. I managed to, finally, let go of them. Or perhaps my hopes and fears.

    Several months on and I’ve not mentioned it to them. I don’t think I ever will. That is not the kind of relationship we have. But they are good people and I have what is there. They are glad I finally seem happy and well for the first time in a decade of struggling. I feel whole, alone, confident and free.

    That was my answer, when the dissonance became too much.

    I hope Obama wins too.

    • This is a really beautiful comment and I thank you for sharing your personal story.

      I think it can be really healing to bring certain relationships to an end. Specifically I am thinking of a best friendship that I had to end, because the other person clearly no longer respected me and my identity in the way he once (maybe) did. I also treated it as a breakup, and only when I thought of it in those terms could I let go completely.

      I guess the difference with my relationship with my brother, which I maybe didn’t articulate clearly enough in the original article, is that I do not feel pain from my relationship with him. When I say he supports me wholeheartedly it is not an exaggeration, and I really do feel absolutely comfortable to be my true self around him (and I do not think he would treat me any different were I a stranger.) And so the complications multiply, because were we not asked to vote on anything, our relationship would be unremarkable. There’s nothing wrong; we only have a strong history, a loving present, and a promising future. But when you add politics things seem to become murky…except my ultimate decision for now, is that they will not.

      Like I wrote, I’ll have to see how I feel if Romney actually does win. But to be honest, even if I am eventually hurt by my brother’s voting choice, I can’t see myself ever not being close to him. Maybe it boils down to history. Maybe it boils down to love. I’m not sure…I’m still thinking about it.

      I think I ended up responding to several comments in my reply to you, Julia. I’m sorry about that. Thank you again for sharing your family experience, and while I’m sorry you experienced such heartbreak, I am glad you finally feel confident and free.

      • I had the sense your relationship with your brother was different; no worries.

        The issue is bound to be as complex and varied as personal relationships can be: this was simply the path I was taken down. I still hold affection and love for the people concerned but it’s changed: it was that or sacrifice a part of myself to accomodate their behaviour. That’s the nature of cognitive dissonance.

        A lot rests on the other person; they are the unknowable factor.

        I hope you both have a happy future.

  14. Hmm… I totally agree that Anne Schubert shouldn’t HAVE to make herself visible and call his brother out. It’d be nice if she did, but as Vanessa said in the article, we don’t know why she hasn’t done so, and it’s her choice whether she does or not (much like the coming out to bring visibility to the LGBT community vs. being outed by others for the sake of the LGBT community argument).
    That said, I personally could not accept someone in my family if they voted Republican, even if they loved and accepted me as gay. The fact is, it doesn’t matter which issue you vote Republican for, you still are aware that by voting Republican you are allowing that candidate to do things that WILL hurt the LGBT community, and if you love your LGBT family member(s), then HOW can you vote Republican, knowing that if that candidate wins, you will be putting that/those family member(s) in danger and ultimately be making their life harder? Not to mention, by voting Republican, you would be making women, whether straight or queer, suffer because of Republican’s stance on women’s issues. I just strongly believe that you don’t do that to the people you care about, not if you truly care about them, not if you truly consider the ways in which you will be affecting them if you do vote for someone who hates them…
    Happily, I think everyone who votes in my family votes liberally. My grandfather is the only conservative in our family because he did the whole, “I’m getting old – Shit, I’m gonna die – Help me Jesus” thing, but let’s say, if my sister suddenly decided she really thought abortion was wrong and decided to vote Republican because of it, not because she hates gays or anything like that, I would STILL never have anything to do with her again, because by voting Republican, she, in the punch of a button, automatically voted against the choice to an abortion, women’s rights/issues, minority rights including LGBT rights, social programs, and everything that my family and I believe in.
    By doing that, she would be deciding that unwanted/unable-to-be-cared-for insentient globs of cells are, in fact, more important than her own sister’s welfare as a gay person and as a woman who desires rights. Furthermore, she would be taking away her rights as a woman.
    No. I could not accept her for that. It’s a good thing she doesn’t vote Republican…

  15. Whenever someone tries to claim that they are “economically conservative but socially liberal”, I want to start throwing things.

    • The part that is doing a number on my brain is that I feel the same way. But for a lot of reasons, I’ve had a different gut reaction when it comes to my brother (who is a close family member and my best friend). Or rather, I still feel that frustrated reaction, but I can move past it and love him unconditionally anyway. That is what is interesting/different for me about this specific issue.

    • To me, it makes complete sense that someone who believes the government’s first duty is to defend freedom would believe both in a small and unobtrusive government, and maximum freedoms for individuals. Therefore, they are also pro-gay and pro-choice. I don’t see a contradiction there. I *do* see huge amounts of hypocrisy in the Republican party, where they say they are for small government (but don’t ever reflect that position while they are actually in office) yet somehow think it’s OK to tell a woman she can’t decide what to do with her own body, or legally prevent consenting people from getting married.

      • Yeah, but the problem with that worldview is that the effects of having completely unregulated capitalism doesn’t result in “freedom” for a lot of people. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  16. The thing that most upsets me about this situation is the fact that your brother is willing to put economic and foreign policy above social politics. I would be extremely disappointed if my brother held this viewpoint (he wouldn’t though cause he’s gay too and he’s more of a bleeding heart than I am). I would also be really quick to point out that he shares more republican ideals than he cares to admit because it’s this type of economics first individuals last mentality that defines republicans. Then we would go watch reruns of Gilmore Girls and pretend like we were as funny and witty as Lorelai and Rory cause I’d still love his big gay ass!

    • He doesn’t as a rule, but he does when I specifically ask him to read certain posts, and he did read this article (both as a draft I sent him before it was published, and this evening when it went live.)

  17. I’m aware this isn’t the case all the time, but I was able to slowly but surely shift my brother to the left. He was conservative before he came out, then libertarian, now liberal, but I don’t even think his coming out was the defining thing that pulled him left– it was a lot of debate and making him watch Rachel Maddow. But I think Rachel is the cure to everything, so.

    • I love this comment. Probably because I love having intelligent debates with my brother, and I love Rachel Maddow.

  18. This is really the best thing that I’ve read by you so far and makes me excited for things to come. SO many important things have been said here.

    First, on this issue of “should every queer person stand up to those oppressing them?” I also come down strongly on the side of no, that’s unfair. No queer person should be obligated to explain to someone why what they just said is transphobic or homophobic, and no queer person should be obligated to publicly stand up for themself, because that is in itself oppressive. Those of us who do speak out a) have a lot of energy and will to do so and more importantly b) choose to do so. So yes, in the case of Anne Marie Schubert, she deserves to live her life as publicly or privately as she wants. Because doesn’t everybody?

    Feelings warning: this article is so important because so many folks have the same shared experience. I have members of my immediate family who may never understand why I work in social justice, let alone that the concerns of queer people are not even on the radar for a lot of people’s politics but my queer politics are very important to me. The fact of the matter is: relationships with people that are close to you are more complicated than agreeing on everything or shunning someone, just as politics are way more complicated than “left” or “right.” And anyone who has a close relationship understands this.

    So thank you for laying out this complex issue so elequently. Truthfully, the legitimacy that talking about it lends to the issue helps us queer folks advance our cause (queer everything and make out, der), be heard, and heal ourselves.

    • I agree, this is one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking articles I’ve read on AS. Vanessa asks a lot of really important questions that are so commonly answered with fiery, gut reactions instead of thoughtful consideration. So glad you pointed that out.

      In terms of “should every queer person stand up to those oppressing them?” I think the best answer is No, and your reasoning here is really fair. I think we need to always remember that in a society where we are oppressed and told our lifestyles warrant an express train to Hell, it can be a long, hard road for queer people to even accept that they’re not the heterosexual “norm” – an even longer road to becoming an activist, if one so chooses. Not all women were a part of the suffrage movement, not all African-American slaves tried to start a revolution, but I don’t think we would ever consider faulting them for that. This is, of course, very different, as are the times, but we need to remember that for some people this is a hard thing to come to terms with, a queer identity, and that some people actually don’t want to be gay. Expecting every gay person to become an activist is a sure-fast way to alienate incredible people from our community, and I certainly don’t want any part in that.

  19. Thank you for writing this article, Vanessa. A lot of these first person articles are written with a lot of bravery, and this is no exception.

    I think this article struck a chord with me because my family is ridiculously right-wing and religious to the point of being racist, homophobic, and holding some really old-fashioned values. I’ve pretty much already made the decision to cut ties with most of them in the future.

    I definitely used to trumpet some of their beliefs when I was quite young, before growing up and actually experiencing life a little and realizing why so many of their ideas were just plain wrong. So I know that people can change. One person I really don’t want to cut ties with is my mother, but I don’t know if she will change or even be willing to listen. Sometimes, like when I get her to watch Ellen, or get her to agree that Rick Santorum is bad news, I think there might be hope, that maybe she has evolved somewhat. But sometimes she says or does something that shows that her values haven’t changed that much, or at all, and I get so frustrated.

    I really love my mother, but a lot of what she says or believes in really hurts me, and I don’t know how this will affect our relationship in the future. Your article was very well-articulated, and it touched on a lot of the same things I feel and really hit home for me. Thank you.

  20. I think we should be allowed to outsource.
    I think licenses and regulations should be severely cut back and altered.
    I think if we shouldn’t feed the animals at the park, we shouldn’t enable perfectly capable citizens. Hardly the same as an injured monkey with a bottle.
    I think some people just suck and will always suck and are a waste of humanity.

    Republicans as a whole would help me sustain a much larger income and ease to be rich. Republicans as a whole, what it use to stand for anyway, makes a lot of sense to me.


    I care more about the environment.
    I care more about the people who really need the help, despite the idiots who don’t.
    I care more about animal treatment.
    I care more about human treatment.
    I care more about the success of the good, rather than myself.

    There is no way around it, at this point and time in history, to be republican and to vote republican is selfish. Worse, to do so knowing a person you are supposed to be loyal to and love is worse than being oblivious. It’s like the people who say “Well, I love that Ellen, but she should keep her personal life to herself.” It is no different than how black people were fine to dance and entertain us, but “don’t you dare have a life!” “Don’t dare think to have rights!” “Don’t affect my policy and ease with your problems!!”

    Bro needs to step it up. Period. You are sweet to make excuses for him and open up the conversation, but at the end of the day, it hurts. I know, because my brother is the same way. I love him, but I will never trust him like I could. I feel the sting of his disloyalty. And it does tear at the fabric of our relationship.

    There is no good reason your brother shouldn’t set aside his fiscal and monopoly selfish desire, fear of foreign policy or dislike of a good human being. All that should matter is that your his sister and like it or not, this is the testing time. This is the time where you look to your fellow man and you say I choose you. I choose to fight with you. I choose to potentially suffer for you. I choose to lose house, home, and comfort, for you.

    • “I care more about the people who really need the help, despite the idiots who don’t.”

      This is something I’ve never understood about people who complain about “welfare queens” and that some poor people are lazy and just don’t work. Okay, but even if there was some kind of support for that other than anecdotal evidence (which is all the people who make this argument seem to provide), there are obviously way way more people on welfare, etc. who actually need it. Wouldn’t you rather accidentally give help to people who don’t need it, than deny help to people who desperately need it? What kind of person would be more worried about the former than the latter?

  21. Such a great article, Vanessa. I completely understand your situation (it sounds like your situation is a lot of our situations up in here) and it was really great to put a voice to that hurt you feel when you love someone and they’re making bad political decisions.

  22. I find it funny that in the beginning of the article you say it’s really sad and damaging when gay people excuse anti-gay behavior, and then you spend the rest of the article doing just that with your brother.

    Voting republican is anti-gay behavior, period. It doesn’t matter if the voter disagrees with their social politics. Intent doesn’t matter.
    You wondered if you should hold your brother accountable for it. If a criminal is trying to break into your house to hurt you, and your brother knows it but opens the door because he thinks the house smells bad and wants a breath of fresh air, allowing the criminal to come in and hurt you, I assume you would hold him accountable for it. That’s the same thing here.

    You just can’t say that he is “unbelievably supportive” if he puts his abstract economical theories over your very real life and roghts and well-being.
    You can’t either say that it’s ok for him to hurt you or actively allow people to hurt you in the present because he didn’t always did that in the past or because you have such a nice history together – that’s what victims in abusive relationships tell themselves to rationalize their not leaving.

    • I mostly agree with your comment but I don’t think it’s fair to compare being able to have a family relationship/friendship with a Republican to being in an abusive relationship. Voting for Romney over Obama when you have a gay friend/relative is not even remotely the same as physically hurting someone, making them fear for their safety or well-being, isolating them from people who care about them, etc. That’s rather insensitive to people who have lived through abuse.

      As I said above, I have a sister who is religiously conservative and has said/done some things I find appalling. But at the end of the day, when I don’t want to hear her moralizing I can just hang up the phone or leave the room. You can’t do that if you’re in an abusive relationship.

      • I knew that someone would tell me that I’m being insensitive to abuse survivors or something when comparing it to abusive relationships.

        The thing is, the reason I said that is because *I am* an abuse survivor, and Vanessa’s rationalization for her brother’s actions and her still loving him is the exact same I used to do to justify my partner’s actions and my staying, and the exact same I’ve heard over and over by other people who’ve been through that.
        “Well, yeah, sometimes he hurts me… But he doesn’t mean to! He just has a lot of stuff going on, and he doesn’t always realize what he’s doing, and most of the time he’s so so sweet! Besides we’ve been together for so long, I can’t imagine my life without him!”

        And no, it isn’t “not even remotely the same”. Discrimination and homophobic laws physically hurt LGBT people, make them fear for their safety and isolate them, too. Maybe not in such a direct and intimate way as in a relationship, but it still does. I mean, just read the crapton of articles talking about it here on AS. And when you live in such a country/society, you can’t just hang up the phone or leave the room either.

        • Okay. I’m sorry if I de-legitimized your experiences with my response; I’m also an abuse survivor (not in an intimate relationship but from family members) so in my opinion I feel like they’re quite different experiences. While obviously, voting Republican does a great deal of harm to the LGBT community, the fact that it’s not as direct (at least, for a relatively-privileged LGBT person like me) does make a difference for me.

          Of course, as I pointed out above, it still is quite difficult for me to be close to someone who is very anti-gay, because I feel like there’s a huge chunk of my life I can’t share with them. I happen to have distanced myself from the people in my family who are homophobic (though for other reasons, and before I realized I was bi).

  23. Vanessa, this will also be my first time voting in an election as I wasn’t of age in 2008, but I wish I could say it was because I was Canadian.

    Sorry I’m not good with writing serious comments about feelings and things, but thanks for writing this! It isn’t something that would come up in my family, because I’m an only child and my family is mostly politically apathetic.

  24. Thanks Vanessa, for writing thisnandsharing your story.. Made me think about what kind of priorities people have, politician or totherwise; about what priorities the US gov’t should have, or what we should have collectively as a nation. Democracy Is a blessing and a curse at same time, since it is a nice thing to have, but people who don’t stand for all Americans get voted into office (I’m just being nice here-I mean to say really really nasty people who happen to have priorities that aren’t meant for the benefit of all get power!). I tend to avoid politics since it just tends to be so messy, but this impending election and that … Mitt Romney might get voted into office and that just spells disaster for many of us. Screw these dirty politicians (and other entities) that use religion, the idea of righteousness and morality, and scare tactics to get votes!

    i usually don’t voice my political leanings to my immediate or extended family, and i only give my opinion about a particular issue when it comes up. luckily we aren’t too heady about which party we belong to. we are southeast asian and we primarily like politicians/parties who aren’t douchebags towards immigrants. for the record my dad doesn’t like obama, makes uncomfortable comments about gays, and oftentimes makes racist comments (esp. about immigrants who seem to be illegal…) that makes me embarassed to say that he is my father. my family might be all i have, and i definitely don’t want to create political or ideological rifts between family members by being too political. at the same time it kinda sucks, since, well, i’m not able to bring up issues that really matter to me to relatives because they’re firmly set in their beliefs (God has a lot to do with it). plus i’m a total defeatist….. sigh.

    • I obviously support democracy but it is worth noting that with the particular brand America has, we’re not supposed to be allowed to vote on civil rights issues like gay rights. That’s a perversion of the system that is quite contrary to what was spelled out by James Madison and friends (but mainly Madison) in the Federalist Papers (nos. 10 and 51 specifically), where they made it clear that allowing the majority to vote away the minority’s rights is just another type of tyranny that had no place in a truly free and just society. They were well aware of the history of democracy-as-mob-rule in ancient Greece, where the power of the mob was frequently used to stifle unpopular opinions (as in the killing of Socrates), and didn’t want that to happen in the U.S. So when people can use the power of their vote to make life harder for gay people, that isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

      (And you can go on about how they totally circumvented that idea with some of the racist shit they put in the Constitution like slaves being 3/5 of a person, etc., but I do think that it was a pretty awesome idea and wish more people realized it these days.)

      • this!!! i wish i didn’t fall asleep during my US history classes while i was in high school, seriously. (not that they covered it, i think.) definitely a valuable point to bring up in arguments for civil rights that are being denied to marginalized groups.

        (ps. i totally love that you know your shit. also, i’m easily impressed lol.)

        • They didn’t cover it mine, either. It’s more what I get for having a better history teacher as a mom and also being the sort of loser who reads the Federalist Papers in her own free time, or chooses non-required classes that have them as assigned readings.

  25. One of my best friends is very right wing/conservative with political ambitions (ie second Margaret Thatcher). This is the UK so that doesn’t mean she is anti-abortion or homophobic or anything but I still struggle to reconcile our friendship with her political beliefs. Because the things she believes in would result in stuff like cutting benefits which would directly affect the friends I have with, for instance, mental heath or addiction problems (quite a lot of whom are gay).
    At the moment it is fine, (I suppose this a bit like what you were saying) because she is an individual with 1 vote however if she were campaigning or trying to ‘gain power’ I think it would be much more difficult.

  26. I am so grateful for this article. I love the way you explore all the complicated facets of your specific situation and allow yourself to feel ambivalence. Families are complex, contradictory creatures, and if we are to grapple with them honestly, we need more than the tools that political ideology can provide.

    It also seems like you sort of used the process of writing to actually figure what you think and feel, which is super awesome and inspiring. As Joan Didion said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”

    I have somewhat of a similar situation in that my dad, while technically “Independent,” has been voting Republican for over a decade. He is pro-gay (not saying LGBT because he’s said some pretty shitty things about the “T” and the “B” on occasion) rights and pro-choice, but like your brother, he thinks that economic/foreign policy are more pressing matters, and that Barack Obama’s policies on those issues are seriously threatening our country and his (small) business. He also enjoys the Wall Street Journal (which is actually a good paper, minus the editorials!) We frequently wind up in pretty intense, sometimes hurtful political debates not on how gay/reproductive rights should trump all other issues, but on the economic and foreign policy issues themselves. I LOVE my dad, and he loves and cares about me so so much, and has worked unbelievably hard to provide for our family. I don’t really “like” him though, because unlike your awesome brother who likes Ani and Andrea, my dad is kind of an asshole. I also think it’s probably different with siblings, what with all that closeness from growing up together.

    In any case, thanks again for writing this and sharing it with us, and for all your thoughtful, empathetic responses to commenters! What’s a juicier combination than politics and family? Oh, and I think humor helps ease the tension, always.


    • Yeah, re: the Wall Street Journal – the editorials are ugh but I have no problem using it as a news source, even citing it, for anything else. Unlike something like the Washington Times or the National Review, where I’m not going to touch it with a ten-foot pole for any reason because it’s just a barrage of non-stop wingnuttery.

  27. A lot of my immediate family also vote conservative while loving and supporting me, to the point that they paid for my not-legal wedding. They understand that social conservatism hurts me, but prioritise economic policy because its a ‘bigger issue’ that effects more people.

    The only way I can possibly make sense of it is that they just don’t *get* it. They are well aware of the social policy of our conservative party, but only in an academic way. They disagree with it, but they don’t *feel* it the way I do and they probably never will. They see it as an inevitability that equality will happen at some point soon because its the right thing to do, I see it as something we have to actively fight for.

    My hope that is that should the conservatives win the next election here (and I think it’s practically a done deal) and we all start living with them, people will begin to realise that social policy is as important as economic.

  28. Single issue voting, for me, is the worst way to approach an election. For those who say marriage equality is the number one and only issue–that worries me. It’s the same as Republicans who say that (banning) abortion is their top and only priority. You can’t base an entire political belief on one singular issue and expect any good to come of it. It’s also incredibly difficult when we step back and realize that social and political stances don’t necessarily necessitate or negate one another. One can be a fiscal conservative and the most socially liberal person. That’s why groups like the Log Cabin Republicans exist. What this year’s election seems to come down to is which one, social or political/economic issues, is more important to you. That’s a tough decision when both impact lives in tremendous ways. I’m super liberal and have no hesitation in voting for Obama–and I cringe to think how the country will suffer if Romney wins–but I can only imagine all of those out there that are unemployed, losing homes, retirement funds, family in the military, etc that might not be as worried about the social implications of their vote. Then again, for me it’s hard to imagine that anyone could find anything beneficial from voting Republican, socially or economically, but I do have Libertarian and Independent friends who embody this argument perfectly. They’re not politically aligned to either major party candidate and are really struggling to reconcile their differences in beliefs with the options they have. Some will choose to vote for a third party candidate. Some will pick “the lesser of two evils” and have to prioritize which issues impact them most. Some won’t vote at all. For me, human rights should always be at the top of the scale–LGBT, minorities, immigrants, women, children, elderly, poor, and so on. Things that harm and threaten the well being of people, like gun control and clean water, should be right up there too. We’ve learned that there is no one-way-best-way economic policy (if there was, elections would be easy), but we do know that basic rights are fundamental. It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when women couldn’t vote and interracial marriages were illegal (not that long ago!). Those things you don’t go back to. You can always try a new economic policy (and there’s a guaranteed opportunity to do so at least one every four years), but you can’t play games with people’s rights and well being. There are fewer do-overs. So, I think, voting socially this year is probably the more responsible thing to do, but I understand (or at least try to) that everyone approaches it from a different perspective. I just hope that we can all get past the rhetoric that we’re feed and trained to regurgitate and really think about the many, many implications our votes have on the population at large.

    • While I do agree that single-issue voting is usually not a great idea, there is a HUGE difference between a gay person voting based on LGBT equality issues and an anti-abortion person voting based on abortion. Gay people are affected by gay rights issues; anti-choice people are not affected by whether abortion is legal or not, since they will be able to make their choice NOT to have one either way. I also disagree that you can be “the most socially liberal person” and also be economically conservative, since true support for the social justice principles behind feminism, gay rights, anti-racism, etc. usually means acknowledging the way that de facto privilege works to keep women, LGBT people and racial minorities down, and with acknowledging that shatters the illusion behind libertarianism that everyone has the same shot at success. Most libertarians I’ve met, while supporting equality in the eyes of the law, aren’t willing to do really do the work to make the culture as a whole more just.

      On the other hand, I’m glad you’re not implying (as it seems people who make the “single issue voter” argument generally do) that people who put social issues before economic issues are automatically single-issue voters who shouldn’t be taken seriously. Honestly, I don’t agree with the Republicans on economics anyway, but even so, the social issues generally affect my life more. It’s not because I’m deluded; in fact, it’s because I HAVE taken my “rationalized self-interest” into account like the Ron Paul supporters keep telling me to do.

  29. Oh my goodness I have so many things I’d like to say to so many comments (especially Rose, who is straight up owning this comment section and I love it, hi Rose, you are awesome and definitely not a loser, just a human with a really impressive store of knowledge!) but instead I have to go to work for 9+ hours. I’ll be back this evening to respond/engage/talk. I really appreciate all the well-thought out comments and personal anecdotes, this conversation that is happening right now is why I wrote this essay.

  30. My brother is conservative in many ways, too. He’s a total NRA puppet. I have no idea how he’s voting in this election, because I do not want to know. I love him, but he’s a total fucking idiot on this and I definitely don’t respect his opinions. I think a lot of it is that I believe he’s this way because he’s rebelling against our liberal Democratic parents and me and our sisters. He’s trying to make me angry. But he’s also 20 years old and a white male, and convinced he fucking knows everything. Most of me hopes he will grow out of it, so I haven’t and can’t cut him off, but I really try not to let him get to me, and don’t talk to him about these things because I honestly believe it does more harm than good.

  31. Thanks for this article; this subject is one I continually struggle with. It’s not as difficult in terms of my siblings – two are not really educated enough or thoughtful enough to make informed decisions regarding voting. The other sibling, although perhaps more similar ideologically to me, also is on a huge “tolerance” kick and identifies strongly as a liberal – which is perhaps better than identifying as conservative (particularly what conservatism has publicly come to embody in the USA), but is still frustrating to me as a social justice-oriented anti-statist person. My mother is very similar to her, and my father is one of those assholes who claims to be socially liberal (which I doubt) but fiscally conservative – and for him, it really is more important that he pay less taxes than ensuring that the rights of female-bodied people, queer people, people of color, etc. aren’t eroded, because he’s an upper-middle class cisgendered white male. I still love him; he’s my father, he raised me, and much of the person I am has been shaped by him – but I recognize that he’s a shitty person for doing so, and I have no problem with other people calling him out (or calling him out myself). Beyond the circle of my immediate family (in which I include my grandparents, who I also love but recognize and call out as racist, heterosexist, cissexist, classist, ableist assholes as well), I do not make an effort to maintain a relationship with family members who are anti-equality and anti-equity. My extended family is relatively close; we have a reunion once a year for a week and see each other often, but these are events I have started to avoid because so many of them are white cisgendered straight middle-class able-bodied people who prioritize their tax bracket over the human rights and necessities of other human beings. The only person I have ever unfriended and blocked on Facebook is one of my cousins, who posted blatantly racist statements. I see him at Thanksgiving; I don’t speak to him or acknowledge his presence. This is a difficult subject, and the way I feel about it is somewhat different – it’s not personally hurtful to me along the lines of being a queer individual when family members vote Republican – it makes me angry because of the other people they are happily/thoughtlessly disenfranchising. I can totally understand being appalled by Barack Obama’s foreign policy (and possibly economic policy) but I absolutely agree that if the person thinks the alternative is voting for Mitt Romney, s/he/ze is…possibly a jerk. I wouldn’t expect you to reject your brother any more than I’ve rejected my father or my siblings – you can still love someone (particularly given the importance of shared history) while acknowledging that their priorities are fucked up. And while it hurts, severing the ties between yourself and that person isn’t the answer either.

  32. Just think… we have to do this again in 4 years! Don’t estrange your relationship with your brother – it’s not worth it.

    Politics is politics… yes it will impact the way you live in the USA but it will not be the be-all-end-all. It sounds like you have a great relationship with your brother and you need to hold onto that.

    I think when it boils down to it, what would you rather have? The *POTENTIAL* for freedom to marry in the next 4 years (along with other great things Obama may do) or a loving brother who will be there for you for the rest of his life?

    My sister has been saying she doesn’t like either so she isn’t going to vote, and yes it kind of hurts a little to know she doesn’t care about MY civil liberties, but in reality this is America and it’s every man for himself right? *eye roll*


  33. Many of my relatives voted for the Nazis for (surprise) ECONOMIC AND FOREIGN POLICY REASONS. And they were shocked when Jews started getting majorly harassed, even though Hitler’s thoughts on this were no secret. Ugh.

    My father used to vote for an anti-queer party. FOR ECONOMIC REASONS OF COURSE. I said he was hurting me when he did that, as much as any bully at school ever did. He doesn’t vote for them now, because he has empathy. Hopefully the author’s brother picks some up as he grows older.

    • Godwin’s law strikes again!

      Seriously, though, who would support the Nazis even just for economic and foreign policy reasons? Especially foreign policy – Hitler’s “foreign policy” basically boiled down to “let’s invade everyone, and when we’re on the verge winning a war, let’s throw that away by invading the USSR in winter, even though Napoleon was a way better commander than I was and he still epically failed at that.” And granted, people didn’t know the exact details of that in 1933 but it wasn’t like the Nazis weren’t clear that they wanted to conquer all of Europe and make it German even then.

      • People who don’t really believe they will actually do as they say, because it seems too extreme to them. They think it’s just political grandstanding and scrounging for votes, and then are shocked when they follow through. I watched something recently (can’t remember what, but prob Maddow) where there was a segment explaining that many people planning to vote for Mittens really do not believe that he will do all the things he says he will.

        Maybe they’re people who are both 1) not directly affected by the policies themselves, and therefore don’t actively fear the reality of it and 2) too nice to understand how crappy some people can be?

  34. I think being too caught up in single issues is a bad idea. I mean, I don’t think any AS readers would vote for a candidate who promised full marriage rights, full anti-discrimination laws, etc., but was also promising to nuke the entire middle east. But what other policies are you willing to tolerate in the name of LGBT rights?

    I know that having a conservative family member vote for an anti-gay can hurt, but if they’re otherwise supportive, they’re not doing it to hurt you. They may well believe (accurately or not) that casting their vote for the candidate of their choice will produce more beneficial results overall for your life than just going for the candidate who gives the most support to LGBT rights. Like, maybe you’ll be more likely to get a good job or something.

    And what about other direct, personal issues? So far Obama’s been actively, personally screwing over people who legitimately need medical marijuana.

    Anyhow, Gary Johnson 2012, represent. (Yup, I’m one of those hated libertarians.)

    PS: This was a really great and thought-provoking piece.

  35. I know quite a few couples where the husband is a Republican and the wife is a Democrat. They seem to be able to make their marriages work. However, none of them are willing to step on peoples civil rights. What really concerns me is that Republican party is that it keeps moving towards fascism.

    The Germans in the mid 1940’s also chose economics and foreign policy over human rights. Can we please learn from history that it is not ok to step over human rights…that they are more important than some people think.

    P.S.: Wall Street Journal is not a legitimate news source since News Corp bought it. It is just being used to mislead people.

    • As someone who is a huge German history buff and has done a lot of research on how the Nazis took power, can we please stop with the Godwin comments? For starters, get your dates right; by the 1940s, Nazi Germany was a dictatorship, the people had little say in their government. It was in the early 1930s that they voted the Nazis in. Second of all, the reason the Nazis won the election of 1932 and were subsequently able to take over the government and transform were a lot more complicated than “the German people voted based on economics and foreign policy,” especially if we’re comparing them to modern-day Republicans’ “economic and foreign policy” reasons for voting for Mitt Romney. A lot of the Nazis’ success also had a lot more to do with the ideological split on the left (between the more radical Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) and the more moderate – by world standards, not American standards – Social Democratic Party (SDP)), dividing their vote and therefore allowing the Nazis disproportionate power. If anything, that is more of a lesson for liberals for why you can’t vote third-party in a winner-take-all system and think it does anything other than throw away you vote. (Modern-day Germany doesn’t have a winner-take-all system IIRC which is why they can have multiple viable parties without an extremist minority taking over.)

      • Okay, crap, I messed up the idea of how their voting system worked. It wasn’t really winner-take-all (though the lessons one could take from it could be related), it was that the parliament was divided up by how much support each party had, but regardless, the Nazis were able to take power largely because the left was split between the KPD and SDP while more of the right-wing parties were willing to work with Hitler, despite the Nazis simply being the smallest minority. And it was this support that helped Hitler to be appointed Chancellor. I also probably meant to link to this election or this one.

        Whatever. Regardless, the notion that this was a case of “people voted based on economic and foreign policy” is overly simplistic and just plain wrong, as kd15 said below. The reasons Nazis took power was really more a combination of nationalism, anger over reparations and fear of communism. Also, the Reichstag fire.

        • This is what happens when you try to explain the hot mess that is German political history after you’ve been cleaning all day and drinking a lot of wine.

    • You do realize that by the mid 1940s they were at the end of WWII which ended in 1945. And that’s a really simplistic (and just generally wrong) description of how the Nazis gained power.

  36. This was an amazing read for me. And a personal one as well.
    My sister is a Republican. She doesn’t support gay marriage. She goes so far as to make the little quotation sign with her fingers when she says the words “gay marriage”. It has taken a great deal of restraint not to bludgeon her with with a kitchen chair when she’s done that.
    My father is a Republican. He was career military. He has never been what you could call “socially liberal”. Despite all of this, my father has stated that he wants to “dance at my wedding” and will for the first time in his life cast a vote for “the other guy” because of this. So what do I do? Honestly, there really isn’t a right or wrong for me. When I feel disrespected, I call them on it. When my sister is being a fucktard, I tell her so. Sometimes my Dad says or does stupid things too. But they are my family. For now, that’s enough. It may not always be. But that is my decision to come to. And I wouldn’t allow anyone to think they could tell me otherwise.
    Well done Vanessa. Seriously well done.

  37. Much like a lot of people commenting, this story also hits home with me. I have an older brother who is a die hard Republican and who is against gay marriage. His “political views” on Facebook says “I’m not a member of any political party. I’m a social and fiscal conservative. I believe that the word “Marriage” is defined as a union between a man and a woman. I do believe we should have civil unions so that gay couples can have the same government benefits of marriage.”

    He has a gay sister and his Facebook publicly says the above. WTH? He is also against gay people adopting saying that children need both a father and a mother in order to be a family. Yesterday he even joined that absurd Facebook event that supports Chick-Fil-A. He claims he loves me and that he doesn’t have a problem with me being gay but then he has all these beliefs that hurt me and he doesn’t even care that they hurt me. He refuses to listen to logic and reasoning and chooses to keep his hateful, bigoted beliefs.

    My mom, aunt, and uncle all have the same types of beliefs as my brother does. It’s incredibly frustrating and it makes me harbor a lot of resentment towards them. I don’t even want to be around them because of it but I have to because our family is close. I love them yet hate them at the same time. Those are terrible feelings to have towards those that are closest to you. I cannot even fathom having the same types of beliefs against my own family members so I do not understand how they can have these beliefs while claiming they love and support me.

    I don’t really have a point, except to say thank you for writing this. I know a lot of other people have to deal with this issue, so I am not alone! It’s just incredibly frustrating.

  38. I’ll echo so many who have commented already and say, thanks for this. My immediate family is socially liberal in ideology, but fiscally conservative, and vote more often along the latter lines than the former. (Much of my extended family is conservative, but they can sod off; I’m not close enough to them for this to be an issue.)

    I’m very close, in particular, to my mother and my little brother. Some of my most painful moments dealing with my mom in the last handful of years have been when she brushes off the human rights positions of candidates as being a very important factor in voting. It’s ridiculously frustrating when she agrees with me on a social issue (reproductive rights, LGBT rights) but doesn’t think putting a Republican in office is actually going to hurt those causes.

    The way I react to it is to try harder to expose her to the evidence that it does matter. That… keeps providing chances for it to hurt, but the fact that I don’t see it as a lost cause helps me set aside how angry it makes me.

    I’ve found out in the last year or so that some of my friends (who were less outspoken about politics when we were younger) support Republicans, and they can pretty much all go fuck themselves. My mother gets more consideration for the fact that she actually thinks about and to a certain extent cares about the issues that are most important to me. These former friends don’t even have the issues on their radars (incidentally, all straight, white cis-men, no surprises there…), and given how much backslide we’ve been seeing lately, that’s pretty much unforgivable.

  39. If my dad was american and voted, he’d be a republican, which upsets me greatly. But knowing that all my extended family either don’t vote or are extremely everybody’s-right’s-plus makes me pretty happy.

  40. guys i STILL want to respond to so many of you — my day job is really kicking my ass right now and this evening i’ve been consumed with excitement and awe over the autostraddle indiegogo campaign — but i AM coming back to continue these conversations…my biggest fear is that people will think i didn’t care about what they had to contribute. i care about what you are all contributing. i can’t wait to keep talking with you. i hope you’re all having an amazing week <3 <3 <3

  41. I was suggested this web site through my cousin. I am now not positive whether or not this post is written by way of him as no one else realize such certain about my problem. You are amazing! Thank you!

  42. vanessa, vanessa, vanessa. thank you for putting words to so many things that have been swirling around in my head (/heart).

  43. I understand the pain that comes with having family members vote for politicians who are definitively interested in policies that will cause real, actual pain and problems for LGBT people and other sexual minorities. However, I think it is EXTREMELY hypocritical that some people are saying they would refuse to accept family members who voted Republican, or refuse to speak with and have any association with, etc. Not only does that do nothing to bring awareness to critical issues LGBT people face from socially conservative politicians (which sticking around and talking things through might do), it also smacks of intolerance and bigotry. Completely rejecting any relationships with those who are voting in a way you don’t like is the same as people rejecting family members because those family members are gay (it’s important to remember that in such cases, those family members do strongly believe that homosexuality is a ‘sin’, and while that means nothing to me personally and not much to some, it is a real threat to some people).

    Now, I have disowned a family member. We didn’t speak at all for several years, and now we’ve only spoken three times in the past year. My reasons for that were not political, but personal–this person was incredibly hateful (not about me being gay, but about other things) and there was nothing in our relationship worth salvaging. I have never believed that blood is thicker than water, and if someone is really hurting you personally or has no chance of ever viewing you as another human and treating you with dignity and respect, by all means cut them off if you want. There is no hypocrisy in that.
    But cutting someone off simply because of who they vote for? I think that’s just about as narrowminded and bigoted as it gets.

  44. My father is conservative, and I’ve been upset since I was little about a lot of his views. I’ve stormed out of the room in tears over global warming and gun control too many times to count. I don’t think my dad is at all against equal rights for LGBTQ Americans, but he still voted for Bush and voted for Romney. Recently I’ve learned how to talk with him about politics without arguing so much–I just have to respect him. He has lived a life different from my own and all anyone can do is view the world through the lens they’ve been given and try to do the right thing.
    My father grew up in extreme poverty, worked hundreds of jobs in his lifetime, and then ended up being able succeeding–all without a full college education.
    I always thought that because he was underprivileged growing up that he’d be all for things like universal healthcare. In reality, the biggest reason he votes conservatively is because he doesn’t want to feel that the government is taking from him what he has worked so hard to earn. I think he feels that it is unfair that he had to work so hard for so little for much of his life, and that if what he’s earned goes to the poor of today, that they’re getting a free ride that he didn’t–with his money, no less.
    I still do not agree with him, but I know that his past makes him terrified that his kids won’t succeed or be able to afford college. His voting record is his attempt to do the best he can for our family, and all I can do is love him for that. We can disagree with the means, but we each only want what we think is best in the end.

  45. I have a cousin who is Republican, and she’s definitely a stereotype. Sickly sweet to everyone who’s her cookie cutter clone, but if you’re not Christian and don’t want to be, if you’re not a capitalist, if you’re a sex worker, if you’ve had an abortion or want one, if you’re not white, straight, cis, able-bodied, thin, and neurotypical…well, she’ll love the sinner and hate the sin. Condescendingly, painfully, and while playing the victim every time you dare to raise your voice or call her out on her shit.

    She was my best friend for fourteen years of my childhood. Then I realized I didn’t deserve emotional abuse that probably verged on conversion therapy, and that was the end of that. She knows that if she does or says anything racist, classist, ableist, homophobic, misogynistic, or transphobic in my presence, I’ll expose her like the piece of shit she is. And if she EVER tries to fuck with me again, she’ll be faced with a lawsuit. Which should have an interesting impact on her politician father, if it goes public…

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