Patrick Saunders: Gay Republicans and grudging respect

It was May 10, the morning after we went to production on our last issue. I was a little groggy-eyed from spending the previous two days with the staff putting the issue together and getting it off to the printer when my phone kept pinging with notifications. People were leaving Facebook comments left and right on one of the stories we posted.

That story? “Georgia gay Republicans sticking by Trump 100 days in.”

It was a follow-up to a story we did last June giving insight into the minds of LGBT Republicans in Georgia who supported then-Presidential candidate Trump. The two supporters we found, who not only agreed to speak on the record but were eager to, were retired meteorologist Arch Kennedy and University of West Georgia student Avery Anderson. With the follow-up, we wondered, after all that happened in that first 100 days, did they still support Trump?

The short answer was yes. Hell yes.

The story came out in our April 28 issue, and we posted it online on April 26, but we stagger the scheduling of all of our print-to-web stories on social media so they go out into the world over the next two weeks of the print edition’s run.

The gay Republicans story happened to post to social media the morning after Trump controversially fired FBI Director James Comey, so Georgia Voice readers were extra fired up that day. And they let Kennedy and Anderson have it. Hard.

You can visit the thread to get a taste of the reaction. Supporters of the two must have gotten wind of the story and the comments a week later because we then got hit with some people being angry at the people being angry about Kennedy and Anderson’s views and comments. And so on and so forth.

The uproar reminded me why I’ve always had a curious fascination with, and grudging respect for, gay Republicans, or at least the ones who will speak up about their views. And I don’t mean the Milo Yiannopouloses of the world – the ones who are clearly just trolling people to get attention and build their brand. I mean the ones who will tell other LGBT people how they feel politically and why, knowing that they’re going to get absolutely ripped apart by most in response.

While I admit to that grudging respect, what I don’t respect is ignorance. Ignorance is dangerous. And that’s what Kennedy displayed in his comments about supporting the Trump administration withdrawing President Obama’s guidance on keeping trans kids safe in public schools.

“If you have man parts, you use the men’s room and locker. If you have female sexual parts, you use the women’s locker room,” he said.

To do otherwise is unfair to the kids, he said. Yes, the old line about trans people being sexual predators. Which, curiously, had always been the line homophobes used against gay men.

A couple people asked why Kennedy and Anderson were given the spotlight in the first place. The reaction to the story itself answers that. There are many of us that are clearly miles apart in our views, and that deserves to be examined and discussed.

The vitriol was not unexpected, and tapping into that kind of anger and frustration can and often does lead to positive change when managed with intent. But there are also answers to be found when the screaming subsides.