Discussions of political ideology and sexual orientation often go hand-in-hand, but it is rarely the case that conservatives steal ideas from the gay rights movement to promote their own cause. Last Wednesday, however, campus conservatives staged Conservative Coming Out Day in the Diag as part of a nationwide college plan to give voice to the often-unheard conservative minority on many college campuses. But instead of providing an outlet for conservatives, the event only succeeded in mocking National Coming Out Day, a day held each October to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Political activism on campus is important, regardless of ideology, but the lack of respect shown by conservatives was tasteless and counterproductive.
Wednesday’s activities, sponsored by a division of the Leadership Institute, attempted to paint conservatives as victims, marginalized by the oppressive liberal majority on college campuses. Criminology professor Mike Adams at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington wrote a letter on the institute’s website addressing “closet” conservatives saying, “Maybe you began to realize that you weren’t the same as all the other little boys and girls.” He mentioned students need not feel threatened or discriminated by campus “conserve-o-phobes.” Events mirrored those held on National Coming Out Day, such as photographing students that held posters stating, “I came out on National Conservative Coming Out Day” and distributing triangle-emblazoned “Conservative Pride” pins.
Conservatives are correct that their presence is often out-voiced or ignored on college campuses. But, there is a crucial distinction between the implications of being publicly conservative and being open about one’s sexuality. “Coming out” as conservative does not set oneself up for a lifetime of struggle against misperceptions, discrimination and hatred that many LGBT individuals encounter. Drawing this parallel makes light of the difficulties millions of Americans face each year in expressing their own sexuality and gender identity.
Conservatives must understand that it is neither humorous nor acceptable to promote awareness of conservative issues by making fun of legitimately marginalized groups. Campus conservatives should have explored more constructive ways to gain publicity and provide an outlet for their viewpoint that are not degrading to others. What adds insult to injury is that conservatives lead most legislative initiatives that keep members of the LGBT community as second-class citizens. Although underrepresented on many campuses, conservatives are hardly the victimized minority they claim to be.
Although Conservative Coming Out Day supposedly attempted to promote political awareness of conservative issues campus, participants only succeeded in further polarizing political discourse and insulting members of the LGBT community. Political diversity is essential to the campus atmosphere, and providing a comfortable environment and equal opportunity for everyone to express their opinions on campus is necessary at the University. Conservatives, however, abused this opportunity on Wednesday. Conservatives expressed themselves in a way that was offensive and insensitive. They should ensure that Conservative Coming Out Day does not make a repeat appearance at the University.