According to The Federalist, “The Stigma Against My Conservative Politics Is Worse Than The Stigma Of Being Gay.” To see if this was true, I wondered: what would happen if I took one of their op-eds in favor of gay conversion therapy and swiftly rewrote a portion of it to match the (allegedly) more modern set of stigmas surrounding conservatism?
The answer was frankly unreadable, though I personally blame the source material. Go ahead, read The Federalist’s “If We Don’t Ban Fortune Tellers, We Shouldn’t Ban ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’.” I did so, and I also proceeded to convert it as mentioned above by merely changing the subject — from gay conversion to conservative conversion — including the part in which the author defined past gay therapy practices as “aversion treatments that applied negative stimulation such as vomiting to force the mind to reject certain images or ideas.” I replaced instances of “gay” with “conservative,” uses of the word “pastors” with “political leaders,” and so on.
This is the result:
My Experience with ‘Conversion Therapy’ Seems Typical
In my mid-teens, I attempted “reeducative therapy,” as it was called at the time. I worked with a therapist to deal with intense depression and shame over my risky political behaviors. The therapist viewed conservatism as a protective adaptation to grievance and a confusion of resentment and so on and attempted to guide me towards moving my political fixation to normal teenage pursuits and addressing my ideology later as an adult.
She did not believe I was conservative, and we spent a great deal of time discussing all the possible reasons for both my ideology and my responses to it. Shortly afterward, I began working with a local precinct captain who agreed to have weekly meetings with me to discuss my “political struggle.” The sessions essentially focused on canvassing and emotional and intellectual discipline from a Democratic perspective.
While I wouldn’t call the practice abusive, it certainly wasn’t beneficial, as it largely resulted in me keeping feelings and behaviors more secretive. I also acted out in more risky ways. I felt a great deal of shame for failing at my political goals and essentially spent several months more obsessed over my ideological experience.
I wouldn’t recommend the experience, but I certainly wouldn’t characterize it in the extreme language conservative advocates often use. For example, a well-known neoconservative named Jeb Bush detailed his experience in an article for the Weekly Standard. He describes his DSA chapter reeducating him and interrogating him about his feelings, thoughts, and fears shortly after he accidentally came out to his family. He then pursued weekly organizational meetings with his union organizer.
It’s an absurd excerpt of text for several reasons. I’ll limit myself to two.
First, of course, nobody is running conservative conversion therapy centers or anything else of the sort, and no, public schools don’t count — even though some states include garbage like creationism, Lost Cause historicism and abstinence-only sex education in their curriculum. Reeducation camps and struggle sessions absolutely happened. They just didn’t and don’t happen in the U.S., no matter how many times conservatives claim that Democrats are ideologically and philosophically identical to the Khmer Rouge.
Second, it’s more than a little rich to claim that you’re being stigmatized when, even after the most recent election, conservatives control two of the three branches of the federal government, as well as half of the third, and continue to exert considerable control over several state governments and their laws. It’s true that some of the more obnoxious grifters in the conservative movement, such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones, are losing access to their platforms, but, honestly, good riddance to bad rubbish. Everybody has freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean any of us are obligated to listen to, much less host, the rantings of angry, attention-seeking rectal chutes hawking vitamin supplements.
On the other hand, “gay conversion therapy centers” do still exist, and they are something certain Republicans in Nevada continued to support as recently as last year. As recently as this month, conservative voices in Nevada claimed the road to Republican victory could be found by embracing social conservatism and running a platform to reintroduce old social stigmas to Nevada.
The stigma against conservatism isn’t a stigma at all. People in the modern age just aren’t letting conservatives dictate every minute detail of our lives — from how we have sex to how we raise our children to who we marry to what books we read — quite as much as they used to. When you’ve been the center of power for so long, it might feel like a violation of your civil rights when people listen to someone else for a change, but that doesn’t actually make it one.
When people start treating conservatives the way conservatives treat everyone else, then we’ll talk.
When having conservative, missionary-style sex between consenting adults turns both participants into lifelong sex offenders, even after such laws are deemed unconstitutional, then we’ll talk. When it becomes illegal for conservatives to have custody over their children or adopt other children, when it becomes illegal for conservatives to be foster parents, when the FBI declares that it can’t be illegal to discriminate against conservatives because conservatives are a class “defined” by conduct which could be made a crime, then we’ll talk. When someone refuses to issue marriage certificates to conservatives and becomes a folk hero as a result, then we’ll talk.
And it’s not just gay people conservatives have a problem with. Oh no.
When the 7-year-old child of conservative parents dies of dehydration while under government care and a former liberal lawmaker says, “Don’t make this journey. It will kill you,” then we’ll talk. When conservatives lose the right to travel to their dying toddler’s bedsides, then we’ll talk. When national political pundits with direct access to the President suggest conservatives “make the U.S. dirtier,” then we’ll talk. When conservatives are no longer allowed to serve in the military, then we’ll talk. When conservatives are tossed into an outdoor jail near Phoenix, forced to wear pink underwear and buy water from a vending machine, then we’ll talk. When the person responsible for tossing conservatives into said outdoor jail becomes a keynote speaker at a fundraiser for one of Nevada political parties, then we’ll talk.
And then there are the many special rights conservatives still enjoy.
When state governments, including Nevada, can demand that contractors will not boycott Venezuela or Cuba, then we’ll talk. When businesses are allowed to deny health care to conservatives, then we’ll talk. When pharmacists are allowed to refuse to fill prescriptions for conservatives because of sincerely held moral objections, even if their employers would otherwise require their employees to fill those prescriptions, then we’ll talk.
Conservatives love right-to-work laws, right? And the rights of private business owners to hire and fire who they wish, when they wish, for the reasons they wish? So tell me: why can’t an employer fire a conservative, Bible-quoting employee who refuses to do his or her job? I mean, if your personal beliefs don’t allow you to do your job, then why should you have the right to get paid to do that job? (This wouldn’t be a difficult legal concept for conservatives to get behind if someone couldn’t do their job because they were, say, Muslim.) And yet, you won’t find too many conservative ganders willing to embrace what they think is right for the goose.
The instant some conservative decides their particularly idiosyncratic interpretation of Christian dogma prevents them from doing the work assigned to them, whether that’s issuing marriage licenses, filling birth control prescriptions, or aborting stillborn fetuses, conservatives suddenly demand the inalienable right to dictate the relationships between businesses and their employees like a bunch of fire-breathing syndicalists.
Until conservatives are treated as they treat others, they aren’t being oppressed. They’re being disagreed with — and disagreement is not oppression.
It bears repeating: It’s time for conservatives to grow up.
David Colborne has been active in the Libertarian Party for two decades. During that time, he has blogged intermittently on his personal blog, as well as the Libertarian Party of Nevada blog, and ran for office twice as a Libertarian candidate. He serves on the Executive Committee for both his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is the father of two sons and an IT professional. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.