An interview with lesbian feminist Republican Sarah Longwell

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Like the unicorn and the mermaid, the lesbian Republican has long been believed to be a creature of myth. However, in a universe of possibilities, it is inevitable that politically conservative LGBT women do exist. The difficulty lies in finding them.

“Republican lesbians are more like four-leaf clovers,” jokes Sarah Longwell, the Vice-Chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, America’s largest organization representing LGBT conservatives and their allies. “They exist,” she says, “but there aren’t many, and you’re lucky when you find one.”

Roughly 10% of the members of Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) are women, according to the organization’s president, Gregory T. Angelo. Sarah Longwell is one of them. She is, in many ways, how you would picture a conservative woman—she’s bright, educated, gainfully employed, a wife and soon-to-be mom. What makes her stand out is that she also identifies as a lesbian.

Here, Longwell answers questions about Republican policy with regard to LGBT issues, and explains the reason why she is a gay conservative.

Sarah Longwell Headshot (2)photo provided by Sarah Longwell

AfterEllen.com: You’re a lesbian and a Republican? What? How is such a thing possible?

Sarah Longwell: I knew I was a conservative long before I knew I was gay. Individual liberty, self-reliance and minimal intrusion from the government into our lives made sense to me from a young age. When I realized I was gay in my early/mid-20s, I didn’t see a reason to abandon my political beliefs. I hadn’t yet realized the world would think that a gay Republican was such a bizarre concept. To me, being gay and a Republican were two completely compatible parts of my identity.

 

AE: There are people in your party who really, really hate gays. There are gay people who believe it’s morally wrong to associate yourself with a party that associates itself with them. What’s your take?

SL: Anyone who believes either of those things is wrong.

Look, I totally get why LGBT people are frustrated by the notion that someone would belong to a party that actively works to discriminate against them. But many of us who choose to stay in the party do so because we believe it’s the best way to push the party toward change. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. They have a lot harder time discriminating against you when they know you’re in the room. So it’s important to be visible, vocal and in the room. That will get all of us further than being mad and throwing stones from the outside.

Also—and this is important—Republicans who oppose gay rights are actually acting contrary to conservative ideals, which pivot around individuals being able to maximize freedom and forming strong family units so that people can take care of themselves, as opposed to the government having to do it. Real conservatives should WANT gay people to get married. A Federal Amendment banning gay marriage isn’t the least bit conservative. That’s why there’s currently a battle going on for the soul of the Republican Party. Will it return to its core values of individual liberty and personal responsibility, and work to add more people to its ranks? Or will it continue this slow suicide by focusing on social issues and repelling young, minority and female voters? You can’t win elections with a subtraction strategy.

 

AE: Is it possible to be a feminist and a Republican?

SL: Of course. I think the term feminist has become unnecessarily loaded down with political baggage. Assuming that feminism is simply the desire for men and women to be treated equally, then I think you’d find that many, if not most, Republican women (and men) could call themselves feminists. I certainly would. Unfortunately, the word feminist now comes with so many preconceived notions about your stance on things like abortion rights or wage issues, etc., that Republicans have a hard time identifying with it.

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