LGB Republicans Have More Internalized Homophobia than LGB Democrats

The Williams Institute studied the relationship between sexual minorities and political identity.

When the Log Cabin Republicans, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of conservative LGBTQ Republicans and their allies, endorsed outgoing President Trump for re-election, chairman Robert Kabel released a statement in which he said, in part,

“Log Cabin Republicans is proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for reelection as President. He has delivered on his commitment to govern from a place of inclusion, and he has addressed significant policy areas important to our community. His policy agenda has benefited not just LGBTQ individuals but all Americans, and for that, he deserves four more years of leadership in the Oval Office.”

Kabel’s endorsement and the support of the 50 chapters of LCR seems more understandable in light of the new study released by The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law which indicates LGB Republicans suffer from internalized homophobia and disconnection from the LGB community compared to their Democratic peers. The report also found that LGB Democrats were twice as likely as LGB Republicans to say that it is important to be politically active in the LGBT community.

The report examines the relationship between sexual minorities and political identities using five indicators that describe the relationship LGB people have with their identity and their connection with the LGBT community.

The Williams Institute report said that nearly 9 million LGBT adults were registered and eligible to vote in the 2020 general election and half of registered LGBT voters (50%) are Democrats, 15% are Republicans, 22% are Independents and 13% identify with another party or did not know with which party they most identified.

The report assessed differences and similarities between sexual minority people who identified themselves as Republicans or Democrats. The U.S. Transgender Survey finds only 2% of transgender people, not included in this report, are Republicans.

The Log Cabin Republicans statement helps contextualize the Institute’s study. For most LGBTQ Americans, the LCR announcement was counterfactual to their lived experience throughout the Trump presidency. The Trump administration has only one out gay man within its ranks, Richard Grenell, who was Trump’s U.S. Ambassador to Germany and then acting Director of Naional Intelligence. Grenell now serves as the Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations.

When Grenell spoke to the Republican National Convention in September, his identity as a gay man was not mentioned.

The Trump administration has marginalized, demonized and directly harmed LGBTQ people with the president’s policies, which have included restrictions on healthcare for gay and trans people, elevating of religious freedom laws that are exclusionary of LGBTQ people, and the nomination and confirmation of over 200 federal judges with anti-LGBTQ animus in their histories, most recently, U.S. Supreme Cout Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law is a think tank dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law. The Institute’s new research ascertained that lesbian, gay, and bisexual Republicans have higher levels of internalized homophobia than LGB Democrats and feel less connected to the LGB community.

In the introduction to the study, the Williams Institute noted, “Researchers and LGBT community members have seen an inherent incompatibility between LGBT identity and Republican affiliation,” but added, “Nonetheless, LGBT people, like other minority groups, hold diverse beliefs and political affiliations.”

The new study used data culled from the Generations study, which was conducted by the institute and several other universities. Generations examined identity, stress and health factors among three generations of LGB people, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z.

The Generations study is a representative sample of cisgender LGB people in the U.S. The study found some similarities between LGB people of the two main political affiliations. LGB Republicans and Democrats are similar in main areas such as disclosure of sexual identity. Most people across party affiliations disclosed that they were LGB to family members, straight friends, coworkers, and health care providers.

A majority of people of both party affiliations said that they believed that people thought less of an LGB person and that most people would not want to hire an openly LGB person to take care of their children. LGB people of both political parties also detailed similar levels of rejection and discrimination for their sexual identities in their communities.

“There is a common belief that LGBT identity and Republican affiliation are incompatible,” said lead study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “Although they represent a small minority, some LGB people are affiliated as Republicans. However, it is striking to find how much they differ from sexual minority Democrats in terms of their connections with LGBT communities.”

Where the LGB Democrats and Republicans differed most dramatically was in their feelings of connectedness to community and in their internalized homophobia.

To measure internalized homophobia, the Institute considered several data points, among them the yearning to be heterosexual and the overarching feeling that being LGB is a personal flaw. A full 41 percent of Republicans said they would want to be completely heterosexual, compared to just 17 percent of Democrats. And 38 percent of Republicans said they thought being LGB was a personal shortcoming, while only 16 percent of Democrats did.

Nevertheless, the study notes that “similar proportions — more than a third — of LGB people of both party affiliations said they had tried to stop being attracted to same-sex partners at some point in their life.”

Most striking was how disconnected LGB Republicans felt to the LGBT community compared with Democrats. Seventy-two percent of Democrats said they feel part of the community, while only 46 percent of Republicans feel part of the community. And 85 percent of Dems agreed that participating in the community is positive and affirming, compared to 60 percent of Republicans.

Nearly all Democrats, 95 percent, felt pride in the LGBT population and in being LGBT, compared to 72 percent of Republicans. Seventy-two percent of Democrats found it important to be politically active in the community, while just 36 percent of Republicans did. This is reflected in the historic number of LGBT people who ran for office in 2020: more than 500, as PGN reported. Nearly all were Democrats. A record number of those candidates were elected Nov. 3.

The study also found that Democrats were likelier than Republicans to consider their sexual orientation an important part of their identity. “Being LGB is a very important part of me,” said 85 percent of Democrats, compared with 68 percent of Republicans.Read the full report here.

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.