There’s no shortage of lesbians on this campus. Because of this, I thought I’d be able to gaily live my queer life the moment I set up a Tinder. However, after a year here, I’m still fielding questions like I’m in a perpetual game of ping-pong.
It is difficult for others to reconcile my sexual identity and my conservative political leanings. My peers tell me it requires a remarkable amount of mental acrobatics for them to comprehend how I could come to this understanding of myself and of the world I live in. They say it is illogical, self-destructive, and masochistic. They do not understand how a person like me could exist in a state of such violent contradiction in this clear-cut, dog-eat-dog, oppressor-eat-oppressed world. I must be missing something fundamental when I look in the mirror in the morning. Clearly, I must be set straight.
To those peers who understand the world with a closed-door policy towards nuance and complexity, I usually reply in a way they may be able to swallow: “Think of all the lesbians you know. How would you define their outlook? You might say they are cynical, disillusioned, dissatisfied, and unhappy about the current political climate. You could, at the very least, say they are tired. Does this not remind you of the general disposition of the American conservative since the Reagan administration?”
Believe it or not, my identity as a conservative lesbian is, in actuality, more complex than an angry soul trying to find a turbulent mosh pit. In fact, it’s quite a subdued part of my identity, as I am by no means extreme in my views. Yet many of my liberal friends like to remind me that it is really just a phase. “You’re young,” a fervent Bernie supporter and dispensary-frequenting Oregonian reprimands. “You’re acting out because you don’t know who you are. I can’t keep talking to you if you keep posting those Ben Shapiro clips unironically. It’s bad for my image.”
My conservatism is also tracking mud through this promised land of lesbian dating. How you vote, which political commentators you happen to enjoy, and how many Ayn Rand novels you’ve read are seen as a primary indicator of your character, your emotional capacity, and other qualities that are under more scrutiny in a romantic partner than in acquaintances. After many swift departures and unimpressed looks from my dates, it is clear to me that marriage really isn’t in the cards for me, since it seems that a part of our vows will inevitably involve an absentee ballot and I’d only get the ring if I write in whatever iteration of socialist freedom fighter is in vogue that year, à la Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez. What an obtuse requirement for nuptial bliss!
Many of these conversations have made it clear to me that my peers’ beliefs prevent the development of shades of gray in their views, and encourage them to think in binaries. An unshakeable belief that they are perennially fighting “the good fight” against a monolithic structure of authority causes them to deface the bathroom of Hungarian Pastry Shop and stand me up on dates. The revolution has clearly begun. Obviously, human connection and questioning one’s views can wait—now, let’s tax the rich.
I may not be the shining example of an exception to this rule; on this leftist campus, I catch myself believing in certain things for no other reason than to antagonize people, but as a political minority I must constantly examine my beliefs. People argue with me all the time. These extremes can never last and delusion is short-lived. My liberal peers have this same tendency to be contrarian, yet scream about being scalded in hot tubs far longer and far more sincerely than I tend to.
Angry liberals are lauded for being courageous, idolizing the participants in the political punk scenes of the ’90s; their youth, dissatisfaction, and habitual rage in no way detracts from the validity of their political beliefs. What is most irksome is the assumption that I am somehow somnolent in comparison—that marching on Washington, foregoing Fox News, and reading Malcolm X’s autobiography is indicative of some sort of enlightenment, and that fervor can be in no way extreme or misguided. According to my peers, the left-wing youths—who make up a significant amount of my class at Columbia—are capable of thinking freely, and I am not. I am the misled one, the one indulging in the need to be special, and the one being taken advantage of by “the oppressors” who want to weaponize me. I am not the one who thinks for herself.
You may still view me as a petulant adolescent who’s just looking to be contrarian, and I’ll acknowledge that you’re not entirely wrong. But I ask you to consider the fact that you might not actually be any better than me. Self-awareness is how one escapes fanaticism.
The author of this piece was granted anonymity due to privacy concerns over her sexual orientation.
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