Coming Out of the Conservative Closet

I have chosen to write about coming out of a closet the closet that hid part of who I really am, a part of me that I always knew was there but never wanted to acknowledge or accept. I guess part of the reason I never came out is that I was afraid of the names I might be called: liberal, left-wing wacko, commie, bleeding heart, and, the worst of all Democrat. It was just so much easier to go along with the crowd, pretending I was something I wasnt, until the internal conflict became too great and I snapped. I could no longer deny who I was, who I am.

For those who are not familiar with my blog (which I assume to be at least 99% of any who read this), I am gay and started my journey out of the closet last October after Boyd Packers infamous address at the LDS General Conference. This coming out was preceded, however, by another kind of coming out a political one.

As was the case with my gay coming out, my political coming out was precipitated by an event which caused built-up internal conflict to finally erupt. The straw that broke the camels back for me was the controversy over the construction of the Ground Zero Mosque. Regardless of the merits of the project, I was incensed that a number of conservative politicians and talking heads were blatantly seeking to make political hay by fueling the racist, Muslim-phobic hysteria that was sweeping through seemingly large swaths of America. I was outraged by the assaults launched on (true) religious freedom by the very people who purport to fight for and cling to it namely, conservatives who happened to be you guessed it – Republicans (Orrin Hatch being a notable, and lonely, exception).

I guess it took something like this to finally jar myself loose from my inherited political moorings and for me to accept who I truly am. My father was a staunch Republican, as was his father before him. (I was not raised a Mormon, by the way, but am a convert.) I inherited a loathing of labor unions, left-wing pinkos (i.e., Democrats) and nutters like the Kennedys, George McGovern and Jimmy Carter. Because of the way I was raised, and because of a desire to please my father (its complicated), I embraced establishment Republicanism as my own and identified strongly with this party and its policies for most of my life.

While being raised in an environment of establishment Republicanism, however, my hidden truth was that I secretly admired the vision of such great Democratic leaders as Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy; I secretly pined to be part of a cause that was more exciting and inspiring than, say, reducing capital gains tax. I harbored largely hidden beliefs in the freedom and liberty of the individual, in the importance of community and the need for a just society.

I furtively admired Thomas Jefferson, and got goose bumps when I stood in his Memorial in Washington, D.C., and read these awesome words: I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. And the goose bumps turned into an embarrassing level of excitement (tongue firmly in cheek here) when I contemplated these words: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I dont know where these tendencies toward democratic ideals came from; I think they must have been inborn. They seemed to always be a part of me, to be preset; and try as I might, I could never overcome them. Part of me felt that being conservative was the sensible and responsible thing to do, but another part of me longed to campaign for Ted Kennedy and join Greenpeace; and sometimes the temptation to join the ACLU became almost overwhelming. I never acted on any of these secret impulses, however. I had occasional opportunities to hookup with liberal causes, but I was too afraid to take advantage of them, afraid of living openly who I really was inside.

Then, during the midst of the Reagan years, I moved abroad and lived, until halfway through the Clinton years, outside the United States. During this period, I lived in several countries that some would call social democracies. Here, I had my first really serious identity crisis: instead of seeing mass unemployment, complete subjugation of the individual and a hedonistic society things I had been told would result from social democracy I saw networks of community centers, affordable health care available to all, tolerance of other races, cultures and faiths, and a comparative absence of crimes committed with guns. I saw value attached to the concepts of communitarianism, equality and belonging to a world-wide community of nations. I saw secularism and religion existing side by side, each knowing their place, each content to fill it and stay in it.

I became very confused. I couldnt understand what I was seeing and experiencing. I had feelings I couldnt explain. I mean, I was experiencing strong attractions to social democracy something I had been taught since infancy was impure and unnatural. Nevertheless, I couldnt deny that something was stirring deep within me. I tried to turn away from these attractions, but they kept becoming stronger and stronger. For the first time in my life, I thought that perhaps I could overcome my upbringing, come out of my conservative Republican closet, embrace authenticity and live life as an openly liberal democratic man.

Then, we moved to Utah. For the first time since joining the LDS Church, my political affiliation (i.e., orthodox Republicanism) became an additional gauge of worthiness and orthodoxy. Suddenly, I knew I must abandon all thoughts of embracing my true identity and instead redouble my efforts to hide what by now I had admitted were latent Democratic tendencies. I knew this was something I could never confess to my bishop. I must maintain my Republican persona for my own sake as well as the sake of my family and do everything in my power to repress these tendencies.

At first, it wasnt too difficult to blend in with the Republican crowd. But occasionally, comments would be made that would cause anger to swell within me; situations would arise where I felt forced to act totally contrary to my true nature.

Over time, these conflicts and tensions became almost unbearable until I finally snapped, deciding I could no longer go on living who I wasnt. And so, I came out: as a liberal Democrat.

There, I said it! I am a liberal Democrat. That is my truth. For years, I lived in denial of who I really am. But I finally came to a point where I knew I could no longer live a lie, and I have (in part) Sarah Palin to thank for that.

For the first time in my life, I put a yard sign in front of my home on behalf of a Democratic candidate. For the first time in my life, I gave voice to my true, innermost political feelings. It felt so liberating! So real! So authentic! I was told I couldnt live as an openly Democratic man in Utah that it was one thing to confine my politics to the privacy of a voting booth, but it was quite another to live my politics out loud; but I know others have done it, are doing it, and so can I.

I still havent worked up enough courage to actually join the Democratic Party or attend a convention or meeting; I dont think Ive been out long enough yet. But I know that day will come. Do you think they have a Democratic Pride day? Just asking.

Invictus Pilgrim blogs at

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12 Responses

  1. Seth R. says:

    I just like pissing people off.

    So I decided to be democrat, “internet Mormon”, and still remain completely faithful and active in the LDS Church.

    That way I could not only annoy people IN the LDS Church, but also annoy the folks who frequent Main Street Plaza, and be seen as eccentric by most of America.

    I win.

  2. chanson says:

    A very amusing tale — one that works both on face-value and as an analogy! 😀

    I was raised in a conservative Republican household as well, and slowly drifted away from that mindset after leaving the church. I wrote my own journey here: The commies and me.

    That way I could not only annoy people IN the LDS Church, but also annoy the folks who frequent Main Street Plaza

    Seth, you’re not supposed to intentionally annoy people here. OTOH, you are more than welcome to challenge people’s assumptions and beliefs. Whether they feel annoyed by that or not is their own business. 😉

  3. Parker says:

    I just completed a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, as well as his autobiography. I have decided I could be very comfortable as a TR Republican. But the wrinkle is,being a TR Republican today means you are a liberal, or at least a progressive.

  4. Donnell Allan says:

    I know this is written tongue-in-cheek, but it is speaks much to my real life experience in the church. I think that it is sign of how ridiculous the lock-step mentality has become that such a thing can even be satirized. Others I know of look at this from outside of the church and sigh, “you have got to be kidding.”

  5. Diane Tingen says:

    Very interesting post. I pretended to be conservative for a very long time as well. My journey away from Mormonism, which began almost 10 years ago, also led me to eventually publicly admit that I am a Democrat as well. Actually, my father was a long-term Democrat even though he was also very TBM to the max (he died in 2006 at the age of 92, and was not only a WWII veteran but also a long-term postal employee). But my father was a Democrat from way back, and held on to his Democratic views even though he completely embraced Mormonism when he was baptized at the age of 40. In reality, his political views were very contradictory to his religious views, and I’m sure that added to my confusion growing up. I’m just glad that my confusion began to subside during my journey away from Mormonism, and that I am now firmly entrenched in an authentic life in which I am not only an ExMormon but also a Democrat.

  6. Seth R. says:

    That’s funny Diane, I always felt the GOP platform was not consistent with Mormon values and decided to become Democrat instead.

    I feel just fine being a Democrat in the LDS Church, thanks.

    Parker, I wouldn’t mind seeing some Teddy Republicanism coming back. I consider myself a “Truman Democrat” myself.

  7. ff42 says:

    In my ‘coming out’ I realized that governments and gods, priests and politicians were the problem, not the solution and reject their control mentalities. Why can’t we come up with solutions that aren’t primarily based on threats and violence?

  8. Seth R. says:

    Like teenagers and messed up actors, society tends to get exactly the politicians it deserves.

  9. chanson says:

    Re @3 and @6: It’s true, the current US political scene is suffering from a frightening lack of balance. Now there’s essentially a center-right party and a far-right party, and — in case the far right wasn’t far enough — there’s the Tea Party. And of the lot of them, the Democrats are the ones that can most legitimately be labelled “conservative.” The “loyal opposition” is failing in their function — there are plenty of reality-based criticisms of Obama that should be getting more air-time, but the opposition comes up with nothing but useless insane fantasies: “He’s a Muslim! He’s a socialist! He was born in Africa!”

    And this trend seems relatively recent, as you guys can see from the history books — I wonder if it will reverse. But, @8, I don’t think most of American society did anything to deserve the Tea Party.

  10. @3 – Yes, I think if Teddy were to appear on the scene today, he would make Barack Obama look like George W. Bush.
    @4 – Sad, but true. I’m sure it is more difficult for some Mormons to come out to their families as liberals or Democrats, than it would be to tell them they are gay.
    @5 – Thanks for your comments, Diane. Reminded me of what Harry Reid has said about his Mormon beliefs meshing with his political beliefs.
    @6 – I’d suggest that perhaps another way of saying what you’ve expressed is that Democratic ideals are more consistent with the Gospel, whereas Republican beliefs are more consistent with cultural Mormonism.
    @9 – I appreciate your comments, Chanson. I agree that America did nothing to deserve the Tea Party. I also agree with your characterization of where the American political parties are at.

    I’ve often thought that the belief that America has a “special” destiny gets in the way of Americans building a more just society, just as (frankly) the belief that the LDS Church is true/must fulfill its destiny gets in the way of many Mormon families having authentic relationships (as I’ve written about). Having lived outside the United States for a significant portion of my adult life, I saw first hand what civil societies were capable of when they weren’t burdened with all the baggage of “fulfilling their destiny”; they were simply about creating quality of life for their citizens. Does that make sense?

  11. Diane Tingen says:

    I agree that “Mormon values” would seem to be more in line with being a Democrat, but it’s amazing just how many Republicans there are in TSCC in spite of that fact. Of course, there are a lot of things that get in the way of America actually building a more just society, but I do agree that the tag line of “fulfulling a special destiny” does get in the way of achieving that goal. And as you have pointed out, that “destiny” mantra gets in the way of Mormons having authentic relationships because they’re too busy trying to prove that they’re “all that and a bag of chips.” I always felt inadequate when I was an active Mormon – never good enough, never doing enough, not thinking in the right ways, etc., etc. And it was exhausting. Since leaving Mormonism behind, I finally feel like I am who I was meant to be, and feel so much less pressured by daily life. Being slightly OCD, it was very difficult for me to be a half-way Mormon (cafeteria-style), so I tried constantly to live up to the “standard” as I understood it. Being a former Mormon woman, I was subjected to the “cookie-cutter philosophy” as well, and tried so hard to be as Molly as I could, but in the end, my true identity fought its way to the surface. Naturally, TBMs don’t see that as a good thing (including my very TBM brother), but for me, living an authentic life is its own reward.

  12. Parker says:

    did you see the NYTimes article “Mormon Politicians From Utah Feel Tea Party Heat.”

    Of Jon Huntsman, “On a good day, he’s a socialist. On a bad day, he’s a communist.” Sounds like the Bishop needs to do some serious WofW interviewing about what they’ve been drinking.

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