I first came out as queer to initially unaccepting Catholic parents months before coming to Yale. Soon after, I told my extremely liberal Los Angeles community that I was conservative. At that point, I was told that being conservative and queer combined two irreconcilable identities and that I was perverse and inherently self-hating. This was the most isolating experience of my life. I hope at Yale we can prevent this narrative from taking hold.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, in choosing where to attend college, I was attracted to Yale’s inclusive message: its promise to include a diverse range of people regardless of their sexual orientation, religious affiliation or political leanings.
However, during my first days at Yale, I found myself crawling back into the closet. But not only did I refuse to tell anyone that I was queer, I also refused to tell anyone that I was conservative.
It became very apparent to me during the Cultural Connections pre-orientation program and during Camp Yale that on Yale’s campus, LGBTQ+ identities and non-liberal ideological beliefs are largely understood to be mutually exclusive. Every single new person I met who I told about my sexual orientation assumed by default that I was also liberal.
The assumption that one cannot be queer and conservative is not only problematic because it operates on the demeaning notion that queer Yalies are an ideological monolith, but also because it excludes and erases the identities and history of queer Yalies who happen to be right-leaning.
In Yale’s class of 2023, around 74 percent of my peers identify as liberal, about 14 percent of students identified as centrist and only around 12 percent identify as conservative. Holding conservative viewpoints on Yale’s campus can make one feel isolated and alone. This statistic is disconcerting not because I believe that there are no spaces for conservatives on campus nor because I take issue with left-leaning discourse at Yale — my personal political identity label is in flux at the moment — but because the statistic supports the inference that queer identity is further isolating when it intersects with conservatism.
While there should certainly be a space for progressive queer advocacy groups on campus, the nonexistence of equivalent queer conservative groups in any capacity makes it hard for queer people who do not embrace the full progressive political agenda to become active in advocating for LGBTQ+ equality.
Practically, considering the history of homophobic conservatism on Yale’s campus, it is understandable to me why there is an assumption that queer conservative Yalies cannot exist. Members of right-wing Yale Political Union parties have bred prominent anti-LGBTQ+ activists like Maggie Gallagher. Moreover, the namesake of the William F. Buckley, Jr. fellowship program infamously called his political opponent Gore Vidal a “queer” — which was not only a derogatory term back then, but also was used in its still derogatory noun form. In contemporary politics, queer conservatives often get — arguably deservedly — bad reputations when self-proclaimed conservatives like Milo Yiannopoulos and Peter Thiel use queer identity as a means of shielding themselves from criticism.
Additionally, one need not look too far to see how the Republican Party in the 1980s ignored the HIV/AIDS epidemic, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of queer people. None other than Ronald Reagan’s press secretary labeled HIV/AIDS as the “gay plague.”
None of these actions are excusable by any means. Homophobic beliefs should be challenged in all their forms, and I am thankful for the work of pro-LGBTQ+ liberals and conservatives, like Yalie Evan Wolfson and recent Buckley program speaker Margaret Hoover, who have made intellectual communities like Yale a place where LGBTQ+ individuals can be open about their identities.
This is not to say that a version of conservatism that welcomes queer people for their authentic selves does not currently exist on Yale’s campus. In petitioning for the Conservative Party, I have found that the party is one of the few intellectual spaces thus far where I can speak about my queer identity without feeling reduced to queer stereotypes.
Being part of a historically marginalized community informs my worldview, and I do believe that the personal is inherently political. But that doesn’t prevent me from finding the Conservative Party and other conservative spaces on campus to be a breath of fresh air.
I envision a Yale that stays true to its mission of full inclusivity by recognizing queer conservative identity in a way that neither commodifies or silences queerness. I push Yalies to challenge assumptions about the political beliefs of queer people to create a space where no one, conservative, queer or both, feels like they need to hide who they are.
Vivian Vasquez is a first year in Silliman College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .