17 August 2011

Finally, a Politician with a Real Message


I was reading an article about Fred Karger, whose name sounded vaguely familiar, though I don’t even know how to pronounce it. As I read, I learned he’s running for President on the Republican ticket. Then I learned that he’s gay. Then I learned that he hands out postcards that say “Fred Who?” and I realized that I met him at Pride.

Now I’m interested.

He admits he has no chance of winning the nomination, never mind the office, but the realistic goal of his candidacy is to make it to a debate. And the overarching message is to talk about being gay. Namely, to get the message out to kids that it’s OK to be gay, that you don’t have to be closeted (as he was for his entire professional life), that you don’t have to accept “less than” because you’re gay.

He realized he was different as a child, when he recognized that he had a crush on a TV star. He never told anyone his secret. As a teenager, he went to a gay bar and saw his uncle, though he rushed out before his uncle could see him. When his uncle killed himself two years later and mentioned a male lover in his suicide note, he watched as his parents were consumed with shame. He eventually came out to his parents in the height of the AIDS epidemic, and felt their discomfort with a gay son. He played along with them, and at work: he dated--women. He had “roommates”. He “straightened up” the apartment (to borrow a phrase from Kate Clinton) when family came to town. He laughed at gay jokes.

He didn’t come out (outside of his family) until his parents’ deaths and his own retirement were safely behind him.

As he entered the public spotlight, he started small by lobbying to save a California gay bar. He went on to found “Californians Against Hate” to oppose Prop 8. Now, he hopes that during a debate, he’ll get the opportunity to question Mitt Romney on the Mormon Church’s stance on Prop 8 and gay marriage.

No doubt he faces an uphill climb, since most of his would-be supporters (gays) are Democrats. (Personally, I don’t understand how one can be Republican and gay at the same time, but Log Cabin Republicans have been proving me wrong on that score for years).

But politics aside, I have to admire Fred and his candidacy. He’s spending about $25K each month of his own money, knowing that he won’t win, but using the publicity to draw attention to a cause I can get behind. He’s telling kids to stay true to themselves, to dream big, to get involved.

I like that Republicans are hearing this from one of their own, even if they don’t seem to be taking him seriously. There’s still a lot of hate out there on the campaign trail (talking to you, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty). And, even as poll numbers go up for gay marriage, even as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell gets certified for repeal, hate crimes against gays have also increased.

One more person putting himself out there is never a bad thing.

-Maura McGurk

Maura makes artwork about issues related to the LGBT/queer/gay experience, especially gay bullying. Take a stand against gay bullying by checking out her work, liking it on Facebook, or commenting on her blog.


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