I was looking forward to hearing Peter Thiel’s speech on the last night of the GOP Presidential Convention in Cleveland since he was billed ahead of time as the “first openly gay” person to speak at a Republican Party Convention, even though a gay man also spoke at its 2000 convention.
Though I was hopeful to hear some substance in his remarks regarding his party’s stance on LGBTQ issues, understanding the context, I severely modified my expectations. Well, as it turned out, Thiel tripped on the incredibly low bar I set, and he fell flat on his face.
Thiel, a white billionaire who co-founded Paypal, sang the high praises of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for approximately 99 percent of his talk. So when he finally identified as a “proud gay man, proud Republican, and proud American,” the majority of the conference goers gave him a hearty round of applause, which at least was a first at this venue. The same was the case when Trump stated during his acceptance speech that he would protect LGBT people from the type of “radical Islamic terrorists” who killed and wounded dozens of people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
In terms of substance, Thiel virtually dismissed the blatant heterosexism and cissexism embedded deeply within the Party’s DNA, including its latest platform.
The National Republican Platform Committee voted, with the approval of the delegates, a plank blessing the psychologically dangerous and highly oppressive so-called “ex-gay” or “conversion therapy” of attempting to “convert” LGBT people to heterosexual and cisgender. This abusive practice has been outlawed in a number of states, and has been roundly condemned by most reputable medical and psychological associations.
The committee also called for and has ratified by the delegates a platform outlawing marriage for same-sex couples, which would take either an act of Congress, a Constitutional Amendment, or a Supreme Court case overturning the historic 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision.
And the platform continues its intimidation and increases the risk for harassment, violence, and shame by mandating trans* people to enter only the restroom of the sex listed on their birth certificates rather than the one aligning with their gender identities. And ironically, this is the same Republican Party billing itself as the party of “freedom and liberty.”
Peter Thiel had a genuine opportunity to speak out against the bigotry, the marginalization, and the demonization of LGBTQ people by his Republican Party. Unfortunately, he added to the panoply of abuses.
He referred to the fight for open access of trans* people to public accommodations as “distractions,” and asked the assembled delegates, “who cares?” While his intention may have been to have his Party move past its obsession on bathrooms, his impact was to downplay or dismiss its importance.
Though Thiel acknowledged that he “does not agree with everything in the party platform,” he neglected to elaborate any further. Ultimately, he concluded that “these fake culture wars distract us” from the real issues.
Well, Mr. Thiel, your speech, in whitewashing over the importance of open public accommodations for trans* people, the culture war that your party has waged on LGBTQ people during the past number of decades and before, and your failure to hold your party accountable for its draconian Party Platform, this makes you a colluder, a co-conspirator, in the oppression of LGBTQ people.
For in the words of Civil Rights activist, Eldridge Cleaver, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Unfortunately, Mr. Thiel, you are indeed part of the problem.
You are simply one additional example of how upper socio-economic class status Trumps sexual identity and gender identity. Unfortunately, the same holds for Caitlyn Jenner.