Outward

Side Eye: The Case of Jose Cunningham and Greg Nelson

Jose Cunningham, Greg Nelson, and Arbo the labradoodle.

Washington Blade/Facebook

Side Eye is an occasional Outward column in which we’ll look askance at questionable behavior from fellow members of the queer community. Seen something in LGBTQ-land that deserves a shady squint? Alert bryan.lowder@slate.com with “Side Eye” (or just “oh, gurl, did you see”) in the subject line.

In today’s inaugural column, we train our gaze on “He’s for Trump, He’s for Clinton,” a profile of the divided house of Washington, D.C., gay couple Jose Cunningham and Greg Nelson. (Labradoodle Arbo will be spared, but, given his oppressively festive and ideologically baffling home environment, we do offer our thoughts and prayers.)

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Bryan Lowder: Christina, there are a lot of things in this article that make me want to take out my gay card, dice it into tiny pieces, set those pieces on fire, and shoot the resulting plastic puddle into the core of the sun. But there is one view of our friends Jose and Greg that I can get behind: Life is better with a theme! As a seasonal queen myself, much respect for Greg’s mastery of the Michael’s rewards program. But I think we can agree that the theme of this couple’s existence persists the whole-year-through. Say it with me! P-R-I …

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Christina Cauterucci: … EBUS, REINCE! Also, privilege. This couple is pretty pleased that the RNC chair remembers their names (must be nice to have assistants handling one’s Rolodex). They boast that no one’s kept them from fundraising for Republicans at their home, and they weren’t gay-bashed at this year’s convention! It just goes to show that the Republican Party is a big tent that welcomes all rich, light-skinned cisgender men into the fold. This article is the perfect illustration of why intersectionality matters: Jose and Greg are what happens when gay identity intersects with being an anti-choice lover of lawn ornaments.

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Lowder: Yeah, this is pretty solid proof of the old movement slogan “We Are Everywhere”—even (or especially?) at the Brooks Brothers Easter parade sale. And before we’re accused of enforcing some kind of queer uniformity, I think we agree that it’s not the idea of a gay having conservative views that has our hackles aglitter. It’s the astonishing myopia these two display about their own experience and the needs of others. I mean, they are bringing CASH to the freaking GOP and simultaneously playing Uncle Mary alongside Miz Thiel—of course no one is being mean to them! I do wonder how they’d like a Trump-infused Supreme Court reversing marriage equality (a hard-won victory they’ve yet to take advantage of), but then, money tends to make people blind to how the world works for the rest of us. For example, weren’t you pleased to learn, Christina, that “LGBT issues are considered largely settled”? I don’t know why I’m even at my desk right now!

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Cauterucci: It’s a beautiful sight, really: Two men so in love, so snugly insulated from discrimination that they feel no allegiance to fellow queers who may be legally fired from their jobs, booted from their housing, or chased out of public restrooms thanks to the Republican Party platform they claim “nobody reads” and “nobody cares” about. They must be too busy tending their scarecrows and pushing their hapless Labradoodle into political activism (yes, Greg is the founder of renowned puppy PAC “Labradoodles for Obama”) to look up the “T” in that pesky acronym everyone’s using these days. When you’ve got to place comb garnishes on 150 “Combover” cocktails for your GOP fundraiser, you’ve got no time to worry about whether your bank account has blinded you to the realities of queer existence in 2016!

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Actually, that’s probably unfair: These men have been victims of hatred and oppression, too. In fact, Jose says a gay couple once tried to scrape the Trump bumper sticker off his car. “How is that not bullying and its own kind of hate crime?” he asked. Yes, this was what activists imagined when they fought for federal hate crime laws: a man who believes LGBT discrimination is over fighting for his right to an unsullied bumper sticker advertising the candidacy of a fascist.

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Lowder: I just want people to understand that this is what you get when you take “it’s a small part of me” ideology to its logical conclusion: queer people who are so disconnected from the political or cultural meaning of that word that they might as well not use it. Anyway, I guess the one ray of light here (in addition to Greg’s copy of the Madonna album that he has to hide during their conservaqueen fetes) is that there is some disagreement over Trump in the house. Maybe over the next week, Greg will find time between hand-weaving cornucopias to further press Jose on how “irresponsible” it is to vote for a man who cannot even pronounce LGBTQ properly. If not, I hope he encounters more nasty women like the heroine at the party who said: “Have you no self-respect? I guess you must have been really desperate when you were single.” Gagged! Christina, as another avowed nasty woman, what are your parting words for our misguided gay brethren?

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Cauterucci: You’re right, Bryan—though the Washington Blade has been our Virgil, leading us through one of the foulest circles of gay hell, it’s not all seasonal doom and gloom in this Trillary household. It may be too late to save the guy who’s voting for a failed businessman against a former secretary of state for “foreign policy” reasons, but, Greg: You can still join the real world! Talk to some women the next time you’re making the rounds at Joanne Fabrics; read some interweb stuff about LGBTQ people who haven’t received quite as kind a welcome from your bromos in the GOP. As for Arbo, you poor Labradoodle who didn’t ask for any of this: The Washington Humane Society takes all kinds.

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