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Politics

Now an actual gay Tory is arguing it can be harder to come out as Tory than come out as gay

Emma Powys Maurice December 5, 2019
Gay Tory

Rhys Benjamin is a young gay Conservative studying Politics at the University of Sussex (Facebook)

A gay Tory has joined the countless young Conservatives claiming that they are victims of oppression by comparing their political stance to a sexual orientation.

Rhys Benjamin is a young gay Tory living in Brighton, a strongly left-wing constituency that’s known as gay capital of the UK. He’s one of just two gay Tories at the University of Sussex, which sounds like a truly thankless task.

He told the Sussex Tab that he is “constantly ostracised” by his peers who cannot accept his political beliefs, and argues that for him, coming out as a Tory really was harder than coming out as gay.

“As someone who is both [Tory and gay], on campus it’s much harder socially believing in low taxation than it is to fancy men,” he said, while admitting that that’s not exactly the case in other parts of the country.

“You end up having to paint two versions of yourself – one as a Conservative, one as a gay man. The two hardly ever overlap.”

He insists that the Conservative Party isn’t the party of Norman Tebbit and Ann Widdecombe anymore: “It’s the party who legalised marriage equality and in 2015 won the LGBT+ vote for the first time ever.

“But you’ve only got to look at the student press to see wave upon wave of articles about how ‘evil’ we are, ‘traitors’ to LGBT+ people, and just how few young people want to admit they’re voting Conservative.”

One reason for this could be the fact that the leader of the Conservative party and current prime minister of the UK has famously mocked gay people as “tank-topped bum boys” and compared same-sex marriage to a union between “three men and a dog”. He has repeatedly refused to apologise for this.

Or it could be the fact that the Conservatives have overseen an 81 per cent rise in transphobic hate crimes and persistently delayed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, despite promising this in 2017.

Or it could also be the fact that Home Office’s culture of “disbelief and denial” has led to thousands of LGBT+ asylum claims being denied, with many LGBT+ people forced back to countries where they face persecution or death.

Anti-transgender hate crimes have risen by 81 percent
Anti-transgender hate crimes have risen by 81 percent

As an example of the persecution Benjamin claims he’s faced, he cited the threats and abuse he received after choosing to speak out against the 2018 university strikes. He believes several other students agreed with him but were afraid of “death by association”.

He also complained that when people learn of his political affiliations they normally “try to end the conversation and never want to speak to me again, or they launch into a diatribe about politics”.

“As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes things can get worse than that, though,” he said. “It’s ridiculous we’re at a stage where differences of opinion are no longer accepted, it seems.”

While no one should be abused or ostracised for voicing their political beliefs, it’s important to note that one’s political position is a choice and the decision to speak publicly about it is also a choice – making it in no way comparable to being gay (not a choice).

Using the language of oppression to describe the two experiences is a real slap in the face to those who are actually suffering as a result of the Conservatives’ policies.

More: Boris Johnson, Brighton, conservatives, gay tory, general election, University of Sussex

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