Lifelong Republican, 94, pledges to vote Biden to protect the LGBT+ community after gay grandson’s emotional appeal
A 94-year-old grandmother and lifelong Republican has pledged to vote for Joe Biden in the presidential election, after her gay grandson tearfully explained to her the risk doing otherwise poses to his future, and the safety of the LGBT+ community.
After congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked Democrats to speak to their Republican-voting loved ones about the election, Brennan Suen decided he needed to approach his much-loved grandmother.
Although his grandmother is “the greatest ally” to the LGBT+ community, she was also a lifelong Republican voter – but hadn’t fully realised the damage her choice could have made.
Speaking to PinkNews, Suen said the thought of talking to his grandmother about the election “haunted” him for weeks – but he knew he had to do something. A Democratic victory in November’s elections is essential if LGBT+ rights are to be protected.
“I can truthfully only compare it to how I felt before I came out,” Suen said. “She is old-fashioned and not one to talk about politics, and even though she watches broadcast news, she isn’t paying attention to a lot of the things going on. She doesn’t have the internet or a cell phone either, so I knew that it was up to me to tell her the personal stakes of this election.”
He picked up the phone and called his grandmother while on his lunch break with just a “vague idea” of what he would say. He quickly started crying as he told his grandmother about his fears for the future in Trump’s America.
He wasn’t sure how she would respond to his plea, but she immediately “jumped into mama bear mode” when she heard him crying down the phone.
“I told her about the fear that my community lives with every day, and she just immediately said, ‘I won’t vote for those people. I promise.’ I was surprised she responded that way so quickly after decades of voting Republican. I asked her again, and she promised again and said she would never break a promise to me. I know that is the truth. She told me I am her favourite grandson, the love of her life, and that she would do anything for me,” Suen says.
The next day, he called his grandmother to tell her that he had written about the phone call on Twitter and that it had gone viral.
After RBG died, I listened to @AOC say, there is someone in your life who only you can get to in this election, and it is your job to get to them.
Since then, I have been filled with anxiety knowing what I needed to do. For me, that's my 94 year old grandmother.
— Brennan Suen (@brennansuen) October 7, 2020
“She had never heard of Twitter, but when I said that thousands of people told me how proud of her they were and that tens of thousands of people had heard about it, I could hear the smile in her voice,” he said.
“She told me she was proud of me too, and she said: ‘You know I have my loyalties, but my biggest loyalty is to my grandson.'”
Queer people should tread carefully when talking to family about the election.
While Suen’s conversation with his grandmother was a success, not everyone will have the same experience. He urges LGBT+ people who are considering talking to Republican-voting loved ones to make sure it is safe for them to do so.
“Some family is too far lost in the Fox News bubble, and you have to protect yourself. But I also think that this is the time to do these hard things if you think you can,” he says.
He believes it is essential that families of LGBT+ people understand the “personal context” of the election.
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“They need to know how we are impacted and that we are scared. They can only get that information from us. We have to tell them that the Republican Party being in power – from president Donald Trump to senator Susan Collins, who has signed off on the far-right reshaping of the judiciary – will harm us and our country.”
However, he advises that people refrain from giving their families an ultimatum.
“With my grandmother, I acknowledged that she has different viewpoints than me on some things but that I hope she will weigh those with my future and the future of my community.
“I am so thankful that she chose me,” he says.