Here's the simple truth: I'm not a Republican. And here's the less simple truth: I wish I could be.
I'm an intensely political person by nature, so it's infuriating not to have a party that I can support. In many ways, that party should be the GOP. As an entrepreneur and an individualist, I am drawn to the Republicans' hands-off approach to fiscal policy. But although I believe that government should not interfere with business, I believe just as strongly that religion has no business in government.
Today's GOP has gone depressingly wrong. In a horrible shotgun marriage, the party that favors small government is now allied with Christian fundamentalist zealots intent on imposing their morality at the expense of personal freedoms. The official 2008 Republican Party platform referred to God twice; the 2012 platform does so 10 times. And that shift is reflected in the platform's radical swerve to the right on social issues.
I am not a fan of Barack Obama's, but he has advanced the cause of gay equality in many significant ways. That progress would all be undone if the current Republican Party had its way. The GOP doesn't just endorse the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act, it wants to amend the Constitution itself to make same-sex marriage illegal. This week, bowing to pressure, Mitt Romney reaffirmed that he would support such an amendment. And gays are not the only Americans whose rights the party wants to curtail. The GOP platform also supports a constitutional amendment denying women access to abortion entirely, with no mention of exceptions for rape, incest, or medical safety.
It is absolutely impossible for me, a gay and pro-choice atheist, to be associated with this party. But it's important to note that intolerance is not limited to the Republican side. Coming out as conservative, as I have, is highly unpopular in mainstream gay circles, where "Republican" is usually an insult or a punch line. When I write an article, no matter what the subject, comments emerge with ad hominem attacks that tar me as a right-wing traitor to the gay community. These accusations -- my punishment for straying from liberal groupthink -- are often based on exaggerations or outright lies.
So let me take a moment to correct some common misperceptions. I have never belonged to the GOP. After many years as a registered Democrat, I now consider myself an independent. I have not given a dime to Romney's presidential campaign. I have, however, donated tens of thousands of dollars to gay organizations and causes, including fighting California's Proposition 8. And I am not a member of the gay conservative organization GOProud. I attended a single 2010 event organized by that group, where I caused a scene by publicly challenging Ann Coulter about her history of homophobic remarks.
Why does any of this matter? Because reducing me to a stereotypical Uncle Tom is symptomatic of a larger problem. The gay community talks a lot about the value of diversity. But when it comes to political and economic ideology, there is very little respect for individual gay people's rights to make up their own minds, based on their personal philosophies and life experience.
My conservatism stems from my specific history. Growing up in the Soviet Union, a country run into the ground by an army of bureaucrats, I got an early education in the failures of big government. I vowed to pursue the American dream instead, and I did. I moved to the United States to perform in the adult-film industry, with no money and speaking almost no English. I lived frugally, learned everything I could, and worked like hell to become a success.
Today, I run a multimillion-dollar company that employs 18 people full-time (plus many models and independent contractors). I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps to reach the position I now enjoy. I was not lucky enough to be born into the so-called 1% or even the so-called 47%, and I have limited sympathy for Americans who feel entitled to a larger share of what I've earned.
I don't regret or apologize for any of the above. The flip side of personal freedom is personal responsibility. If we don't want the government to meddle in our lives, we shouldn't expect it to come to our rescue either. We make decisions and we live with them. And if you disagree with that: Fine! I don't pretend that my opinions are the absolute truth, and I respect those who differ with me. My boyfriend, Richard, is a liberal Democrat, and we have interesting arguments at home all the time. It's very American to disagree; the country thrives on open dialogue and independent thinking. We need to talk with people who oppose us, not dismiss them.
I applaud self-identified gay Republicans for trying to start conversations and to change the party from inside. But that change hasn't happened yet. On the contrary, the GOP keeps moving away from its former core values -- including the value of self-respect. I hope that the party will get back on course. But I have too much self-respect, as both a gay man and a conservative, to ever vote Republican till then.
MICHAEL LUCAS is the creator of Lucas Entertainment, one of the largest studios producing all-male erotica. He lives in New York City. This article is the opinion of the writer and not The Advocate.