SHIFT Magazine: The Elephant in the Room

May 3, 2011  


By Kyle Spencer

For 51 year-old Rudy Oeftering a life of political action came naturally.

” I remember a time in 1972 when my uncle came to our house and put a McGovern bumper sticker on my mom’s car. I snuck out when no one was looking and peeled it off,” Oeftering said with a chuckle.

The father of four and devoted husband of twenty-one years has always aligned himself politically with the conservative movement, so it came as no surprise that he would one day support the G.O.P.
“I remember hearing Reagan at the 1968 convention,” Oeftering said as he regaled on how he came to show interest in the Republican party. ” I didn’t know really what was going on, but I knew I liked it.”

From the outside looking in, Oeftering is your everyday, run-of-the-mill Republican conservative. He’s devoted to his Catholic faith, great with his kids, and a boot-strap business man who has risen to success. There is however one spectrum of Rudy Oeftering’s life that may cause some to raise eyebrows. Rudy Oeftering is gay.

It is no secret that the relationship between Republicans and homosexuals has never been pleasant. In 2004 and 2006, campaigns initiated by the G.O.P were aimed at gays and their right to marry. Even as recently as the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, the majority of the votes to keep the law in place were cast by Republican members of Congress.

So why would man support a party aimed at demonizing his lifestyle? Well to understand that you must understand Rudy Oeftering. Oeftering, who divorced his wife in 2007, has been openly gay for the last four years, but the road to self discovery has not always come easy.
“I remember back in the 70′s a paper running an expose on the homosexuals in the Y.M.C.A. and how disgusting that was. It was basically how we view pedophiles today,” said Oeftering.

Brained washed by perceived social normalcy and his own rejection of the homosexual lifestyle, Oeftering convinced himself, despite his homosexual feelings, that he was indeed straight.
“I had anti-gay views. I didn’t think gays should have rights, be able to get married, any of that stuff.”

Oeftering then began to socialize with gay men, tapping into feelings he had hid from himself for decades. After building friendships with more and more homosexual men, Rudy knew he was gay.

Though a small percent, gay conservatives are not a fringe element. According to a U.S Census report from 2000, there are 5.5 million Americans who recognize themselves as openly homosexual. Of those 5.5 million, many are single or double income household with no children. This statistic makes for a lot of disposable income as well well as higher tax brackets.

This is where people like Oeftering fit in. Raised in blue collar Ohio, Rudy learned to value of hard work at a young age. He didn’t attend college, rather choosing to start his own business.
“I know what it’s like running a small business and I try to practice prudent fiscal responsibility,” he said.

Oeftering, who is the Vice President of the Dallas Chapter Log Cabin Republicans, offers that his support of Republicans has more to do with government control and spending. However, many fellow Republicans and conservatives would rather Oeftering find another political officiation to align with. Conservative blogger, Ryan Sorba was quoted in a blog as saying, “Why do you think they call us the party of ‘no, ‘no’ you can’t be a part of our party.”

Other political conservative pundits have also been critical. Ann Coulter spoke at HomoCon, a gay conservative convention, in 2010 and had this to say about gay marriage. “Marriage is not a civil right, you’re not black.”

Oeftering isn’t swayed by what he refers to as the “entertainment” of the Republican party, but rather holds onto the idea that the best way to make change is by having dialogue.

“Where is the best place to make change? Outside looking in or inside looking out,” Oeftering explains. “We hear the nasty things said, but once we have a discussion and show people who we are we can get them to see that we’re not a threat.”

However Oeftering does ponder his loyalty to the gay community that doesn’t share his ambitious attitude.

“Me and other gay conservative friends often ask the question, Are we gay first, and Republican second? Or are we Republican first and gay second? I still don’t have an answer.”

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