Rob Smith is a gay, black Army Vet — and a New Yorker — who just came out. Not as gay, no. He came out as a Republican.
Smith tells the Daily Mail, “For me, as a gay man and a black man, I have to … somebody has to start the conversation, specifically with LGBTQ people, to say being a Democrat is not a sign of morality and being a Republican is not a sign of evil. We can work on both sides to advance this idea of LGBTQ equality, we just have to figure out what that is.”
“What I hope is that somebody that’s black and gay and conservative is normal,” he says. “But you have to understand that I am not the first black, gay Republican. I’m just the one that’s going to take the heat for saying it publicly.”
An Army vet, Rob Smith made a name for himself in 2010 when he chained himself to the fence in front of the White House during a protest to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” When that policy forcing gay service people to stay in the closet was overturned a year later, Smith was invited by President Obama to attend a ceremony celebrating the decision.
In 2017, Smith wrote a book about that experience. Titled Confessions of a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Soldier: How a Black, Gay Man Survived the Infantry, Coming Out, and the War in Iraq, Smith shared his perspective on race and sexuality in the United States military in an “unforgettable gay coming-of-age story — with a military twist.”
Smith didn’t vote in the 2016 election, because he “didn’t believe that either one of these people deserved my vote.” Maybe it’s because he was still confused regarding his political affiliation. What really inspired him to commit himself to conservatism was reading American Dreams by Marco Rubio in 2017. The book explains some of Rubio’s ideas for restoring the economy and changing some of the current systems in the United States away from a strong federal government.
“I had never read anything or even encountered a conservative that actually had real ideas about how to change some of these systems and still help people,” Smith says. “For me as a black person, these ideas of empowering and uplifting the black community, these ideas of fighting for LGBTQ rights, these are not ideas that need to be subscribed to any political party. These are ideas that exist within us. And these are ideas that I’m just not finding in the Democratic Party right now.”
Smith says people think just because he’s black and gay, he has to be a Democrat, which he claims limits minorities and marginalized groups more than actually frees them.
“They’ll tell me what they think I’m supposed to think or say or believe, just because of the color of my skin,” he says. ‘For white men, the idea is that whatever political decision they’ve come to was informed by whatever their individual thoughts, feelings and experiences are. And that’s fine … but when you take the white maleness out of the equation, we like to tell black people how they should think. We like to tell gay people how they should think. We like to tell women how they should think.”
Smith’s obsession with free-thinking is mirrored by many unlikely supporters of Trump and conservatism, like Kanye West. West inspired Smith to come out as Republican after the rapper was publicly lambasted for supporting Trump and delivered a serious of controversial comments about slavery in the United States.
“You have to fight against the simplistic nature of this outrage culture that we’re living in,” Smith says. “The simplistic nature of the outrage culture that we’re living in says everybody who voted for Donald Trump is racist and that everybody who voted for Hillary Clinton is an angel. And I think that it’s quite obvious that real life has a lot more shades of gray to it.”
How have people reacted to Smith? His partner, who sways more liberal, is fine with it. But one thing is for sure: the next time he sees his mother, he’s going to get whooped. “I mean, I just talked to my mother about it last week and she says she just doesn’t understand it,” Smith says. “She literally said she’s going to come up to New York and kick my ass.”