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Posts for December, 2011

Paul Varnell’s Legacy

Timothy Kincaid

December 13th, 2011

Paul Varnell was an outspoken activist and early leader in our community. But Paul’s contribution was unique in a way worth mentioning.

After DADT and with GOProud as comparison, gay Republicans such as Log Cabin are enjoying a moment of acceptance. But when Paul founded the Chicago Area Gay Republican Organization in 1984 (which, if I recall correctly was one of the local groups which merged in the 90s to become the national LCR organization) being Republican publicly within our community was to invite contempt and abuse. Paul did it anyway.

Paul went on to also found the Independent Gay Forum, a site for expressing and apply conservative or non-Progressive ideology to issues in the gay community. This was not an act without criticism. That didn’t stop him.

Most of our heroes and leaders know what it feels like to face adversity from anti-gay conservatives. Paul did too. But he also knows the feeling of being condemned, opposed, and hated by those within our community who could not see the value of thinking independently rather than blind loyalty to the Democratic Party.

Paul, through tenacity and consistency cut a clearing in our political jungle where others could grow and develop a political voice other than the expected, and by that all of our community was enriched.

(side note: I appreciate the IndyGayForum, but if you ever wonder why we monitor the comments, it’s in response to the hate circus that dominates their comment threads)
Karen Ocamb shares some of her recollections:

When I first started freelancing for Frontiers magazine in the late 1980s/early 1990s, I was intrigued that the gay publication printed opinion pieces from conservatives and people who were more independent-minded than most of the left-leaning gay community. I didn’t know that the late publisher Bob Craig was a Republican until one-time “moderate” Republican Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed the gay rights bill he promised to sign. Bob quit the GOP and became something of a mash-up between Libertarian/Independent/Democrat.

Perhaps the most prominent consistent voice for Libertarian/Independents on the Frontiers Opinion page was Paul Varnell, a one-time academic-turned-activist-turned-columnist, mostly for the Windy City Times. Some of Paul’s columns would drive liberals and leftists crazy. There were angry letters to the editor and even some staffers would throw up their hands, vexed beyond words. But that’s what made a Paul Varnell column so interesting to read: he made you think, especially if you disagreed with him. He forced you to analyze why you disagreed. For those of us who think thinking is fun, it was a great intellectual exercise that often yielded new thoughts.

Rest in peace, Paul. We are appreciative of what you gave us.