A gay Republican Trump supporter, reflects on actions at local protests and treatment from opposition

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08/09/2020

The photo from last weekend’s protests in Frederick looks almost predictable at this point: A man clad in a red MAGA hat and an American flag t-shirt shouts at a black woman wearing a mask and talking into a megaphone. The rage in the man’s face, the tension of the air – we’ve seen all this before in other conflicts between Black Lives Matter supporters and pro-police advocates. But in this case, the easy assumptions are wrong. Heath Barnes, the man in the red Trump hat, says his rage had nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter movement. It was instead directed at a person not even in the photograph who he says called him a homophobic slur just before the picture was taken. For Barnes, a gay Republican supporter of President Trump, it was a trigger; yet another expression of intolerance from a political party he says portrays itself as being an inclusive group. “I came out as a gay man in the backwoods areas of Missouri where I grew up,” Barnes said. “And it’s not the most accepting area. But I was accepted a lot more there than I’ve been at some of these [Black Lives Matter] events.”

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