The Miseducation of Kara Donnelly
Part II of a series
Kara Donnelly is a second-year student at the College of Staten Island. She is an open lesbian who is active with NYPIRG and has recently joined the staff of Third Rail Magazine. What makes Kara’s story even more interesting is the fact that she was once president of the Young Republicans, Staten Island chapter. She was gracious enough to sit down with me and talk about her journey and the ramifications her sexuality and politics have had on her life. The following is Part 2 of that interview; Part 1 was published in our last issue (2005::Issue 2).
Third Rail (TR): Well, the whole point of this interview is to figure out how one goes from the president of the Young Republicans to an openly lesbian member of NYPIRG; that is a radical shift. But you refer to being in the Young Republicans as a mistake; was it?
Kara Donnelly (KD): Yeah, I think it was, actually, I think it was. It was a mistake. Whereas it did teach me things, I think it really, in the end pushed me farther and farther away from what they supposedly stood for; what they wanted everybody to stand for; and in the end, what it truly stands for. Simply because of the fact that the Republican ideology isn’t as correct as they would like it to be, and, when push comes to shove, people are starting to shift over from the Republican lines to the Democrat lines. They are all worried- Borough Hall’s worried, City Hall’s worried. Why do you think Mike Bloomberg is going to be spending more time here? He knows that people are shifting in the five boroughs, and he needs to defend his voter base. People are starting to realize the things that I realized as I went through the Republican hierarchy. I worked in Borough Hall; I also was able to intern in the District Attorney’s office. I got to work for the Republican County Committee- I saw a lot of things, and many of those things scared me senseless.
TR: Several times through this, you mentioned “being forced into the Republican ideal”, and “being forced into the Republican Party”. Who would you say forced you? Was it your family, the schools, religion, society in general?
KD: Well, religion scared me partially because we all know that the Catholic Church- I was born a Catholic, I went through all the required Sacraments. Now I’m not really practicing anything at this time, simply because of the fact I don’t know of any religion that accepts homosexuality. But growing up in the Catholic Church, the stressing of that marriage is between man and woman had me worried. “Holy Fucking Shit! I might be damned to some form of Hell if I don’t marry a guy.” The same thing goes with my family- they are Christians all around; my sister also goes to the same Catholic high school that I went to. I was worried that my mother would even attempt to disown me- hell, she didn’t even like the guy I was dating for her sake! She didn’t like him, my father didn’t like him, my sister hated his guts- I really don’t know why. But, with regards to school… Yeah they taught me “Gays are bad.” Family: “Don’t be gay.” Republican Party: “Same-sex marriages are dangerous to family values.” I think that the GOP is the best spokesgroup for Christianity out there. I mean, Bush wants to add an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution making same-ex marriages unconstitutional! He can’t do that because there is a separation of Church and State. In my opinion, he cannot tell me that I have to marry a guy. I tried dating males- I wasn’t happy. I dated females- I found happiness. I am not going to have somebody down in Washington- who doesn’t even know who I am- telling me who I can and can’t love.
TR: Do you think you might marry in the near future?
KD: The only time I will marry is if they [the politicians] change the requirements of marriage with regards to benefits. If they make a civil union the more important one- and if you want to have a religious ceremony, go right ahead!- then allow that benefits be given to all couples, whether same-sex or not, then maybe. The only way I can get married is if a. New York State makes same-sex marriages legal, or I go civil and b. the insurance rules change. Until then, no. I am not going to marry a guy; it’s as simple as that. I don’t plan to, and that’s the way things are. If things change, then we will see.
TR: You mentioned several times your family’s acceptance, or lack thereof. Do they feel afraid to have you around your sister?
KD: I’m not really sure on that. They, especially my sister, do not want it being public so not to be known to her friends. I made the mistake of informing a common friend of ours at the time- he was actually taking her to the Junior Prom- that I was dating a transgendered person. She went and informed my mother and I got heat for that. They don’t want my personal life coming in contact with my sister’s. I can’t blame them- I don’t need my sister’s stresses coming on to me, and to be honest, I have enough drama in my life as it is. The least I would want from them is some form of acceptance. When I brought home a picture of my last girlfriend, I framed it and put next to my bed. I come home from classes one night and I find it missing- the entire thing. Turns out my mother threw it out because it was in the open when my sister had a friend over and they were using the computer in my room. Now I am required to have anything of her in the open- I have to hide pictures of her alone, of the two of us together, which I still have. My mother does not want them in the house. To have to hide who I am, just so when my sister’s friends come over, I’ve done it for so long. Do I have to add on to the eight years of lies because my family does not want the truth out? They know, just accept it already. So I guess, yes, they are afraid of my life being around my sister.
TR: How do you think your relationship with your family will be when you move out of their house?
KD: I think they will be ecstatic, because they don’t have to deal with the drama that is my life. I’ll enjoy it simply because I won’t yelled at every day for some reason or another.
TR: How have you been doing with blending your old friends- the Young Republicans- with your new friends, who to my understanding are quite liberal?
KD: I am going to be bluntly honest. I have very few friends from that period of my life. In fact, I really only kept three or four from then. They know and they all accept me for who I am. Other than that, I don’t have anyone close to me from my pre-CSI days that have followed me through this, and it is not fair. I’m still hardworking person who put in 15 to 16 hours in the office that they knew and loved. I do that here! I haven’t changed. It hurt me a lot that even my ex-boyfriend didn’t accept that. I went through three months of hell with him calling me, stalking me, e-mailing me. My friends here were there for me, no one else was there. I learned who my real friends were during this time. If it wasn’t for my friends here, I probably would have went completely nuts during the time my ex David was being a complete and total dick.
TR: Do you miss any of your friends from the Young Republicans?
KD: Honestly, I don’t miss anyone. They were just too uptight, they couldn’t balance things. And when the jokes would fly with regards to homosexuals- I couldn’t bring myself to laugh. They would ask me about my being uptight, I could only think, “If you only knew.” Maybe if I said something, things might be different now, but I doubt it.
TR: Did you retain any values from your Young Republican days?
KD: Probably not values, but I can say that I kept many of the skills I learned courtesy of them. Now that I am on the NYPIRG Board of Directors, I can use the things I had to do while holding many positions for the Young Republicans. I had to deal with giving speeches, going to events, talking to politicians, spreading the “Republican Ideal”. Instead of doing that, now I’m representing CSI’s students, taking what I learned at retreats and conferences and bring it back to the campus so that the students can use it to have their voices heard up in Albany.
TR: So that’s the only bridge you have?
KD: Well, I can use the political contacts I still have. They all know me; hopefully I can use that to my advantage in some shape, way or form. I don’t know how much the politicians know, but if anything, they will remember the work I did for them on their respective campaigns.
TR: So, how would you sum up your journey from Young Republican, from conservative, from everything that hates what you are to what you’ve become?
KD: I had a lot of help during this transition. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Kate, I don’t think the transition would not have been as easy. It probably would have been a lot harder without her help and guidance. If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably be extremely nuts right now. She was always there for me when my ex was being a pain. She gave me hope, taught me to love myself. That’s what made the transition definite. When I was pretending to be bi or straight, I hated myself for doing it. Kate taught me that you couldn’t really love anybody until you love yourself- which probably explains why none of my relationships never really worked out. And even though she and I aren’t dating anymore, she was and always will be my teacher; I hope she will always be there for me. I know when it came to our relationship I screwed up a lot. But what I love Kate for the most is the fact she wouldn’t let that keep us from having a friendship. She led me through the process of undoing the damage of the lies I wove around me. Many is the time I used her shoulder during the emotional stress I was under. The fact that she is still with me as a friend shows me that there is someone out there that understands who I am.
TR: Can you now say that you love yourself?
KD: Yes. During the time when I labeled myself as “straight”, I started to believe it and I hated myself for it. Kate came into my life back in February, and she helped me realize that it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks, its what you think of yourself. She helped me realize that I am not a horrible person- I might have some angry tendencies, but it is who I am. If people can’t accept that, then that is really too bad. It is who I am, I should not change for anybody, no matter what my relationship is with them. If there was anything I wanted to accomplish in my life, it was to say that I love myself. And I have.
If there was anything I wanted to accomplish in my life, it was to say that I love myself. And I have.
TR: What would you say to other young people going through or who might potentially go through what you just came from?
KD: You can’t have people telling you who to be. You are your own individual. You can’t be afraid of what people are going to think. If they can’t accept the fact that you are transgendered, lesbian, gay or bisexual, they are too narrow-minded for their own good. If your friends can’t accept it, then they were never your friends to begin with. Your friends are the ones who will stand by you, regardless of sexual preference. Don’t change yourself to fit the norm. Sometimes the majority does not have the power. It takes one person to speak out and at times, that one voice is enough. You shouldn’t lie about who you are, because sometimes the lies can become truth.
TR: Thank you for being brave enough to share your story and to sit down with us. Thank you for also joining our staff.
KD: Thank you for allowing me to tell my story.
Kara’s struggles continue, as she has been kicked out of her home and is staying in a shelter. She does hope to maintain her status in the CSI community. All of us at Third Rail magazine wish Kara all the happiness she deserves in her future.