A conservative on campus

People struggle to see past a misunderstood political identity

Kornak feels isolated on university campus for identifying as a conserative.
Credit: 
Tessa Warburton

When I told people I was supporting former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the 2015 federal election in—my first year at Queen’s and first time voting—I was met with silence. 

Most of my peers favoured Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Stating my desire to support the Conservatives left me with the immediate feeling of a target on my back.

A myth often perpetuated about conservativism is that political leaning is inherited rather than developed. But in my experience, that’s not true. 

Three years since that federal election, I’m now comfortable with voicing my right-leaning opinions in public discourse. 

The issue I find unique to being a young conservative on a university campus is once someone finds out about my partisanship, they’re less likely to want to get know me. 

Since being open about my political affiliations on social media, I’ve lost numerous friends. These are people who—although knowing my true character—struggle to see past a political label that is commonly misunderstood. 

I didn’t become openly conservative until the summer of my first year. After engaging in plenty of critical discussions with my peers from across the political spectrum, 

I felt comfortable enough to publicly identify as politically right-leaning. 

While my views on specific issues are somewhat nuanced, I can easily explain why I’m a conservative. I believe in small government with a focus on the economy.

I believe in the power and necessity of a free market, and that capitalism is a force of good. 

I believe liberty should be widespread and freedoms ubiquitous, and that freedom of speech, religion, and expression, are essential to a democracy. 

Most people, however, don’t assume I’m conservative based on these ideas. Instead, they assume I’m a homophobic racist who hates my own gender. 

Conservatives are restrained to a kind of political bubble where their beliefs and motives are limited to anything but progressive action.

An often popular opinion about those who identify as conservative is that we don’t accept concepts like climate change or care about human rights. However—and I’m living proof—these generalizations don’t apply to how every conservative lives their life. 

I’ve been an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ+ community since high school, where I helped facilitate the gay-straight alliance club. 

As someone connected to their Métis heritage, I served on Queen’s Native Students Association and attended meetings of the University’s Truth and Reconciliation Task Force.  

I started an organization dedicated to combatting sexual violence and work to empower more women to seek public office. 

But no matter how much time and attention I devote to these constructive and progressive causes, all of it seems to be marred by my being conservative—a misconstrued label. 

During the most recent provincial election, I saw countless Facebook posts comparing current Premier Doug Ford to Donald Trump. I believe this comparison ends at the fact that they’re both loud, burly men. 

However, when I voiced my opinion and explained why I supported the Progressive Conservatives in the election, I was met with brutal attacks on my intelligenceand morality. 

The mistreatment I received online for expressing support in Premier Ford is just a microcosm of most conservatives’ experiences. I’ve been named a traitor to my gender, but as a woman with equal rights  

I should be free to make political judgments. I’ve similarly been called a “c—” dozens of times by those who claim to be proponents of tolerance and respect. 

A Queen’s PhD student even told me to set myself on fire over Twitter once.

In addition to the backlash I’ve received from peers, I’ve had professors dock marks and belittle me for challenging their left-leaning views. 

On several occasions, I’ve witnessed professors spew blatant lies about the former Conservative government, Canada’s oil and gas industry—of which I am an avid proponent—and its environmental record.

I’m often vocal in class and unafraid of confronting such mistruths. But over the past year, I’ve noticed that doing so has negatively impacted my grades.

This discouragement for simply holding views outside of the norm and being open has led me to believe that Queen’s lacks the capacity to tolerate my opinions—something every student should feel comfortable expressing. 

While the social alienation that accompanies being right-wing can be brutal, I would never stop voicing my views in the way I do. 

Recently, myself and a group of other women created Story of a Tory—a blog dedicated to writing on issues from a right-wing and female perspective—after we were tired of being stigmatized. 

Since doing so, I’ve been approached by dozens of people thanking us for saying what they’re afraid to. They told me they’ve avoided revealing that they’re conservative for fears of being ostracized on campus. 

Partisanship will never love you back. Being open about your views inherently makes you vulnerable to attack. 

It’s not popular to be conservative, but it’s important to live your truth and stick to the values that fulfill you.

For those who reside on the opposite end of the political spectrum, I encourage you to do the same.

Queen’s administration claims that it’s working to create a more robust culture of respect on campus. I firmly believe it’s vital to the spirit of the university that such a culture extends to include all political views.

The more we engage thoughtfully and respectfully with those who differ from us, the more Queen’s grows as a healthy university and the more we grow as individuals. 

Natasha is a fourth-year Life Sciences major.

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