The Weekly Dish
The Dishcast with Andrew Sullivan
Neil J. Young On The Gay Right

Neil J. Young On The Gay Right

He has a new history on the figures key to both the gay rights - and conservative - movements.

Neil is a writer and historian. He used to be a contributing columnist at The Week, and he now co-hosts the “Past Present” history podcast. His first book was We Gather Together: The Religious Right and the Problem of Interfaith Politics, and his new one is Coming Out Republican: A History of the Gay Right.

You can listen right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app). For two clips of our convo — on when the Postal Service snooped on gay men’s letters, and Trump’s growing support among gays and lesbians — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: growing up a gay kid in a Baptist family in central Florida; college at Duke then Columbia while living in NYC for two decades; how gays are a unique minority because they’re born randomly across the US; the Best Little Boy in the World syndrome; the libertarian tradition of gay activists; the Mattachine Society; the obscure importance of Dorr Legg and One magazine; the Lavender Scare; the courage of Frank Kameny; how “privileged” white men had more to lose by coming out; the fundraising power of Marvin Liebman; his close friendship with Bill Buckley; the direct-mail pioneer Terry Dolan; Bob Bauman’s stellar career in the GOP until getting busted for prostitutes; Michael Barone; David Brock; Barney Frank’s slur “Uncle Tom Cabin Republicans”; the AIDS epidemic; how the virus sparked mass outings and assimilation; gay groups decimated by the disease; why gay Republicans wanted to keep the bathhouses open; John Boswell’s history on gay Christians; my conservative case for marriage in 1989; the bravery of Bruce Bawer and Jon Rauch; the early opposition to marriage by the gay left and Dem establishment; HRC’s fecklessness; the lies and viciousness of gay lefties like Richard Goldstein; Randy Shilts despised by fellow gays; Bayard Rustin; war hero Leonard Matlovich; how DADT drummed out more gays from the military than ever before; Clinton’s betrayal with DOMA; the peerless legal work of Evan Wolfson and reaching across the ideological aisle; how quickly the public shifted on marriage; the Log Cabin Republicans in the early ‘00s; Dubya’s marriage amendment; his striking down of the HIV travel ban; PEPFAR; Ken Mehlman; Tim Gill; Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell; Gorsuch’s opinion in Bostock; Buttigeig’s historic run; the RNC’s outreach to gays in 2019; Jamie Kirchick’s book; Caitlyn Jenner; the groomer slur; the conflict between homosexuality and transness when it comes to kids; Tavistock; and the new conversion therapy.

Coming up on the Dishcast: Eli Lake on Israel and foreign affairs, Kara Swisher on Silicon Valley, Adam Moss on the artistic process, George Will on Trump and conservatism, Johann Hari on weight-loss drugs, Noah Smith on the economy, Nellie Bowles on the woke revolution, Bill Maher on everything, and the great Van Jones! Send any guest recs, dissents, and other comments to

From a fan of last week’s pod:

Thanks for the Daniel Finkelstein episode — it was fascinating. I immediately ordered the Kindle version of his book. What a story! Sounds like a great Netflix series next.

Another fan:

I enjoyed the conversation with Finkelstein and know him well from The Times. His description of what his family went through needs no additional comment, other than amazement at what so many millions of people endured. I’d heard one review already, but yours has me buying his book. The life-story episodes on the Dishcast are in very good form. (I was also amazed by Rob Henderson’s story.)

Channeling your previous guest John Oberg, I was struck by Finkelstein’s references to cattle trucks, and treating people like animals. These refer to the worst way humans have treated each other, and are now immediate inferences to unimaginable cruelty. It feels — it is — extremely tasteless to hijack a Holocaust memoir with an animal-rights agenda, and I don’t propose to do so any more than this! It’s more that I was struck by the language, which is so evocative, and yet what continues to happen to millions upon millions of animals that also don’t know where they’re headed, but do rightly fear it won’t be good.

So I don’t draw a moral equivalence, at all, but I wonder if we might reflect at least a little why, on the one hand, this is just about the worst thing imaginable, and on the other, how hamburgers get to us. I have the most po-faced reaction, for example, when I see the Chick-fil-A ads on road trips:

I remain very firmly of the view, per Yuval Noah Harari, that future generations will judge us harshly for our treatment of animals.

My other comment is on your noise pollution thread. One of your readers mentioned the public speakerphone thing. On this, I blame Donald Trump. I watched the early seasons of The Apprentice (mea culpa, mea maxima culpa), and in order to allow the mics to pick up the sound of both sides of the call, contestants held the phones up in this way. It was weird: I never saw a phone held that way before. (I think they were Nextel phones with “push to talk.) That’s what started up this business of holding the phone up, bottom edge facing the mouth, like it’s a ceremonial object. It makes me think of — learning nothing from the casual inferences in my earlier paragraphs — the lip plate of an Amazonian tribe:

I will go to my grave believing this was Not A Thing before The Apprentice.

LMAO. More on public noise from “an American expat retired in London”:

Recently I was riding on a train into London when a very loud woman was having a conversation with a colleague on speakerphone with the volume seemingly turned all the way up. After a couple of minutes, with my blood boiling and the veins on my forehead ready to burst, I stood up and lashed out at her. I told her to TURN IT DOWN, as I do NOT want to listen to her conversation, and neither does anyone else in the train carriage. She appeared genuinely stunned by my outburst and immediately ended the conversation. 

A little later on, after I had calmed down, I thought on reflection that I should have been more polite about it and not lashed out. Perhaps something like, “Excuse me, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind lowering your voice and turning the volume down please” would have achieved the same result. But after reading your column and your reader responses, I reflected again and thought I did the right thing. If I had asked her politely, she wouldn’t have realized how raging mad I was and how inconsiderate and obnoxious she was. As many of your readers have pointed out, most of these self-absorbed assholes are completely oblivious to the effect they have on the people around them.

I must have jinxed myself after writing that column, because not long afterward, I came across this dreadful scene in my neighborhood park:

Yeah that’s a DJ, and a head-level, four-speaker sound system. The entire park was forced to attend their party for several hours. I talked to them. They genuinely didn’t even seem to understand my point.

One more reader on the noise thread:

I read the New York Magazine piece you linked to regarding the murder of Tyquan Pleasant — a sad story indeed. What really struck me was that the author clearly could not bring herself to condemn the murderer, Shaun Pyles, most likely because Pyles was in an extremely favored identity category: black and trans! So instead, another culprit had to be found. And it turned out to be ... the building! Yes, the walls were so scandalously thin that it was actually the fault of perfidious developers all along.

This is such a hilariously left-wing perspective; individuals from favored identity categories can never be responsible for their own actions. There simply must be systemic forces at play. Still, if Pyles had been a white man, you can bet that Pyles would be Public Enemy #1 right now, and there would be wall-to-wall media coverage. 

Back to the pod, another listener notes, “I had the privilege of hosting Daniel Finkelstein at a UKIP meeting in Wellingborough some years ago. He’s a man full of wisdom.” Here’s a guest rec for another Finkelstein:

I’m fascinated by Norman Finkelstein’s dynamic with the progressive movement. He wrote an anti-woke book, I’ll Burn That Bridge When I Get to It!, and explained how he fears medicalization of trans youth might be similar to medicalization surrounding eugenics in the 20th century (one of the only things that progressives got wrong in recent history). The purity testing movement is also willing to give him a pass on trans stuff because he’s pro-Palestine, which is absolutely hilarious to me. He also recited an anecdote about loud music bothering him to the point where he threatened to have his neighbors arrested and deported. Just all around fascinating guy, though seems a little crazy.  

Oh Jesus. No. “Pro-Palestine” is quite the euphemism. Over to Michael Moynihan:

From a dissenter to the Dishcast:

After subscribing to the free version of the Dish, I am now leaving for good. Apparently you cannot say 30 words in a row without saying shit, fuck, or fucking shit. I realize full well that this the age of vulgarity, and shit shit shit is normalized, but not for me. Goodbye and good shitting. 

Fair enough. I try to use expletives sparingly, but ever since I started blogging 24 years ago, I marveled at my ability to use naughty words online in ways unthinkable in the mainstream press. And that mindset has stayed with me. But I’ll keep the dissent in mind in the future, and simply suggest that my reader not even think of listening to a forthcoming podcast with Johann Hari.

The praise keeps piling up for the Dawkins pod:

Thank you for the wonderful discussion, which introduced me to a kind and brilliant gentleman — not the scowling, rather disdainful person I thought I knew.  He’s delightful.  

I also appreciated your beautiful defense of us believers — not an attempt to persuade, but simply to explain the “God gene.” The one thing I would have added is that, like Professor Dawkins, I don’t believe in the supernatural, but that is not the basis for my belief in — my knowing of — God. Maybe everything is God. 

Did you get the TV commercial for Palmolive in the ‘70s, where Madge explains to a woman, “You’re soaking in it”? I have long thought that when I retire, I’ll become a hippie traveling in an RV with a bumper sticker with that written on it. WE — and everything around us — is not only proof of God, but fundamentally part of God itself/Himself/Herself. We are soaking in it! 

I was in Britain in the 1970s, alas. From a “long-time reader/listener”:

I’m late in responding to the Dawkins pod because it’s Holy Week and I’m a Jesuit priest. I’ve been off trying to give folks “solace in the face of nothingness,” in your memorable phrase. I write to offer a cheer and two dissents. 

The cheer: I groaned when you announced Dawkins as a guest, sharing your unpleasant association with him. I realize now that my reaction was less about Dawkins and more about how some wield his work. (The only thing worse than a Bible thumper is a God Delusion thumper.) Cheers for reminding me that teachers should not be held to account for the sins of their students 

Dissent 1: The most powerful critique of Dawkins is not that his worldview denies us “comfort,” but that it is manifestly unscientific.

Listen to this episode with a 7-day free trial

Subscribe to The Weekly Dish to listen to this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.

The Weekly Dish
The Dishcast with Andrew Sullivan
Unafraid conversations about anything