For more than fifty years, gay Republicans have been a small but significant constituency for the party and some of its most enthusiastic activists, remaining loyal even as its platform has embraced evangelical Christian resistance to gay rights. And closeted gay Republicans have held influential positions in Republican administrations ever since Reagan. But they have been more than just good foot soldiers – their activism has been instrumental in creating the party of Trump.
Coming Out Republican: How LGBTQ Conservatives Paved the Way For the Modern GOP follows the gay men and women who, in the 1970s, from the boardrooms of Southern California and the bathhouses of San Francisco, mobilized an unexpected political movement dedicated to personal freedom and the right to be left alone. A diverse band of gay Republicans from small business owners, entrepreneurs, and military officers to leather daddies, drag queens, and bathhouse regulars – waged battles both at the ballot box and inside the GOP with the hopes of throwing Democrats out of office and homophobes out of their party.
They would not succeed at both. But even as their hopes of having a moderating influence on the party faded, gay Republicans adapted. And rather than leaving the party, many of them doubled down, sharpening the GOP’s far-right edge and helping to shape the modern Republican party. The compromises and calculations that gay Republicans made, and the embattled identity they cultivated, give us a new way of understanding the improbable rise of Trump and the conflicting currents that animate the GOP today.