Monday, February 19, 2007

Queer Lincoln?

In honor of President's Day (I guess), I heard a story on the radio today about how Lincoln might have been gay. This conclusion was drawn mainly from letters and records that show Lincoln likely slept in the same bed with other men on occasion, and even said such things as "I love you" once in a while.

I think I'd rather be gay Lincoln style, and avoid the sex.


Kengo Biddles said...

What radio show was that on so I don't listen to someone so obviously ill informed as to the zeitgeist and social norms of an era.

People like that make me cringe. And yes, if that's really true, I would much prefer being gay that way.

Scot said...

Lincoln likely slept in the same bed with other men on occasion, and even said such things as "I love you" once in a while.

The claim is based on Lincoln’s relationship with Joshua Speed (the only man I’m aware of as being suspected of being Lincoln’s lover). They slept together, at least in the platonic sense, for about 4 years; that’s more likely. I’ve never heard a historian claim though this fact demonstrates either man was gay or bisexual. The questions come in by their correspondence, though, which does reveal a very emotional and close relationship.

Through into the mix Larry Kramer, a brash gay activist, who claims to have Joshua Speed’s diary. It’s a dubious tale and Kramer has not yet published his book or reveled his alleged diary, as far as I know and it’s been years. More can be red on it here:

But one released bit supposedly shows Speed wrote of Lincoln:

"He often kisses me when I tease him, often to shut me up. He would grab me up by his long arms and hug and hug,"

But he claims more salacious details exist. Sounds a bit fishy…

In the end, as with near all historical figures for which such is claimed, no one will ever really know. Most often homosexuality is at least something to be kept discrete (people hardly wrote of having heterosexual sex, though we know they did it :-)), but we do know gays must be there, in history. It’s just unfortunate it matters.

Chris said...

I also think it's important to remember that while homosexuality has been with us through the ages, the idea of being gay -- i.e., constructing a social identity around one's homosexuality -- is a relatively recent development. Abe Lincoln may well have had a male lover, but he couldn't really be gay, since gay life and culture and politics and identity were essentially non-existent.

-L- said...

Kengo, the radio show was on NPR (at the very end of the interview). But they were only discussing the view, not advocating it.

And if I ever want to be an activist, I will be sure to allege possession of some source nobody else has access to. Regardless of whether people take you seriously, you're bound to get great free press. hee.

Chris, the idea that "gay" entails an entire package of social and cultural identity is one I reject outright. Such use of the word only serves for equivocation and confusion of the issues, in my opinion. (Thinking how to make this sound less aggressive... but can't. Nothing personally charged here, that's just what I think.)

Master Fob said...

I hate it when people use nonsexual intimacy between men as evidence of homosexuality. Lincoln may well have been gay (in your preferred definition, L, not in yours, Chris), but the fact that he slept in the same bed, hugged, and even kissed another man is by no means proof.

Chris said...

L: I don't care if you reject it or not. My point was that when Lincoln was alive, there was no gay culture, no normalized gay life. Today, there is. Even if he was a homosexual, I very much doubt that Lincoln ever thought of himself as such.

Fob: I agree with you.