Just because I reprint an article on JonahWorld!, it does not necessarily indicate that I agree with the content! Especially in this case. The fact that men commonly slept with one another in bed in the 19th century and for hundreds of years before, or that Lincoln was married, seems not to matter to this writer. What stuff! Jonah

 

 

Abe and the Boys

 

By Andrew Sullivan, Advocate, 3/1/2005



Pssst. Abraham Lincoln was almost certainly gay. Did you know that? No, we have no strong evidence that he had sex with men. But we know the following things, thanks to an important and unfairly maligned book by the late C.A. Tripp, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. Read it, if you can.

We know that as a boy and adolescent, Lincoln, according to his stepmother, "was not very fond of girls as he seemed to me." We know that there is scant evidence of any but perfunctory heterosexual behavior.

Lincoln was a classic "best little boy in the world" type. We know that as a mischievous adolescent, Lincoln wrote a bawdy poem about a potential gay marriage.

We know that all of Lincoln's close relationships and intimacies were with men, not women. We know that one of Lincoln's first major crushes, Billy Greene, remarked that Abe's "thighs were as perfect as a human being Could be." In the 19th century, having sex by humping another man's thighs was a simple and hygienic form of copulation. We know that Greene and Lincoln slept together in a cot-bed so tight, according to Greene, that "when one turned over the other had to do likewise."

We know that on his arrival in Springfield, Ill., as a young aspiring lawyer, Lincoln met one Joshua Speed at the local general store and immediately agreed to share a bed with him for lodging. Not so unusual in the rustic heartland of those days. But Lincoln and Speed shared their bed for four years.

He couldn't find anywhere else to sleep?

Every historian acknowledges their emotional bond. What kind of bond was it? When Speed eventually told Lincoln that he was leaving town, Lincoln had a complete nervous breakdown. "I am now the most miserable man living," Lincoln wrote at the time. "Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forbode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me." Does that sound to you like the reaction to a good friend moving on in life or to a true love affair denied and crushed?

We know that as president, Lincoln immediately befriended a young captain who was stationed at the White House, took him everywhere with him for a while, introduced him to senior officials, and slept with him in the same bed in the White House when his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was away. "What stuff!" a gossipy diarist wrote at the time. What stuff indeed.

The concept of homosexuality had not yet been invented, but that doesn't mean that gay men and women didn't exist in the 19th century. Of course they did. Yes, any particular piece of evidence that Tripp presents could be dismissed as hearsay or inconclusive. But the accumulation of detail left me persuaded that Lincoln was, if not 100% gay, then at least gay with a touch of bisexuality.

Even critics of the book agree on this. Its most rabid critic, Philip Nobile, concedes that bisexuality is a better way to explain Lincoln's emotional orientation than heterosexuality. In The New York Times Book Review, conservative writer Richard Brookhiser concluded that "on the evidence before us, Lincoln loved men, at least some of whom loved him back."

Does it matter? Of course it does. It matters first of all because the truth matters. Understanding the United States' greatest president as deeply as possible is a matter of historical necessity.

But it also matters because gay people have for too long always been deemed some kind of stranger to American life and civilization. But gay men and women have always been at the heart of this country--their patriotism and citizenship is as solid as anyone else's. And one of them--a Republican, no less--might even have saved the nation itself. Isn't that something that today's Republican Party would do well to acknowledge?