HNN Hot Topics: Was Lincoln Gay?

Hot Topics
tags: gay history, gay marriage

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Although Lincoln had a brilliant sense of humor, and certainly had some "happy" moments in his life, his sexual orientation has no bearing on his principal accomplishments. It is not entirely irrelevant to his character, personality or biography, but without clear evidence on the matter, this non-determinable question -no matter how provocatively posed- serves little general purpose except to get a few homophobes bent out of shape or give some similarly prejudiced pick-up truck drivers one more reason to feel proud about the flags of a failed slaveowners rebellion.

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

Hear-hear Mr. Johnson. Not that I mind but crap like this HURTS the cause of homosexuals having their unnatural sex acts accepted by the other 97% of the population.

Joey Johnson - 6/7/2005

I have seen some pretty crappy articles and some pretty crappy responses to those crappy articles on this website. However, this article has taken me to an all-time low. Although I doubt the title of this article is the author's--as the editor frequently spices up the titles--the rest of the article is still bad. It has been called "bad history," but it should not be called history at all. When gay authors have to sink this low to try help their gay cause, it is actually a setback for gays everywhere.

Lisa Kazmier - 1/29/2005

Reason can produce insight. Questions can yield informative analysis. Part of doing history is asking "new" questions of material not expressly about said query. This means you may not "know" the answer coming in but may emerge with insight and some intellectual satisfaction from the product. How lacking in curiousity we all would be if topics researched only concerned themselves with questions that had clear answers. Who was Jack the Ripper? Tell dozens of authors not to bother, huh?

You make your case and see what you have. This author is most probably guilty of great overreach, as his ex-collaborator maintains. He did not write a balanced assessment and failed to justify why he did not do so.

But you ask something else and your problem or anyone else's problem with his book isn't the issue. No one woud ever carve out a new field of inquiry if they never tried to "think outside the box" and asked novel, and seemingly unprovable questions. History would die without thoughtful people doing something beyond the same topics and same story over and over.

This does not mean I agree with this author's statement. The gay or straight argument is historically anachronistic. What seems most obvious is that Lincoln, like many educated 19th century men, enjoyed a homosocial environment. Did that cross over to sex? Maybe. I cannot say for sure. I'm not sure I even care, since it isn't my field. But someone less invested would do the job better than has been done to date.

Michael Green - 1/29/2005

For anyone to fudge the facts of history for her or his cause is bad enough. But I would say nothing is lower than using a website dedicated to the discussion of history to engage in a bigoted attack on a particular group such as homosexuals.

Loren Hibberd - 1/17/2005

I think exploring the sexual orientation of a president is not a bad idea in that such attributes are increasingly occupying our attention. As long as it is done in a sensible manner that is not judgmental, then it seems appropriate for HNN or anyone else to discuss.

Ralph E. Luker - 1/12/2005

Professor Johnson, It's good to have your opinion. How about you writing and contributing an article of the high quality which you think HNN ought to publish?

Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

The supposition that Abe was a homosexual arises from historical ignorance & and, of course, Liberal counter-cultural advocacy.

The notion that Lincoln was homosexual found credence in the minds of some ignorant of the historical fact that in the 19th Century beds were expensive items, much more expensive relatively than they are today.

In the 19th Century it wasn't at all for men to share a bed, but because they did, that didn't mean they were homosexual. Rather, it was a matter of economics & common sense.

The supposition Lincoln was homosexal is not only nonsense, it is vicious denigrating nonsense.

Likewise, once-in-a-while one reads that Richard the Lionheart must have been a homosexual because he didn't, as was common in his day, leave behind him litters of children born out of wedlock.

This assumption based on so barren facts reflects the modern obsession with sex, as well as the coiunter-cultural tendency of much our society.

Richard's biographer, Anthony Bridge, points out the first refence to Richard's supposed homosexuality wasn't made until 1948, a reflection of the staste of modern societry instead of historic reality.

The secular mind sometimes has difficulty in coping with, accepting the notion of, religious commitment. Richard was intensely Christian. Therefore he chose to restrain his sexual activity to the marriage bed, a reality some of today's Liberals cannot understand.

David Lion Salmanson - 12/29/2004

I'm as left as they come, but to say that Lincoln was "gay" is simply bad history. In Lincoln's day, there was no such thing as "gay" (which is not to say men did not practice sodomy with other men, even exclusively, merely that our categories of sexuality were not theirs). Men enjoyed a range of affectionate relationships that today would be considered "gay" or at least "effeminate." And sharing beds was hardly proof of anything happening in the bed. The work of Susan Lee Johnson sheds much light on this as does the work of George Chauncy. In the 19th century, the relevant categories were tops and bottoms (in our modern day parlance) with tops being close to "straight."

Michael Green - 12/24/2004

I don't know which is more troubling, the idea that people are so willing to accept what C.A. Tripp said or that people are claiming that the idea that Lincoln might have been gay is based on "liberal counter-cultural advocacy."

First, Tripp's work is based on guesswork. If it is true, fine. But the evidence I have seen leads me to believe that most of us in this profession would be unlikely to reach so strong a conclusion on the basis of his suppositions.

Second, the most passionate advocates of Lincoln as gay have included not only liberals, but also members of the Log Cabin Republicans, some of whom have used Lincoln's alleged homosexuality to justify their membership in a party that regularly denigrates them.

Third, Mr. Livingston's argument is insulting. I am liberal, based on the idea that liberals believe in open-mindedness and that government has to do some of the things that private individuals and business cannot or will not; I regret that so many find open-mindedness and caring about humanity a capital offense. I also happen to believe that whether an individual is homosexual should have no effect on how he or she is treated privately or publicly, in law or in fact. But just because I am liberal and support gay rights, that does not mean that I believe or have to believe that Lincoln or anyone else is gay, and I am sure that many scholars, far more distinguished than I am and probably more liberal to boot, would readily agree with what I have just said.