Re: C.A. Tripp's New Book Claiming Lincoln Was Gay (Washington Blade)

Roundup: Talking About History

Joe Crea, in the Washington Blade (11-5-04):

Resurrecting a four-decade old debate questioning the sexual orientation of President Abraham Lincoln, a new book asserts — based largely on circumstantial evidence — that the 16th president was gay.

“The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln,” written by the late Dr. C.A. Tripp, is slated for publication early next year according to a spokesperson for Free Press, the book’s publisher.

Tripp, who was a clinical psychologist, had worked closely with the controversial sexologist Alfred Kinsey. Using Kinsey’s famous scale that ranks the homosexual component of an individual from 0 to 6, Tripp wrote that, “By this measure Lincoln qualifies as a classical 5 — predominately homosexual, but incidentally heterosexual.”

The author died just two weeks after he completed his book.

According to a recent report in the L.A. Weekly newspaper, the book includes previously unreported accounts, including Lincoln’s stepmother admitting in a post-assassination interview that he “never took much interest in the girls,” his sharing of a bed with several men and a poem the teenage Lincoln wrote about two boys who get married.

A review copy of the book is not yet available, according to a spokesperson for the book’s publisher. But the L.A. Weekly story reported, “after assiduous and clandestine effort — we managed to obtain a copy of the book’s uncorrected proofs.”

Historians say the book is largely based on suggestive evidence and without concrete proof of Lincoln’s homosexuality, many historians are wary of Tripp’s claims.

“Highly circumstantial evidence at best,” said Craig Howell, a gay Civil War historian who leads professional historic tours. “It’s very difficult to interpret 19th century letters and customs. This information is suggestive but not conclusive.”

For four decades, some scholars and activists have asserted that Lincoln was gay. Many have focused on Lincoln’s long, intimate relationship with Joshua Speed, with whom Lincoln shared a bed for four years while both men were in their 20s.

Edna Greene Medford, an African-American history scholar at Howard University said there has not been much discussion of Lincoln’s supposed homosexuality at the various Lincoln scholarly conferences she regularly attends. Medford noted that many historians dismiss assertions that Lincoln was gay because sharing a bed with male companions was a common 19th century practice, Medford says.

Alan Kraut, a professor of history at American University, said males frequently shared the same bed in the 19th century because of poverty, tenement houses and the general confining nature of frontier life....

comments powered by Disqus