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Father Abe was a Faggot

Historian David Halperin argues not only that the category of homosexuality is a social and cultural construction of the modern period, but that the distinction between homo- and hetero-sexuality is also recent: “If contemporary gay or lesbian identity seems to hover in suspense between these different and discontinuous discourses of sodomy, gender inversion, and same-sex love, the same can be said even more emphatically about homosexual identity as we attempt to trace it back in time.”

Scholars and historians are blind to Lincoln's same-sex inclinations in part because of a personal aversion to male homosexuality, but more importantly because they fail to perceive the vast differences between the sexual culture of antebellum America and that of later times, especially in regard to male-male physical and emotional intimacy.

President Abraham Lincoln’s sexuality is hotly debated. Awkward around women, Lincoln had several intense relationships with men. While some of these were likely chaste, there are suggestions of sexual intimacy between Lincoln and at least two of these men: Joshua Fry Speed and later, Lincoln’s bodyguard, Captain David Derickson.

Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed shared a home in Springfield, Illinois from 1837 through 1841. The nature of the relationship between Lincoln and Speed has been debated. In 1926, Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg described both Lincoln and Speed as each having “a streak of lavender” and “spots soft as May violets” — euphemisms for effeminacy and homosexual behavior. Speed himself said, “No two men were ever so intimate.” During his presidency, Lincoln was known to share a bed with his bodyguard, Captain David Derickson, when Mrs. Lincoln was out of town. Contemporary reports describe the Captain wearing the President’s nightshirts.

While many historians have explained these men sleeping together as “innocent” and a result of a lack of mattresses (which may have explained Speed and Lincoln as Lincoln was establishing his law practice, but certainly not after that, and was certainly no obstacle for a sitting president), other researchers like C. A. Tripp find Lincoln most comfortable in homosexual relationships.

When Speed moved home to Kentucky in 1841 and Lincoln's engagement to Mary Todd was broken off, Lincoln suffered an emotional crisis. Before Mary Todd, he was engaged to another woman, but his fiancée called off the marriage on the grounds that he was "lacking smaller attentions." His marriage to Mary was troubled. Meanwhile, throughout his adult life, he enjoyed close relationships with a number of men.

Publishers Weekly wrote " this riveting new study that makes a surprisingly compelling case for Lincoln's bisexuality. Tripp merges a sexual psychologist's knowledge with a prosecutor's eye for evidence as he scrutinizes letters, diaries and oral histories gathered by early Lincoln researchers. Seeing what others either could not or would not, Tripp itemizes in telling detail three homosexual liaisons from different stages of Lincoln's life. "

Bookmarks Magazine wrote "Here’s a book that provokes more rebuttals than reviews. Every critic breaks out the textbooks to dispute, distort, and dismiss the evidence. Only The Advocate comes out with unabashed praise. Otherwise, the critical consensus is that the late Tripp, a former therapist, psychologist, Kinsey associate, and author of The Homosexual Matrix (1975), twists well-known evidence with an eye on an agenda rather than historical accuracy. More importantly, he doesn’t attempt to answer the trickier question of how Lincoln’s sexual predilections affected his role in American history."

The most convincing evidence is that Lincoln slept in the same tiny beds with a few males when it was not necessary and, in one case, only when his wife was out of town. Lincoln's life must be seen in the context of the sexual culture of his own time. This enables one to see that Lincoln's same-sex sexuality was not only unproblematic, but commonplace, if not typical, in his day. Revising the Myth of Lincoln in regard to his same-sex inclinations will have a positive effect on contemporary culture, especially on the education and socialization of young boys.

Andrew Sullivan noted " I think it's obvious, obvious that the man was gay and not many people sleep with other men and when the other man leaves have a nervous breakdown. Very few other presidents in history have slept with a man in their own bed in the White House while their wife slept next door. It is staring us in the face. It was written at the time, historical consensus is slowly shifting. It's far too dangerous right now for people to acknowledge."

Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame writes of Tripp’s thesis: “insofar as it leads people to think that Lincoln was gay, it does a disservice to history, for the evidence Dr. Tripp adduced fails to support the case.” Other respected Lincoln scholars, including David Herbert Donald, concur with Burlingame, criticizing Tripp for sexualizing expressions of endearment between friends Lincoln and Speed. (Tripp cites Lincoln’s use of “yours forever” in letters to Speed-words, it turns out, Lincoln used in correspondence with other men and leaders.)

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Page last modified: 06-10-2017 19:05:49 ZULU