Homo History: Founding Faggots – Part 2

George Washington. Photo via wikipedia.org.

Last week we explored the gay sex life of Alexander Hamilton, this week we take a look at two other great Americans.

George Washington was almost certainly subjected to rumors that he engaged in gay sex. As a Freemason, the historian Thomas Foster writes in his book, "Sex and the Founding Fathers," that newspapers commonly attacked Freemasons by circulating stories that they were “engaging in anal penetration with wooden spikes used in ship building.”

Whether these stories are true is not what interests Foster, however. What fascinates him, and what’s the subject of his book, is how the public has always hungered for stories about the Founders’ sex lives. At root, Foster argues: "Sex has always been a critical, though underappreciated way that Americans have tried to make the Founders relatable. It’s how we make them seem human, if no less heroic."

Washington provides a telling example. For much of the 19th century, his biographers all but ignored the fact that he never had children. To do so might suggest that Washington, the “father of the nation,” was less than fully successful in all aspects of his life. Even paintings of him with his wife, Martha, showed him surrounded by children: They were, in fact, his stepchildren from Martha’s first marriage.

Was Abraham Lincoln gay?

The subject of the 16th president's sexuality has been discussed for years. Scholars cite his troubled marriage to Mary Todd and his youthful friendship with Joshua Speed, who shared his bed for four years. In 2004 C.A. Tripp asserted in his book "The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln," that Lincoln had a homosexual relationship with the captain of his bodyguards, David V. Derickson, who shared his bed whenever Mary Todd was away.

His conclusion is that America's greatest president, the beacon of the Republican Party, was a gay man.

Tripp maintained that other writers, including Ida Tarbell and Margaret Leech, also found evidence of Lincoln's homosexuality but shied away from defining it as such or omitted crucial details.

Tripp describes Lincoln's relationships with other men, including Billy Greene, with whom Lincoln supposedly shared a bed in New Salem, Ill. It is also reported that Greene once said that Lincoln's thighs "were as perfect as a human being could be." While Lincoln's fellow lawyer Henry C. Whitney observed once that Lincoln "wooed me to close intimacy and familiarity."

Tripp has won support from other scholars. Jean H. Baker author of "Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography" (W.W Norton, 1987), said that Lincoln's homosexuality would explain his tempestuous relationship with Mary Todd, and "some of her agonies and anxieties over their relationship."

The question of Lincoln's sexuality is complicated by the fact that the word homosexual did not find its way into print in English until 1892 and that "gayness" is very much a modern concept.

Still, if Lincoln was gay, how did it affect his presidency? Baker said that "his outsider status would explain his independence and his ability to take anti-Establishment positions like the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation." As a homosexual, she said, "he would be on the margins of tradition. He is willing to be independent, to do what is right. It is invested in his soul, in his psyche and in his behavior."

Finding the truth is a sacred principal for historians, and history was never as straight as we are told. Recording our history means reporting the truth. "It's incumbent on all the scholars to bring to light material that has purposely been ignored it or swept it under the rug because they don't agree with it."


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