Last week I did a post here at The Bilerico Project that created quite a bit of commentary and several personal attacks in comments that I did not approve for publication because of their nastiness.
I was particularly surprised by the number of comments by authors who were incensed that I referred to Lincoln as "gay" as opposed to "bisexual." My own experiences as a closeted gay man who married were likewise disparaged and I was accused of "gaywashing" history. Apparently, to some, the fact that one has had sex with someone of the opposite sex - regardless of what thoughts and fantasies were going through one's mind during the process - makes one bisexual no matter what. Indeed, to these folks it was nothing short of heresy to recognize that someone gay can have sex with an opposite sex partner - even if it is merely only the result of trying to do "what's expected by church and society" - and still be gay.
I continue to believe that the issue is relevant and it is through accurate history that minds can sometimes be opened and prejudice defeated.
Since writing the post, a reader forwarded me a copy of the last segment of William Hanchett's piece in the Lincoln Herald (which apparently is not available on line, but I can e-mail a copy to anyone who wants a copy). Hanchett has been described as one of the foremost authorities on the Lincoln assassination and in this article he challenges those who have had a knee jerk reaction to suggestions that Lincoln was homosexual as follows:
The thesis C. A. Tripp presents in The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln requires either that it be refuted or that Lincoln biography and American history be revised. So far it has been denounced but not refuted.... they have shown no interest in testing Lincoln's character and biography against the Tripp thesis. As editor Lewis Gannett put it, "If Tripp is right, they are wrong in a very big way,"
Hanchett then proceeds to review some of the evidence himself and makes the case that, indeed, Lincoln could well have been a homosexual in his sexual orientation. He also dismantles some of the myths and stories often cited to prove Lincoln's interest in women. He also looks deeply at the secret memorandums of Lincoln's one time law partner, William Herndon and Herndon's motivations to protect Lincoln's memory - as well as the political considerations that argued for keeping Lincoln a heterosexual for posterity. Here are some highlights:
In 1887 Williarn Herndon wrote a correspondent that "I know a good deal about Lincoln - more than I dare state in a book."' Near the beginning of his great collaboration with Jesse Weik, he told his young associate that there were things about Lincoln he could not tell him, "especially in ink." In another letter to Weik, Herndon observed that though Lincoln was informal and familiar, he kept people at a distance.... When someone asked him if he thought Lincoln would have wanted his life to be investigated, he responded with an emphatic No, Lincoln, he explained, was "a hidden man and wished to keep his own secrets." Herndon thus recognized his investigations into Lincoln's personal history were trespasses on the sacred ground of his friend's privacy.
Whatever he thought of the ultimate disposition of his material, he knew that the secret of Lincoln's sex life was safe with him. He would withhold knowledge of it indefinitely or forever rather than release it prematurely. In Lincoln's interests, he would not only suppress evidence by confining it to his secret Memo books, he might even invent history. It is conceivable that that is what he was doing when he seized upon a few fragments of information about Lincoln's friendship with Ann Rutledge and turned them into a love story whose tragic ending darkened the rest of Lincoln's life.... For most of the years of his mature life, marriage would provide adequate cover, as it did for many other men hiding the same secret.
It may even have occurred to Herndon that in giving Lincoln a heterosexual past, he was also protecting the achievements of his presidency. For if Lincoln's enemies - unreconstructed rebels, diehard Copperheads, opponents of the centralization of power in Washington - sensed in some post-Reconstruction era that their causes not lost after all, they might sooner or later seek to undo the accomplishments of his presidency, what better way to turn back the clock than by discrediting the president responsible for the wartime revolutions in American government and society, and how better discredit him than by exposing his personal immorality? A major rewriting of history would necessarily follow, and the image of a gay Lincoln transformed from a national icon to a national embarrassment would be helpless to do anything about it.