The United Gays of America

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TheApotheosis Lincoln And Washington 1860s
TheApotheosis Lincoln And Washington 1860s

In a country that protects free speech then seeks to ban critical race and ethnic studies, many Americans are starting to wonder just how accurate our history books have been. One in six Gen Z adults identify somewhere along the LGBTQ+ spectrum, compared to generations where it seemed Queer people didn't exist at all.

The question remains: Is the water really making the frogs Gay, or have they been Gay all along? Most well-educated people would agree with the latter statement, that is to say, Queer people have always been a part of American history, but in past eras, they were never given the freedom to be out and proud of who they were and who they loved. When we look more closely at the lives of many American heroes, though, it becomes clear they were not as straight as the history books have led us to believe.

Founding Fathers

Is it really much of a surprise that men and women who believed in freedom and liberation would believe in freedom from oppressive gender regimes and expectations? No, they didn't give women the right to vote, but maybe that's because some of these men just really loved men?

So, let's start with Alexander Hamilton. The inspiration for modern Broadway hip-hop culture may have actually been Bisexual. Historians have discovered love letters between Hamilton and another founding father, John Laurens, from their times at war. Laurens's father, Henry, had written letters to friends when his son was young, worried that the boy might never find attraction to women. While Laurens did marry, it was a loveless union. There are few records of Laurens's correspondence with his wife during his time at war, but he exchanged a myriad with Hamilton. In these letters, words of pure adoration were expressed: "I wish, dear Laruens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words, to convince you that I love you," Hamilton wrote. Sadly, these star-crossed maybe-lovers were lost to history after both suffered young and untimely deaths.

The founder of America, our hero, George Washington, may have also been a little fruity (although isn't everybody, really?). Washington was a part of the Freemasons, an organization that encouraged sexual freedom and exploration. In fact, many Freemasons would use wooden spikes for pegging (thank God for the invention of silicone! Poor George!). While it can only be speculated that George enjoyed the use of a good wooden musket, we do know he was at least an ally, encouraging his righthand man, Alexander Hamilton, to share a bunk with John Laurens while at camp.

The next generation of patriots

John Adams, second president of the United States, proud Bostonian and star of his own PBS miniseries, was also a massive homophobe — and father to at least one member of the alphabet mafia.

Charles Adams, the black sheep of the presidential family, disappointed his father in many ways. A troubled child at Harvard who was sent home early from the family vacation to France, Charles finally found himself after gaining employment in the law office of America's favorite Bisexual, Alexander Hamilton. It was here Charles met John W. Mulligan, son of famed revolutionary Hercules Mulligan. John and Charles became close under the tutelage of Hamilton, and after a few years, the two became "roommates," much to the dismay of John Adams, who was a staunch homophobe. He was quite literally afraid of homosexuality: he saw it as a sign of moral decay, and was appalled at his son's love.

Charles attempted to realign himself on the straight and narrow by marrying but later abandoned his wife and children under mysterious circumstances (which might have been the nickname he gave John Mulligan), leading his father to disown him, never to speak to or visit Charles again.

Queers in the White House

While on the campaign trail in 2020, Pete Buttigieg was asked how he would feel being the first Gay president of the United States. "I'm almost certain we've already had a Gay president," he responded.

James Buchanan, the "bachelor president," was very likely America's first Gay commander in chief. He never took a wife, but he did live intimately with another man, Sen. William Rufus King (for whom King County was originally named) while both served in the US Senate. Buchanan and King shared a very close friendship, which many historians believe to have been something more. While, suspiciously, few letters survive from Buchanan to King, King's letters to Buchanan were all kept by the former president, one of which expressed deep lonesomeness upon Buchanan's trip abroad.

After Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office. The sixteenth president was likely Bisexual, but like so many other Bisexuals, this part of Lincoln's life was overlooked due to the fact that he married a woman.

While most famous for the Emancipation Proclamation and a subpar experience with local theater, Lincoln also invented the "only one bed" trope. He is said to have had a love affair with Joshua Speed while they were living in Springfield, Illinois. The two shared a bed for four years before Speed left to marry a woman.

While many presidents are known to have affairs with younger women while in office (ahem, Bill Clinton), Lincoln's presumed presidential affair was with his younger male bodyguard, David V. Derickson. Lincoln and Derickson would share a bed when traveling, and records even show Derickson wearing one of Lincoln's shirts to bed!

The White House has also been home to Queer women. While many believe Buchanan to be the country's unofficial first Gay president and Lincoln to be the unofficial first Bi president, Eleanor Roosevelt is widely considered to have loved women. Early on in her marriage to Franklin D. Roosevelt, she discovered love letters between FDR and her secretary and close friend, Lucy Mercer. Shortly after this romantic betrayal, karma caught Franklin, and he found himself paralyzed after a fight with polio.

While many, including his own mother, saw a revival of Franklin's political career just as likely as his chances at winning a gold medal in the hurdles, Eleanor still believed in him and pushed him, physically and mentally, to pursue his dreams. Their marriage became more of a political partnership.

After his election, Eleanor took on most of the travel duties of the president and held her own press conferences specifically for female journalists. And when Franklin became incapacitated for several days, it was Eleanor who fulfilled the duties of president while also physically caring for her ailing husband.

Eleanor was an incredible First Lady with an incredible love story — but not the one you might think. In 1932 she met reporter Lorena Hickock, an openly Gay woman whom Eleanor affectionately referred to as "Hick." Hick and Eleanor exchanged more than 3,300 letters, they spent holidays together, and Eleanor even invited Hick to live in the White House with her, an offer her husband was surprisingly cool with.

In 1933 Eleanor wrote to Hick, "I wish I could lie down beside you and take you in my arms," to which Hick responded, "Funny how even the dearest face will fade away in time. Most clearly I remember your eyes, with a kind of teasing smile in them and that feeling of that soft spot, just north-east of the corner of your mouth against my lips."

While these are just a few samples of some of the great Queer love stories in American history, there were thousands more who were unable to be with the ones they loved, Americans who had to hide who they were or pretend to be someone else. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, it is important to remember that freedom includes the freedom to love and exist just as we are. Queer people have been changing the world and running the show since the very beginning, even if American history books try to erase their existence.