James Buchanan, Our First Real Gay President
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I didn't know this. But, its widely believed (and there is some evidence to suggest) that our 15th President James Buchanan was indeed a homosexual. Or, to be fair, possibly bisexual. Or maybe even mostly asexual. Not sure there. But, most evidence suggests that he was just homosexual.
Consider this Wikipedia exert for evidence:
For fifteen years in Washington, D.C., before his presidency, Buchanan lived with his close friend, Alabama Senator William R. King. King became Vice President under Franklin Pierce. King became ill and died shortly after Pierce's inauguration, four years before Buchanan became President. Buchanan's and King's close relationship prompted Andrew Jackson to call King "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy", while Aaron V. Brown spoke of the two as "Buchanan and his wife." Some of the contemporary press also speculated about Buchanan's and King's relationship. The two men's nieces destroyed their uncles' correspondence, leaving some questions about their relationship; but the length and intimacy of surviving letters illustrate "the affection of a special friendship", and Buchanan wrote of his "communion" with his housemate. In May 1844, during one of King's absences that resulted from King's appointment as minister to France, Buchanan wrote to a Mrs. Roosevelt, "I am now 'solitary and alone', having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone, and [I] should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection."
And, to further legitimize this claim...
In a 2012 essay sociologist Jim Loewen wrote, "There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during, and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too – he was not far into the closet....Today, I know no historian who has studied the matter and thinks Buchanan was heterosexual." However professors Smith and Haider say whether or not he was gay, he was "certainly not open about it." Biographer Jean H. Baker concluded that Buchanan used the typical florid language of intimacy that was common in that era. Furthermore she says he was not gay but, and using physiognomy argues he had little interest in any form of sex.
This Salon.com article has some interesting things to say on the subject, particularly when he talks about something called 'ethnocentrism'. It's a very good read. Check it out here: http://www.salon.com/2012/05/14/our_real_first_gay_president/
So, what do you think? Is it possible that we have digressed as a nation, as this article suggests, into a less tolerant nation on a number of issues? And, what do you think of this evidence? Am I just behind on my presidential pop-culture tid-bits, or does this enlighten anyone else?
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First off, I do not think that labeling someone as homosexual is smearing their name. Its not an insult. At least, not to me. Its just further categorization of a person's identity. Also, I do think there is relevance here. As the salon.com article suggests, we can be and usually are a nation of ethnocentric individuals, meaning we always think that the present is the most enlightened (the best) with the past simply being a preamble to now. When, in actuality, that is not always the case. For, if we did indeed have a gay president, and multiple politicians were aware of this, that does say at least something about tolerance levels. But, I do understand that there are about a million factors that would make that situation different from modern, digital times. But, still, its at least somewhat noteworthy.
Bringing up this past 'footnote' could bring light to the fact (at least to some) that we may have already elected a homosexual president. So, to do so again in the future (or to elect someone else as a first) wouldn't be as 'out of bounds'.
I didn't see this as negative. Or as gossip. I saw this as more of a way to reframe our perspective on the way we view our level of maturity and enlightenment as a country. And, to consider that the past may have had some footnotes that we could actually consider and learn from when it comes to equality and seeing past someone's chosen (or even hidden) sexual preference as it doesn't make a difference on a person's ability to run the country effectively, or not.