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11 US Presidents Who Might've Been Gay
written by Sam Greenspan

Considering how much people love to speculate on who might and might not be gay -- I think it's replaced baseball and obesity as America's favorite pastime -- I was surprised I couldn't find a single list out about the potential closeted homosexuality of the U.S. presidents.

So I'm stepping in to fill the void. A very tongue-in-cheek list (as you'll see from the ultra-speculative "evidence") of 11 U.S. presidents, ranked from least likely to most likely gay.

Apologies to Elanor Roosevelt who would've made the cut if I really needed to fudge things... and also to Harry Truman, whose deploying of the Enola Gay was going to be my emergency 11th pick if I couldn't find anyone better.

  1. If The Globe says it, it must be true.
    Barack Obama. - I never thought it was a possibility until I saw the tabloid cover pictured to the right. Although, honestly, if I opened that up in the grocery store checkout line, I probably would've been more drawn to the story about the "Rampaging Chimp Tragedy." That sounds nuts.

    Still, tabloid speculation and being one of the most pro-gay rights presidents ever isn't enough to push him any higher on the list than last.

  2. John F. Kennedy - We all know he took down more women than the math portion of the SAT (Kidding! I'm kidding! Stereotypes hurt!) -- which suggests he wasn't gay. That being said, a book called Jack and Lem dug deep into his lifelong friendship with a gay man named Lem Billings... and at least threw some iffiness into the mix. The author of the book, David Pitts, says he concluded JFK and Lem never got physically intimate with each other... but were definitely emotionally intimate.
    "I'm firmly convinced after working on this book that John Kennedy's sexual interests were in women. We don't need much evidence of that, the evidence is all over the place. But his strongest emotional attachments were to men, and principally, to Lem. We don't have a word for that, right? Somebody who prefers the opposite gender for sexuality, and the same gender for deep, emotional attachments?"
    In other words, JFK subscribes to the Homer Simpson philosophy on gender -- Marge: "He prefers the company of men." Homer: "Who doesn't?"

  3. Martin Van Buren - Anytime a president is single when he's in office (which has barely happened), whispers start up. And, sure, Van Buren was single because his wife died of tuberculosis at age 35, a few years before he was elected. But he never remarried. So there's always been a mild murmur. But we're talking, like, a Ryan Seacrest murmur, not an Anderson Cooper murmur.


  4. No ex-president parties harder.
    Bill Clinton - I'm just saying: You find yourself involved in enough threesome, foursomes, ninesomes and dodecasomes and eventually you're going to cross swords with someone.

  5. Thomas Jefferson - There was a sarcastic New Yorker write-up of why Thomas Jefferson might've been gay last year. He says he used Toni Morrison standards (filling "every trope"). Me-ow.

    Anyway, some highlights of that article include: He was America's first foodie, he imported fine exotic foods, but always stayed skinny... he obsessively decorated and chose furniture for Monticello... he never remarried after his wife died at age 39... he loved Paris... he seems to have dyed his hair... he had a lisp... and he loved birdwatching.


  6. Johnson and Jenkins together outside the Capitol.
    Lyndon Johnson - Many historians attribute a big portion of LBJ's political success to a man named Walter Jenkins, who served as his top and closest aide from 1939 (when Johnson was in Congress) until a month before the 1964 presidential election.

    Jenkins resigned in October of 1964 when he was caught with a young man in a YMCA bathroom. (I don't remember "presidential aide" being one of the Village People costumes, but they had enough guys come and go that it may've slipped in.)

    Since the man who was closest to LBJ for 25 years turned out to be gay on the down low (he had a wife and six kids; they separated a few years after the scandal) -- speculation surfaced that maybe there was something between Johnson and Jenkins.

    His presidential opponent, Barry Goldwater, even had bumper stickers made that read "All the way with LBJ, but don't go near the YMCA."

  7. Dwight Eisenhower - If the past ten years have taught us anything, it's the louder a politician rallies against gay rights, the more likely he is to wind up getting caught singing "Glory, Glory Hole-allujah." (YES! YES! YES! Wordplay rules! Don't give me that look. I worked for like 20 minutes on a place to organically work in that pun.)

    In 1953, Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, which classified gays and lesbians as potential national security threats and banned them from working for the government. Yet another repulsive part of the McCarthy era. And with that, Eisenhower fills my "the lady doth protest too much" slot on this list.

  8. George Washington - Historians say he always seemed to value his bonds with men -- whether during war or in politics -- than he did with his wife. Which leads directly to the speculation.

    It's widely believed his marriage to Martha was at least somewhat motivated by her money -- she was loaded from a previous husband. And in a letter to a friend, he wrote that they didn't have "much fire between the sheets." They didn't have any children (possibly because he was sterile... OR POSSIBLY NOT). See, I'm just like Glenn Beck. I ask questions.


  9. Unbelievable mutton chops. Truly spectacular.
    Chester A. Arthur - People rarely talk about Chester A. Arthur's sexuality because people rarely talk about Chester A. Arthur. He is to presidents what Ray Jackson was to Michigan's Fab Five. But I researched every single president for this list -- and when people do get around to jawing on Chester A., the homosexual thing keeps popping up.

    It generally centers on three things. One: His gorgeous mutton chops. Two: His high-culture leanings (good food, good wine, fancy clothes, exceptional dance moves). And three: He was a very lazy president, so he must've been busy getting it on with dudes.

  10. Abraham Lincoln - There's a ton of talk about Lincoln's potential homosexuality. Most of it centers on his relationship with a man named Joshua Speed. Lincoln and Speed spent four years living together and sharing a small bed -- and therein lies the "silver bullet" of the speculation.

    I'm not as sold on that. From what I can tell, that's what roommates did at the time because of financial, space, and even warmth considerations. I'm more swayed by Lincoln's horrible choice for a wife. Mary Todd wasn't attractive. She's believed to have had serious psychological problems. She beat him. He was miserable in the marriage. Could he have picked her because she came from a high-class, wealthy, connected family and that was his primary concern in a woman -- not the love/sex/"You complete me" nonsense?

  11. James Buchanan - So the speculation on the 10 presidents listed until now has been anywhere from syllogistic at best to flat-out jokes at worst. This one's a bit different. If any U.S. president is recognized as probably gay, it's Buchanan.

    Buchanan was the only president who was never married. He lived with a man -- Senator William Rufus King from Alabama -- for years. Andrew Jackson allegedly referred to them as "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy". When King left for a trip to France, Buchanan told a friend: "I am now solitary and alone. I have gone a-wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them." He was also recognized as being uptight and gossipy -- kind of like Mitchell on "Modern Family".

    And that's basically the entirety of the evidence. Is it semi-convincing? Sure. Is it enough to get him cast in the token slot on the "Real World", make him innately able to recite the entire screenplay of "Mean Girls", or ensure he knew what Missoni was before it led to stampedes at Target a few days ago? Let the debates rage on.

This list was originally published on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 11:00:00 AM under the category News & Politics.
It currently has View Comments.

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