History is filled with iconic figures that have shaped world culture, some for good and others with a not so pristine legacy. Dozens of biographies, historical texts and discourse have been written about their lives, work and motivations. This research often spreads into their personal lives and in some cases includes speculation about their sexuality. From J. Edgar Hoover to Abraham Lincoln and Jesus, were our famous leaders in history also famously gay?
Was Leonardo da Vinci gay? The late Renaissance painter favored images of humanity in accord with the divine, including the naked forms of young men. Nudes were not uncommon in the 15th Century and the concepts of sexuality differed from what comes to mind today. However, what adds question marks to da Vinci's sexuality was his arrest at age 24 for sodomy, a then crime in Florence. No witnessed showed to prove da Vinci had had sexual relations with a seventeen-year-old male model as he was accused and so he was let free. Still, the rumors persist.
Some believe faith is blind and should not be questioned. Others, like scholars and theologians think that real answers come by inquiry and discovery. One such quest is the sexual orientation of Jesus. An article by Matt Johns in 2005 titled "Was Jesus Gay?" brought on a hell storm of controversy over the religious figures secular sexuality. Some, like Johns, say that large sections of Jesus's life are missing from historical record and among the missing elements may be evidence of lose relationships with men. Scholarly or sacrilegious? You decide.
Just how dirty was J. Edgar in his attempts to clean up crime and Communism in the United States? Hoover was known for his human rights violations just as much as he was for shaping one of America's safeguard agency. Leadership methods aside, not much is known about Hoover's personal life, but what is is riddled with rumors of a gay love affair with his second in command at the FBI. Was J. Edgar Hoover hiding more than Washington's secrets?
Name an icon more readily associated with freedom and equality and you'd be hard pressed to exclude Ab Lincoln. So, how would discoveries of Abraham Lincoln's sexuality affect modern day politics and the fight for gay equality? In his book The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln
, Dr. C.A. Tripp, professor, clinical psychologist and colleague of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, writes that on the Kinsey scale of 0-totally straight to 6-all gay, America's most famous president ranked a 5. But, before you claim bull, Tipp backs up his claim with details about Lincoln's friend Joshua Speed, with whom he shared a bed in his 20's, and diary and journal entries that support gay love.
Notorious for large-scale human rights atrocities, including the persecution of gays, Hitler used the pink triangle to mark suspected gays in Europe. But he may have also been a mark given speculation about his sexuality. Some historians claim the real reason Hitler had a hate relationship with gays was because he was closeted. What would Europe have looked like if one of its most powerful leaders was gay?