Lincoln’s Sexuality and The Simpsons

Much to my horror last evening, the latest BCS standings appeared on Fox Television. As I was watching the results scroll on the screen, I became infuriated that my beloved Nittany Lions had been jumped by the Texas Tech Red Raiders.  After calling my brother to claim the BCS was horse pooh, I decided that my blog topic today would be what Lincoln would say about the BCS (that is Bowl Championship Series, which determines the national champion in college football Division I-A).  The comfort that my brother and I had was that the Simpsons annual Halloween special was about to begin and I had seen a preview that they were going to lampoon It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Much to my surprise, the episode returned to Abraham Lincoln.

The Simpsons have always had fun with the Civil War in two previous episodes.  One, the city of Springfield was re-enacting a Civil War battle between the East and West forces.  The re-enactment spills over to a WWII veterans meeting, where Abe (Grandpa) Simpson, and fellow WWII vets are listening to Tom Brokaw and demanding that he owes them.  As the chaos of the Civil War re-enactment disturbs the WWII meeting, the WWII vets get into tanks and crush the Civil War forces.  In another episode, the famed anchor for the local news, Kent Brockman, reports that a squirrel has been discovered that looks like Abraham Lincoln.  Brockman reports this with a graphic of a squirrel that bears Lincoln’s profile.  Later, in the episode, Brockman has a breaking story:  the Lincoln squirrel has been assassinated.

Last evening, the Simpsons did a parody of the brilliant AMC show Mad Men.  In the episode, Homer was working for an ad agency and realized that he could use dead celebrities to hock whatever items he wanted, because they could not respond.  This idea comes into fruition with the brutal murder of Krusty the Clown (a la the movie Fargo).  Halfway through the skit, we are taken to heaven where many of the celebrities, whose likeness has been used to sell products in a distasteful manner, are gathered together to complain.  Gathered amongst the celebrities are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  We are then shown a new commercial for the Springfield Wedding Chapel that will hold a President’s Day Marriage-a-thon.  At the chapel, Lincoln and Washington elope and kiss in the commercial.  Washington responds, in heaven. “That ad portrays that Mr. Lincoln and I are betraying familiarities.  It’s an outrage.”  Lincoln blushes and responds, “Yes …(nervous chuckle)… an outrage.”

The celebrities decide to break out of heaven and go exact their revenge on Homer, running over Jimmy Stewart.  The celebrities murder Homer Simpson (it is the Halloween episode) and ride back to heaven, only to find that Homer has beaten them back and locks the gates to keep them out.  The only two seen now are Homer and Lincoln.  Lincoln tells Homer about a poker game at the Rec Center and Homer finds that a fun thing to do in heaven.  Homer calls Lincoln “Mr. Penny Face” and then asks if his wife is there.  Lincoln responds with a chuckle and tells Homer, “We have an understanding.”  He then proceeds to grab Homer’s buttocks as the scene fades to black.  As my friend Mike Upton pointed out, The Simpsons must be thinking Lincoln was a Homer-sexual! 

The humor utilized by the Simpsons reveals a very real, interesting, and some would argue, disturbing question about Lincoln:  Was he gay?  Since Lincoln married and had children, was he bisexual?  In recent years, some writers have taken up the task to explore the sexuality of our chief executives in the Civil War Era.  James Loewen, the celebrated sociologist but sloppy historian, triumphantly proclaimed he had outted James Buchanan.  Larry Kremer claimed at a recent conference that he had proof that Lincoln and his best friend, Joshua Speed, were lovers.  He said Speed had written in his diary of Lincoln, “He often kisses me when I tease him, often to shut me up.  He would grab me in his long arms and hug and hug. . . our Abe is like a school diary.”  Carl Sandburg, the eminent Lincoln historian, wrote in 1926 that Speed and Lincoln had a relationship that was “a streak of lavender and spots soft as May violets.”  As noted in a Salon.com article, in 1996, the log-cabin Republicans, after being rejected by Bob Dole, denounced it, arguing that the founder of the Republican party was just like them:  gay.

Kramer claimed that the diary had been found hidden in a general store, under the floorboards, that had been owned by Speed, where he and Lincoln first met.  However, Kramer never produced the diary or further proof that Lincoln was gay.  In 2004, C.A. Tripp produced a book, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, that attempted to again look at the issue.  What is fascinating about this book is what Tripp says and does not say.  He looks at seven relationships that Lincoln had with men throughout his life.  Tripp utilizes the often criticized studies of Kinsey, which said that adolescent boys experienced same sex activity and thus, clearly the young Lincoln did the same thing.  Tripp also claimed that Lincoln hit puberty at age 9, giving him PLENTY of time to engage in many gay relationships.  Yet, just because someone hits sexual maturity at an early age does not mean they would sexually experiment.  Keep in mind:  Lincoln grew up in an age before gay identity, which did not come into America until well after the Civil War.  Self-identification as a homosexual is a post-Lincoln phenomenon.  Thus, Tripp is playing fast and loose here with puberty and identity and the implication does not hold water.

Next, Tripp turns to Lincoln as the storyteller, which included many off-color stories and some poetry with a homosexual twist, including a poem intended as a joke about two men who got married by accident.  I think this does nothing to prove Lincoln was gay:  it only proves he might vote against Prop. 8 in Califormia.  Yet, Tripp uses the poem as evidence that Lincoln had to be gay, when combined with his early maturity.  Tripp then catalogues Lincoln’s friends, including Billy Greene, who Lincoln helped when his boat became stuck (Greene would write in a letter later in life, describing Lincoln has having perfect thighs and the two men shared a bed when they spent time together).  Although Tripp sees this as the proof, its problematic for two reasons:  First, the language of the nineteenth century greatly differs from the modern era and many men would describe other men in these romantic, flowery tones that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.  Secondly, it was routine for men to share a bed.  Lincoln, when traveling the circuit as a lawyer, shared beds with his law partners all the time at local inns.  Tripp forgets that this is before there are 93 hotels in one area- many communities had one tavern with beds and the men had to share if they wanted a good night’s rest. 

I know what you are thinking:  Lincoln married Mary Todd and courted Ann Rutledge.  Tripp says that the marriage to Mary Todd was for political convenience and that he stayed away working as a lawyer (for you see, Tripp cannot acknowledge Lincoln as bi-sexual- he has to be gay for his argument to stand).  Even though Lincoln was married, Tripp claims he had a sexual relationship during that time with Elmer Ellsworth (who was murdered in an incident in Alexandria, Virginia in the early years of the war when he took down a Confederate flag).  Granted, Lincoln did call their relationship “intimate” but in modern terminology, that would be Lincoln saying that he was his B.F.F. (best friend forever).  Ellsworth’s death did shake Lincoln to his core and the body laid in state in the East Room of the White House.  But Ellsworth was the first officer killed in the Civil War for the United States and died in such a horrific manner that the nation outpoured their grief. 

Lincoln with his bodyguards, including DericksonFinally, Tripp talks about Captain David Derickson, who joined Lincoln as a bodyguard in 1862.  The two men became friends, as Lincoln invited him to ride around Washington and enjoy meals.  Tripp sees this relationship like Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard.  In Tripp’s favor is some evidence that Lincoln invited Derickson to share his bed while Mary was away (which is different from the necessity argument like on the circuit courts) and apparently, Derickson wore Lincoln’s night shirt.  Tripp uses this incident to conclude “Let there be no mistake.  From any point of view Lincoln was highly peculiar from the start.  His homosexual side, while not unusual in itself, was connected with an early puberty of such extremity-fully four years sooner than verage-as to make even it extraordinary.” 

So here we are:  Tripp’s book, which gave him major press and reviews in major publications and appearances on television programs, has seeped into the Simpsons.  So I beg the question again:  Was Lincoln gay?  Does the evidence hold up?  My answer is no, for the reasons I noted above, plus the fact that NO ONE wrote of a sexual relationship.  Sexual scandal was all over the papers before the Civil War and if someone revealed that detail, it would have made news, especially in that era of vicious campaigning. 

And, quite frankly, should we care?  If Lincoln is gay, does it diminish his standing as our nation’s greatest executive?  There are those who take pleasure in denigrating the great men of history or denigrating Lincoln scholars for ignoring this “truth.”  Yet, I think we are a bit too obsessed to get to know the real Lincoln.  We are simply imposing our 21st century ideals and values on the men of the 19th century.  We are mis-reading their affectionate language to one another, their friendships and their time spent sharing a  bed.  I think the gay Lincoln myth belongs right where we started:  on the Simpsons Halloween Special, because anyone who buys into it is simply spooky!

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8 Responses to “Lincoln’s Sexuality and The Simpsons”

  1. Michael Says:

    Brian,

    Thanks for the plug.

    Let’s not forget another (what I consider to be) Civil War reference. In one episode Lisa looks at Grandpa Simpson’s flag and comments that it only has 49 stars on it. He angrily responds that, “It will be a cold day in hell before I recognize Missour-ah!”

    The reference is quite funny b/c it is completely out of the blue in the episode, but may reveal a couple of things.

    1) Apparently Grandpa Simpson is on the side of John Brown and the Kansas folks when it comes to issues of abolition. 2) Does this also rule Springfield, MO out as the mysterious location of Springfield?

  2. How to Get Six Pack Fast Says:

    I can tell that this is not the first time you write about the topic. Why have you decided to touch it again?

  3. Reyes Schubert Says:

    Anyway, this is a fascinating perspective on this this particular topic. Please update your blog regularly! By the way, do you allow your readers to send in questions they would like to personally know more about? Actually I have a specific question on this issue because I am suffering through a difficult situation with a woman I have a crush on and I’m just not sure how to move forward. I’d like to get your thoughts…or maybe someone can recommend a book that I ought to read?

  4. james Says:

    You have too much free time

  5. Chelsey Resureccion Says:

    following the blog, great stuff!

  6. Ted Says:

    ‘The Simpson’s’ = Illuminati Mason, mind control.
    Abraham Lincoln had the Treasury Department print money and that really pis_ed-off the Rothschild’s and others because they did not want any competition with money they printed via their private company called the Federal Reserve Bank.
    Abraham Lincoln was buried in Springfield and the Minister presiding over his burial was named Simpson. It is obvious that the Illuminati still despises Abraham Lincoln and thus further seeks to slander him via these moronic notions of homosexuality.

  7. Michel Halling Says:

    That is my partner and i ended up being regarding on aol, I guess I got my response!

  8. John bricasart Says:

    Lincoln , was, is and will be inspiration for souls who are more interested in freedom and peace than mere sexual preferences, So who cares about him being gay or bisexual?. When you are in front of his monument you simply think of him as a GREAT HUMAN BEING!

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