It seems the rumors of Abe Lincoln’s homosexuality have been greatly exaggerated—at least according to a new book by the author whose researched sparked the enduring speculation about our 16th president.
In his new book, Your Friend Forever, A Lincoln: The Enduring Friendship of Abraham Lincoln and Joshua Speed, psychoanalyst and history professor Charles Strozier debunks and complicates the misconceptions that arose from his own depiction of Lincoln and Speed’s friendship in his 1982 book Lincoln’s Quest for Union. The key to understanding the true nature of that relationship, according to Strozier, is understanding the difference in both the way sexuality was understood and the way male friendships functioned in the 19th century.
“The historical context is really important to understand,” Storzier told The Daily Beast recently. “Now where homosexuality is so much more accepted … we accept males loving one another and being sexual with one another. But in the 19th century, the taboo of homosexuality is absolutely rigid. Whitman was gay. He had to stay in the closet. Sodomy, buggery, was illegal and severely prescribed. But friendship, intimate, loving friendship like that between Lincoln and Speed, was not only accepted but encouraged as the long as the boundary against sexualization was rigidly and absolutely maintained.”
Strozier goes on to insist that despite the ways contemporary culture might interpret their relationship, there is no evidence to suggest that Lincoln and Speed’s relationship was sexual. However, it was “loving and close.” In fact, Strozier says, it may have saved Lincoln’s life: “Lincoln was in very bad shape when they got together … Speed provided a safety, a security, a loving relationship. And I think it was loving in the way that Aristotle talks about loving between men, real friendship between men.”