America’s ‘greatest president’ was gay, claims new film featuring never-before-seen letters

The White House lit up in rainbow colours

A new film is set to examine whether one of America’s “greatest presidents”, Abraham Lincoln, was gay, revealing never-before-seen letters.

The trailer for documentary Lover Of Men: The Untold History of Abraham Lincoln dropped on Wednesday (10 July). It looks set to uncover the private life of the 19th-century president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation – which ended slavery in America. 

Described as a “sacred figure by both Republicans and Democrats” and by many as “the greatest president the United States has ever had”, Lincoln’s letters and photographs will explore whether the politician was gay or bisexual.

The documentary, directed by Shaun Peterson, features interviews with academics, historians and experts on Lincoln’s life, and explores his relationships with men before he was elected president in 1860.

Writing on Instagram, Peterson described the film as a “passion project” that has been “years in the making”.

Close up image of the Abraham Lincoln seated statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC
New film Lover Of Men set to make case for Abraham Lincoln being gay with never-before-seen letters (Mike Kline/Getty Images)

The film “focuses on the profound differences between sexual mores of the nineteenth century and those we hold today”.

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A synopsis goes on to say: “The film fills in an important missing piece of American history and challenges the audience to consider why we hold such a limited view of human sexuality… Lover of Men is not only an exploration of gender roles and sexual identity, but also serves as an examination of American intolerance.”

This is not the first time Lincoln’s sexuality has been explored, with earlier articles and books exploring his relationships with men, specifically a male “room-mate” with whom he is said to have shared a bed.

While by today’s standards, a “room-mate who you share a bed with” is undeniable code for “partner”, the trailer points out that this might or might not be proof that the 16th president was queer. Scholars explain that in the 19th century, many men’s “closest relationships were other men”, and that before he was married, “Lincoln probably slept in the same bed with men more than he did with women”.

The trailer adds: “We have this notion that if you have an attraction like that, boom, that’s your orientation. Sexuality through the mid-19th century was far more fluid, but for someone who wanted a political career, it was mandatory that you have a wife.”

By the end of the century, sexuality became much more “rigid” and men loving men became seen as “unnatural”. 

Whatever the findings reveal, “Lincoln’s legacy is the insistence on equality”, the trailer adds.

“If you can accept a queer Lincoln, you can accept queer people overall, he should inspire us to achieve a true democracy for everyone.”

Lincoln, a moderate Republican who led his country through a bloody civil war and was famous for the Gettysburg Address – where he proclaimed that “all men are created equal” – was assassinated in April 1865.

The documentary doesn’t have a release date yet.

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