Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Abraham Lincoln's 1829 poem about gay marriage

AKSARBENT wants to know why there are never any gay
rumors about hot presidents, like Ulysses S. Grant,
pictured above.
The Washington Blade has published a piece in which Mark Segal tells why he thinks the dismissal by most historians that Lincoln might have been gay is unconvincing to him. Segal is founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, the country’s oldest LGBT newsweekly.

The Poem
I will tell you a Joke about Jewel and Mary
It is neither a Joke nor a Story
For Rubin and Charles has married two girls
But Billy has married a boy
The girlies he had tried on every Side
But none could he get to agree
All was in vain he went home again
And since that is married to Natty
So Billy and Natty agreed very well
And mama’s well pleased at the match
The egg it is laid but Natty’s afraid
The Shell is So Soft that it never will hatch
But Betsy she said you Cursed bald head
My Suitor you never Can be
Beside your low crotch proclaims you a botch
And that never Can answer for me
This poem, about a boy marrying a boy, is thought to be the first reference to gay marriage in U.S. history. A 20-year-old man in rural Indiana wrote it 182 years ago. That young man was Abraham Lincoln.
     Most historians agree Lincoln wrote the poem as a joke or rebuttal to the lack of an invitation to a friend’s wedding, but how a backwoodsman conceives a boy-marries-boy poem in 1829 remains a question.
     The poem was included in the first major biography of Lincoln, written by his law partner, William Herndon. Revisionists omitted it in subsequent editions. It didn’t reappear in Herndon’s edition until the 1940s.


  1. Im really surprised that ti has taken this long to put this premise forward. In 1963 I attended Jr High school at Ogontz Jr high in Cheltenham township. We had english teacher who lived in Elfreds Alley, a bohemian corner of downtown Philadelphia. She never made any reference that would put her in a jeopardizing light. However, we read a book about Lincoln which named his close friend by telling of his bedmate in Indiana. These two guys shared a bed for a couple of years before Lincoln went to Washington. And it was also known that his marriage was not easy for society to rejoice in. Another tie was the close fondness of Abe and Walt Whitman (see Leaves of Grass). Another Republican subterfuge! :-) . the teacher, fortunately I don't remember her name, and there is no reason to out her, had a manner with a few of the charismatic boys that was kind and without ever telling us she shattered my innocence yet kept my angelic young teen nature and nacent sexuality in stasis. And at the same time informed me and helped give me support for who I was to grow to be. I believe Lincoln was bisexual in life, gay as a young attorney and likely or mostly straight in Washington.

  2. Go ahead and edit it any way you wish. here is another idea to hang on the line. For those people who think that there is some truth to reincarnation, some of us see Harvey Milk as a reincarnation of AB Lincoln. He had the similar face and legs and body type and other historical nuances. Im not trying to take anything away from Harvey I only wish to leave some tracks of my tears.

  3. This is so interesting, it seems surprisingly early for gay marriage to have been referenced actually. What an incredible insight into the history of that time (one I certainly don't think you'd get to see in history books)!

  4. I remember studying Lincoln several years ago. Even his oldest biographers mentioned his "lavendar streak". There are so many "clues" that out Lincoln, not just his four year relationship with Joshua Speed in which they shared a bed - which people do when they are poor, but both Lincoln and Speed became relatively rich and still shared a bed when others would not. Speed was forced by his mother to come home to Kentucky and get married upon penalty of being taken out of her Will. When Speed left Lincoln later said that "it was the worst day of my life" (and that was years after his children died). He appointed Speed's brother to his cabinet. Lincoln moved Walt Whitman into the White House. Lincoln used to spend the night with his private guards when Mary Todd was out of town (she had a lover in New York who probably fathered three of Lincoln's children, I believe).