Was Abraham Lincoln gay?

Though he offered no definitive proof that our sixteenth president preferred the fellas, author Keith Stern made quite a compelling (and hilarious!) argument for it in his one-man show at Powell's the other night, promoting his new book, Queers in History. He also showed how Lincoln's biographers downplayed, excised, or excused his relationships with men, even going so far as to invent (or at least presume without evidence) female sweethearts to explain heartbreaks described in his letters, conveniently ignoring his recent separation from his longterm male "roommate," etc. Hold off on calling Lincoln our "first gay president" though--his predecessor, James Buchanan, also makes an appearance in the book.

Local author (and dear friend) Jemiah Jefferson and I had volunteered to help Keith with the "audience participation" portion of our floorshow. We joined him afterwards for a celebratory cocktail, and found him to be as charming and witty in person as in his encyclopedia. As might be expected, the audience questions had run the gamut from enthusiastic to skeptical, and I gave my opinion that even if not all of the 900 entries in the book could be definitively "proven" to be homosexual, it was still important to remember to ask the question, and to bear in mind the lengths that biographers in earlier ages may have gone (consciously or un-) to ignore unthinkable realities obvious to the modern eye.

Take Shakespeare (page 414 in Stern's book). In Sonnet 144, he lays out his romantic dilemma in as plain a language as one could ask for:
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.

In Sonnet 20, he calls this fair angel "the master-mistress of my passion...
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,/ Which steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth."

Yet throughout history and even today, some scholars tie themselves in knots to explain that the poems were in fact written to his son Hamnet, or to Queen Elizabeth, who was "considered as a man," or that, despite the line "..
my name is 'Will'" in Sonnet 136 and various other forms of self-identification scattered throughout, the sonnet cycle represents an entirely theoretical affair--an early work of fiction, not a memoir.

That's part of the reason why I wanted to explore the story of Shakespeare's sonnets not in a historical context but in an explicitly fictional one, presenting it as a potential emotional backstory to these characters, Horatio and Hamlet. My goal is not to argue an absolute historical truth (i.e., Shakespeare was gay!) but to present as valid a potential subtextual reading--an interpretation of their relationship that at the time could not have been conveyed explicitly. In my novel, Horatio--who is directed at the end of the play to tell Hamlet's tale--plays the role of the lovesick poet, and Prince Hamlet, the bard's masterpiece, is the impossibly fair young man he promises to make immortal through his poetry. The mysterious Dark Lady of the sonnets--the most compelling Shakespearean heroine who never speaks a line--is the reader of the work, who seduces each of them in turn. In a way, The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet might be said to take place entirely in Shakespeare's subconscious mind--or rather, those pieces of his mind that have been left behind for us in his work.