7 Gay Presidential Rumors You Won’t Believe (But Maybe Should)

Which president's best friend wrote, "his thighs were as perfect as a human being could be?"

It’s President’s Day, when we salute George Washington (who was actually born on February 22) and all our Commanders in Chief.

While we’ve never had an out president (yet), gay people have been a part of presidential history since the beginning. In fact, a gay man once saved the president’s life.

On September 22, 1975, Sarah Jane Moore pulled a gun on President Gerald Ford as he was leaving San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel. Fortunately, Oliver Sipple, a gay man and a decorated Marine who served in Vietnam, was there to grab Moore’s hand as she fired.

He ruined her shot and saved Ford from assassination, becoming a hero to the LGBT community..

“For once, we can show that gays can do heroic things,” said Harvey Milk, then running for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Once, calling a president gay was muckraking. Now many in the LGBT community look to the unwritten history of our leaders for glimpses of ourselves.

Below, check out seven times the LGBT community intersected with the commander in chief.

  1. George Washington: Friend Of Friend Of Dorothy

    Washington family
    GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

    George and Martha Washington never had children, and historians agree he was more interested in her money than her figure. But I couldn’t find any direct evidence Washington was gay.

    According to historian Thomas Foster’s Sex and the Founding Fathers, though, reporters often attacked Freemasons like Washington, claimeing they were “engaging in anal penetration with wooden spikes used in ship building.”

    In any case, we do know a gay man was one of Washington’s closest allies.

    Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (below) was a Prussian military officer who fled Europe to avoid prosecution for homosexuality—even Benjamin Franklin knew of von Steuben’s open secret.

    Fotosearch/Getty Images

    But his expertise in training and tactics was more important to the Founding Fathers than who he slept with.

    Von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge in February 1778 and quickly trained the men how to perform drills, stand at attention, wield a bayonet and quickly reload a musket, among other skills. With his expertise and discipline, Von Steuben was integral in helping the Colonial Army defeat the British—and served as General Washington’s chief of staff in the final years of the war.

    Washington’s last act as general was to write Von Steuben a letter thanking him profusely for all he had done.

  2. James Buchanan: Lifelong Bachelor

    James Buchanan
    Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

    The 15th president never married, and lived for more than a decade with his best friend, William Rufus King. Contemporaries called them “the Siamese twins,” and teased that King—nicknamed “Aunt Fancy”— was the president’s “better half” and “wife.”

    When King, reportedly something of a fop, was appointed ambassador to France, Buchanan wrote a friend:

    “I am now solitary and alone, having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them.”

    He added that he didn’t think it was good for him to be alone and “I should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick … and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”

    Buchanan actually made King his vice president (the only bachelor VP in American history), but King died of tuberculosis six weeks after being sworn in.

    “I’m sure that Buchanan was gay,” says historian James W. Loewen. “There is clear evidence that he was gay. And since I haven’t seen any evidence that he was heterosexual, I don’t believe he was bisexual.”

  3. Abraham Lincoln: Hiding The Lincoln Log

    Abraham Lincoln
    Mathew B. Brady/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

    The Great Emancipator famously shared a bed with Joshua Speed for four years, but the Kentucky congressman wasn’t his only male companion.

    Joshua Fry Speed and wife Lucy Gilmer Fry
    Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
    Joshua Fry Speed, 1814 –1882 and his wife Lucy Gilmer Fry, 1788 – 1874.

    When Lincoln moved to the Illinois frontier in his 20s, he moved in with Billy Greene, who coached the future president in grammar and shared a narrow bed.

    “When one turned over the other had to do likewise,” remarked Greene, who also waxed poetic about Lincoln’s physique: “His thighs were as perfect as a human being could be.”

    Get a room, guys.

  4. Franklin D. Roosevelt: I Married A Lesbian

    FDR
    Keystone Features/Getty Images

    Did the Roosevelts have a marriage bereft of romantic ardor? Was Eleanor a lesbian? We’ll probably never know. But it’s interesting to note that rumors about her same-sex dalliances circulated even while they were in the White House.

    Mrs. Roosevelt was close friends with several lesbian couples, including Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman, but it was Lorena Hickok who was her other half.

    The two wrote thousands of letters to each other, many of which have a romantic bent.

    “Hick my dearest—I cannot go to bed tonight without a word to you,” Eleanor wrote. “I felt a little as though a part of me was leaving tonight. You have grown so much to be a part of my life that it is empty without you… I wish I could lie down beside you tonight & take you in my arms.”

    Eleanor Roosevelt
    Keystone/Getty Images

    “I’ve been trying to bring back your face — to remember just how you look,” she added. “Funny how even the dearest face will fade away in time. Most clearly I remember your eyes, with a kind of teasing smile in them, and the feeling of that soft spot just northeast of the corner of your mouth against my lips.”

    Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that “whether Hick and Eleanor went beyond kisses and hugs” could never be known for the certain, but “day after day, month after month, the tone in the letters on both sides remains fervent and loving.”

    Roosevelt’s granddaughter Nina Gibson said, “I have no idea whether Lorena Hickock had a homosexual relationship with my grandmother or not. And my feeling about that is, kind of, ’Who cares?’… If they could make each other happy, in any way, then that’s what’s important.”

  5. John F. Kennedy: Beyond Marilyn

    JFK
    National Archive/Newsmakers

    JFK’s oldest and best friend was Kirk LeMoyne Billings, known as “Lem.” The two became fast friends in prep school and, after graduation, they traveled to Europe together.

    They remained close until Kennedy’s assassination—Billings had his own room in the White House, and Joe Kennedy Sr. called him “a second son.” (Which is odd considering JFK had two brothers).

    Reportedly, Lem once made a pass at Kennedy when they were young: According to the 2008 book Jack and Lem, Kennedy lightly rebuffed him, saying, “I’m not that kind of boy.”

    JFK and Lem
    CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
    John F. Kennedy, “Dunker” the dog, and Lem Billings at the Hague, during a European trip.

    But in 2015’s Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: RFK Jr. and the Dark Side of the Dream, Jerry Oppenheimer claims they had a sexual relationship “that included oral sex, with Jack always on the receiving end.”

    Lawrence J. Quirk, who worked with Billings on Kennedy’s first congressional campaign in 1946, told Oppenheimer, “Jack was in love with Lem being in love with him and considered him the ideal follower-adorer.”

  6. Richard Nixon: Tricky Dick

    Richard Nixon
    Washington Bureau/Getty Images

    I honestly never heard gay rumors about Richard Nixon before researching this article, but in 2011’s Nixon’s Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America’s Most Troubled President, Don Fulsom suggests the president’s relationship with gangster Charles “Bebe” Rebozo was of a “possibly homosexual nature.”

    Richard Nixon
    Arthur Schatz/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
    Nixon and Rebozo on Rebozo’s boat.

    He recounts instances of the two cuddling intimately and holding hands under a dinner table.

    Other historians have discounted Fulsom’s claims as gossip, but the men were very close: Rebozo, a bagman for the Mafia, was at Nixon’s side when he died.

  7. Barack Obama: Coked-Up Gay Hustler

    Barack Obama, Barbra Streisand
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    There have been many bizarre rumors about President Obama—most cooked up by disgruntled conservatives. Like Wayne Madsen, who claims that Obama and former White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel were longtime members of Chicago’s gay men’s club.

    Madsen also claims Obama had affairs with presidential bodyguard Reggie Love, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and others.

    A gay man, Larry Sinclair, claims he performed oral sex on Obama in the back a limo in 1999, while then-Illinois state senator smoked crack. Sinclair says they had a second encounter when Obama showed up at his hotel room the next day.

    The details of the alleged tryst are in Sinclair’s self-published book, Barack Obama & Larry Sinclair: Cocaine, Sex, Lies & Murder.

    And lastly, a woman claiming to be Barack Obama’s high school classmate, told religious conservative James David Manning that the future president was known as gay when they were teens.

    “I As a young teenager… as a young girl… it was clear to me that Barry was strictly into men,” Mia Marie Pope said of her “friend,” whom she also called a drug addict and “pathological liar.”

    “He was having sex with these older white guys, and that’s how he was getting his cocaine to be able to freebase,” she told Manning.

    Actually, President Obama has trouble getting in bed with old white guys—just look at Congress.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery