(De)Gaying Abraham

In den letzten Jahren wurde das Gerücht immer lauter, dass der amerikanische Bürgerkriegs-Präsident Abraham Lincoln womöglich „schwul“ gewesen sei. Oder wie der Dichter Carl Sandburg bereits 1926 andeutete: „Ein Streifen lila durchzog ihn.“ In seinem Buch Love Stories : Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality erklärt der an Foucault geschulte Historiker Jonathan Katz, warum er mit solchen retrospektiven Kategorisierungen nicht einverstanden ist und sie für alles andere als befreiend hält:

We may refer to early-nineteenth-century men’s acts or desires as gay or straight, homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual, but that places their behaviors and lusts within our sexual system, not the system of their time. Projected on the past, homo, hetero, and bi distort our present understanding of Lincoln’s and Speed’s experiences. We may find it useful sometimes to pluck men or women out of their own sexual and affectional worlds into our present kingdom of the gay, straight, and bi. But my project is, on the contrary, to rediscover men’s native forms of ardor; I wish to locate the intimacies of Lincoln, Speed, and other men within the erotic and emotional institutions of their own time. […]

In the genteel society of Lincoln and Speed’s time, character was not thought to center upon sexuality — good women and men did not have erotic orientations or sexual identities. Neither Lincoln nor Speed thought that his love for a man or for a woman made him into a certain kind of person — a man-loving man or woman-loving man, or a combination type. The identities homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual had not yet been invented — neither had those terms and concepts. […]

If we suspend our ahistorical homo/hetero hypothesis — our notion of an essential homo- and heterosexuality — this raises four extremely useful historical questions about life before the homo/hetero divide: First, what did people then call sexual or affectionate relationships between men? Second, how did they conceive of such relationships? Third, how did they judge such relationships? And, fourth, how did they socially organize such relationships? […]

The vision of a changing, fully historical sexuality is inspiring. For, if the historical ordering of eros and amour was different in the past, it can be different in the future. We can radically remake love and lust in ways more satisfying to our souls and to our flesh. We can, as Walt Whitman suggested, make sexual democracy in America.