Would most Americans during the Civil War know of the existence of homosexuality?

Sep 2014
Stop with this nonsense. We don't know what the relationship between Hoover and Tolson was. Sure, they were close. However, saying they were definitely homosexual is slander. I suspect it little more than political slander at that.
the Happy Hooker implied she once had a session with both men
Sep 2014
I have given it some thought.

I did my military service for 15 months back in 1980thies. I and the other young men, virtually only saw women in the mess hall, and weekends when people went home. I never noticed any increased interest in homosexuality by osmosis in myself or others. On the contrary the environment actually heightened the sexual interest in women to levels far beyond anything I encountered before or since.
there are no straight men in gay fantasy....and there are certain women who also expound this nonsense
Sep 2013
Chattanooga, TN
William Rufus King was elected vice president in 1852. Many people who knew him suspected he was gay. King was a life-long bachelor who preferred fancy clothes with lots of lace. His voice and other mannerisms had a feminine quality to them. When they were senators together he was also roommates with future President James Buchanon, another life-long bachelor. The roommates aspect is not by itself conclusive. At the time Washington was a small town, and when Congress was in session there was always a housing shortage. Congressmen sharing hotel rooms was a common practice. The fact that both King and Buchanon could be elected to national office suggests that in the 1850s homosexuality may have been slightly more tolerated than in the 1950s.
The fact that both King and Buchanan could be elected to national office does not suggest that in the 1850s homosexuality may have been slightly more tolerated than in the 1950s. Nobody knew/knows that Buchanan was a homosexual.

I suspect that 20th century attitudes towards homosexuals were a result of the Victorian Era and had not always existed. (Yes, technically the 1850s were in the Victorian Era, but I'm not certain when Victorian sexual attitudes arrived in the US - possibly not until after the Civil War.)
What do other people here think about this?


Ad Honorem
May 2012
Mae West wrote and staged a play called The Drag back in the 20s which featured men in drag and discussed homosexuality. Apparently the term drag queen was used even then.

I don’t know how it was in the 19th century. I would guess this gay subculture didn’t just appear out of nothing at the start of the 20th century but it’s likely a lot of people were not aware of it, I’m still just guessing here really.

As for personal anecdotes, my mother said her grandparents were fans of Liberace and watched him on TV. She said they had no idea he was gay and would have been offended if people suggested it.

I would also guess a lot of people knew homosexuality existed but were naive about things associated with it.

The references to homosexuality in the Bible, people could have read it and just seen it as one of those strange religious prohibitions in the Hebrew Scriptures that’s not relevant to modern life.

There’s also people who may have even had gay experiences but not associated that with an orientation, I suspect a lot of homosexuality in history was like that.

I was born in the early 80s and I don’t remember how I learned about homosexuality first, I just knew it existed and it was called gay as far back as I can remember. And I didn’t grow up in an especially progressive place.
Sep 2014
For countless centuries people thought humanity chose what it was. Today a lot of folks think all Greeks were gay, and we know of the jokes about the British Navy and stories about pirates. People who got out....knew that there were men who loved men....but they thought it was a choice. I mean Walt Whitman was probably gay And Oscar Wilde. And it went the other way too...there were folks who thought men were just mean for loving women. So yeah people who got out of their small rural towns knew there were gay men out there, but until recently they thought it was a choice.

Looking at the post above me reminded me of something I read about cowboys....all cowboys dallied with other cowboys but the VD epidemic was caused by the rarely seen women. There were no women on the open range, but they were the cause of VD.


Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
Maybe there was a mentality similar to Russians today and homosexuals were (generally falsely) equated with pederasts. :(
A man comes to a doctor. I think I am gay, says he.
Are you an actor? - No.
Are you a popular singer? - No.
Are you in show business? A model? - No.
Well, then you may take it easy, you are not gay, you are just a pederast.
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