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The gays are asking: which queer historical figures are still thought of as straight?

When we’re talking about prominent gay figures from the past, we all know the greatest hits. Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, Shakespeare, Lorraine Hansberry. But with a few notable exceptions, it often wasn’t possible to be out and proud before Gay Liberation. That means that there are plenty of queer figures ripe for rediscovery: people who were famous, but whose sexualities stayed under wraps for as long as they lived, and long after.

The nice thing about this is that our sense of queer history gets to keep expanding. In an archived thread from the subreddit r/Askgaybros, users posed the question: Who is a historical gay figure that people will be surprised to know they’re LGBTQ+?

From that question came a variety of interesting answers that had us running to confirm our findings on Google. First off, King James, of the King James Bible. Which…yeah, I had no idea either!

Apparently King James absolutely was more than a wee bit fruity, if historical records are to be believed. Which puts an entirely different spin on that famous Bible translation.

Other figures mentioned included the infamous polymath and artist Leonardo da Vinci, who enjoyed close relationships with male apprentices and even had a live-in boyfriend known as “the little devil.” The queer 19th-century Russian composer Tchaikovsky wrote graphically about his love for a handsome male servant, and the founder of modern economics John Maynard Keynes was famously bisexual.

Emiliano Zapata, Mexican Revolutionary, the stereotype of the Mexican macho, had a relationship with Mexican dictator’s son-in-law Ignacio de Torres y Mier,” wrote one poster, while others called out Abraham Lincoln—long rumored to be bisexual—Irish freedom fighter Roger Casement, and Chinese Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty who loved his generals quite a lot, and was not shy about it.

Basically, there are a lot of hidden queer figures to explore from all time periods. The only issue is that when you tell straight people about them, they might not believe you.

But that’s not your problem! For all the doubting Thomases you encounter, you can easily silence them with one timeless phrase: “Google is free.”

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