Same Sex Couples: 12 Notable Same Gender Couples from History
12 Notable Same Gender Couples from History

12 Notable Same Gender Couples from History

D.G. Hewitt - February 26, 2018

12 Notable Same Gender Couples from History
James Buchanan and James King enjoyed a close relationship for many years. LiveJournal.com

James Buchanan and William Rufus King

A lifelong bachelor, James Buchanan appointed his niece, Harriet Lane, to be his unofficial First Lady while he held the position of President of the United States from 1857 to 1861. But that doesn’t mean the Commander-in-Chief was a singleton. Indeed, according to many historians, Buchanan was America’s first gay President and William Rufus King his lover.

Certainly, Buchanan’s close relationship with the Alabama Senator was widely remarked upon at the time. So much so, in fact, that many of their contemporaries, including Andrew Jackson, dubbed the pair ‘Miss Nancy’ and ‘Aunt Fancy’. For King, however, his relationship with Buchanan was a ‘communion’ of two spirits rather than a marriage in the traditional sense.

However their partnership should be described, what is known for sure is that the two men lived together in the same house for 15 years while they both served in the Senate. What’s more, they indulged in each other’s passions, interests and political ambitions, and they were regularly seen out together at social events. Moreover, Buchanan was reported to be distraught when King finally moved to Paris to take up the role of American Ambassador to France.

Ultimately, however, whether the relationship between Buchanan and King was sexual or simply fraternal is likely to remain the source of speculation. Upon his death, Buchanan’s private letters, including his correspondence with King, the possible love of his life, were destroyed by his nieces, possibly in a bid to ensure he was remembered for his politics rather than his personal life. The United States still waits for its first confirmed homosexual leader.

King, meanwhile, died of tuberculosis in April 1853, just 25 days after being sworn in as Vice President. Like his lover’s, King’s letters were also destroyed by his surviving relatives, only adding to the mystery of one of America’s most fascinating political figures.

12 Notable Same Gender Couples from History
What turned out to be the first same-sex marriage in Spain shocked the nation. bbc.co.uk

Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sánchez Loriga

In 1901, a young man and his bride stood before a priest in a Catholic church in Galicia, northern Spain, to be wed. So far, so normal. However, in a twist that would scandalize the deeply conservative Spanish society of the time, it turned out that, while the bride was indeed a young lady by the name of Marcela Gracia Ibeas, the groom ‘Mario’ was in fact Elisa Sanchez Loriga.

The wedding was far from an impulsive affair. The duo had been dating for years, having first met in teacher training college. Before too long, Marcela’s mother found out and sent her daughter to Madrid to put an end to the affair for good. However, upon qualifying as teachers, the pair managed to get jobs in schools close to one another. The relationship was back on, and now they wanted to find a way to get hitched.

The plan was simple enough. Marcela would return home and announce she was engaged to be wed to Mario, a cousin from London. And it looked like the plan would work. Mario was baptized into the Catholic faith and the wedding went ahead, with the happy couple even posing for photos after the ceremony. But, sadly for the newlyweds, a local journalist soon got wind that something was up. The story, revealing the truth, was soon published, and the pair became infamous right across Spain.

So great was the scandal they caused that Marcela and Elisa were forced to flee to neighboring Portugal. But even here, they feared they would be arrested, so they booked tickets on a boat to Argentina. But not just two tickets. Marcela walked down the aisle while pregnant with an unknown man’s baby. The infant was born in Porto and joined the duo in their transatlantic crossing. Sadly, that’s where the story ends, with historians unable to determine what happened to Spain’s illicit lovers.

12 Notable Same Gender Couples from History
Literary giant Gore Vidal was with his partner Howard Austen for 53 years. nytimes.com

Gore Vidal and Howard Austen

For more than 70 years, Gore Vidal wrote extensively on religion, politics and sex. Being from a traditional and political family, he knew a lot about the first two, while his colorful personal life helped inform his often-controversial observations on human sexuality. Speculation about his romantic affairs continues to this day: was he involved with Anais Nin or even father a child with the actress Diana Lynn? But what’s not in doubt is the veracity of his love for Howard Austen, the man to whom he was committed for more than half a century.

Vidal was already an established wordsmith when he met advertising executive Austen in 1950 in an infamous gay bathhouse in New York City. It was love – or at least lust – at first sight. The pair were to stay together for 53 years, with only Austen’s death tearing their love asunder. And the secret to their happiness? Keeping some distance. As Vidal famously argued: ‘It’s easy to sustain a relationship when sex plays no part, and impossible, I have observed, when it does.’

But that doesn’t mean that the pair were celibate. Indeed, Vidal once claimed to have he had enjoyed sexual relations with more than 1,000 men. Nevertheless, he remained devoted to Austen, with the pair traveling the world together and frequently spotted out and about in Washington enjoying each other’s company. To their contemporaries in the art world, Austen and Vidal were like an ‘old married couple’, albeit a couple who enjoyed numerous extra-marital affairs between them. And, though Vidal rose to prominence as a celebrated intellectual, by all accounts, theirs was a partnership of equals.

Austen died in 2003, leaving his partner alone and bereft for almost a decade. Vidal and Austen now rest side-by-side in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC, in a joint plot Vidal purchased for them.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Hadrian the Gay Emperor”. Arifa Akbar. The Independent, January 2008

“He betrayed Wilde. But that wasn’t the worst thing Bosie did”. Philip Hoare, The Guardian, June 2000.

“Who the F is…Fabled lover Mercedes de Acosta”. Trudy Ring, Pride.com, June 2014.

“The Steamy Love Letters of Virginia Woolf and Rita Sackville-West (1925-1929)”. OpenCulture.com, July 2016.

“Strangers in Paradise: How Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas got to Heaven”. Janet Malcolm, The New Yorker, November 2006.

“Peter the Great: A Biography of Peter Doyle”. Martin G. Murray, The Walt Whitman Archive.

“The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham”. David Leavitt, July 2010.

“The Politics of Desire: George Villiers, James I and courtly entertainment”. Medium.com, August 2015.

“Ancient Greek grave for ‘Alexander the Great’s friend Hephaestion'”. The Telegraph, October 2015.

“Who Was Our First Gay President?” Katherine Cooney, Time, May 2012.

“The lesbian couple who fooled Spain’s Catholic church into performing its first same-sex marriage”. Amanda Cashmore, Daily Mail, February 2018.

“Howard Austen: Gore Vidal’s Partner in All But Name”. Tim Teeman, Huffington Post, February 2016.

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