Did You Know These Historic Figures Were Bi?

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Happy Bi-Visibility Day!

Today is a day of remembrance and acknowledgement. It’s time to celebrate bi people and their legacies in a world that often ignores them. Bi-erasure means that a lot of historical figures aren’t remembered for being bisexual. But, it’s time we changed that. Here’s a list of eight historic people you probably didn’t realize were bi.

1) Alexander Hamilton

While Lin-Manuel Miranda’s popular musical made Alexander Hamilton’s life more well-known than ever before, it missed out on one aspect of his story… he was bisexual. It’s true that Hamilton was deeply in love with his wife, Eliza. But, many historians believe Hamilton also had an intimate relationship with revolutionary soldier John Laurens. The two exchanged letters until Laurens’ death in 1782.

As Hamilton said to Laurens in one letter, “Cold in my professions, warm in [my] friendships, I wish, my Dear Laurens, it m[ight] be in my power, by action rather than words, [to] convince you that I love you. I shall only tell you that ’till you bade us Adieu, I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you.”

2 & 3) Frida Kahlo and Josephine Baker

Alright, so we’re cheating here a little bit. If you know Frida Kahlo, you probably already know that she was bi. But if you are a casual fan, this might be a surprise. Frida Kahlo was one of the world’s most famous painters. Kahlo’s turbulent marriage to fellow painter Diego Rivera is highly known, but what isn’t as widely known is that she had an affair with Hollywood actress Josephine Baker and boasted about flirting with American painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

Baker is also on this list for that fact. While Baker is remembered for her career in entertainment, the historical figure had much more going on in her life. Not only did she have an affair with Frida Kahlo, but she also had a double life as a spy!

4) Hans Christian Anderson

With all of this talk around Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid, lots of people are bringing up the fact that the original tale was an allegory for a gay love tragedy. Anderson, who also made “The Ugly Duckling” was bisexual and wrote in his, later-publicized, diary that he was attracted to both men and women.

5) Lou Reed

Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground is known today for his rockstar persona, but not everyone knows that he’s bisexual. That’s despite the fact that the musician created the song “Kill You Sons” about his parents forcing him into electroconvulsive therapy after he expressed interest in boys at a young age.

6) Cassanova

Known today as the symbol for seduction and romance, the Italian adventurer was reportedly a bisexual man. Biographer Ian Kelly was able to corroborate two references from Casanova’s memoir, The History of My Life, that states that Casanova had dynamic, romantic tastes:

As an expert reads: “The modern concept of bisexuality, no less than of homosexuality, didn’t really exist in the 18th century, and the conception of sexual preference was on the whole a much more fluid affair. It seems likely that Casanova was a man who in sex, as in life, wanted to taste all the flavours on offer.”

7) Eleanor Roosevelt

After her husband Franklin became ill and paralyzed, Eleanor Roosevelt started to make public appearances in his stead. During this time, Eleanor, who remained devoted to her husband, developed an intimate connection with journalist Lorena Hickok. The two exchanged many touching letters throughout their lives that hinted at more going on.

8) Shakespeare

Have you read Shakespeare’s sonnets? If you have, you may already know this fact. The famous playwright was addressed his sonnets to two people: The Dark Lady and the Fair Youth. While its still unknown who this Fair Youth is, the sonnets specify it was a man. Many theories over the years have said that the youth as a young aristocrat or a boy actor Shakespeare was trying to seduce (which was Oscar Wilde’s favorite theory).

9) Alexander the Great

Lastly, Alexander the Great is also believed to have been bisexual. Living from 356 BC until 323 BC and dying at the young age of 32, Alexander lived a great life and had many romantic relationships with men and women. There’s substantial evidence that Alexander’s friend and general Hephaestion was one of his long-time male lovers. He also seemed to have had a sexual relationship with Bagaos — a very young eunuch with whom he was infatuated. Historians describe multiple accounts of Alexander and Bagaos passionately kissing in public.

Worried for their son, King Philip and Olympias set him up with female suitors. This led to many sexual encounters and three separate marriages.

1 thought on “Did You Know These Historic Figures Were Bi?”

  1. Lorena Hickok is also the author of The Story of Helen Keller, which was essential reading when I was in grade school. It follows much of Keller’s life, her time with Anne Sullivan (although it doesn’t discuss Sullivan’s failed marriage) and later with Polly. Other writings about Keller question her sexuality as well.

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