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Jul 03rd
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Was Mahatma Gandhi gay?

Gandhi020510_optBY PAM LOBLEY

Joseph Lelyveld, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, has new book out about Mahatma Gandhi. In the book, he hints at a homosexual relationship between Gandhi and a German man, Herman Kallenbach.

The book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India, has been banned in a western state of India. Other parts of India are considering the ban as well.

The Mumbai Mirror ran a front page story saying "Book claims German man was Gandhi's secret love," and some Indian politicians have also called for the central government to bar publication nationwide.

Perhaps outing revered historical figures is a new trend: a couple of years ago there was a biography of Abraham Lincoln that alleged a homosexual love affair in his past.

We’re used to hearing about gay artists or performers. I read a Hollywood biography about the actor/decorator William Haines which alleged Barbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, and all kinds of famous – and married – people were gay or bisexual. This is not that surprising, but I have to admit Gandhi and Lincoln caught me off guard.

Apparently, eminent statesmen have been taking same-sex lovers left and right, and now their stories can finally be told. Or at least, alleged.

In both the Gandhi book, and the Lincoln book (The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by C.A. Tripp), the evidence of homosexuality is circumstantial, and open to interpretation. But just by implying it, you’re going to sell some books.

I say we go back and take another look at everybody to see who might have been gay. First of all, anybody from ancient Greece or Rome, that’s pretty a much a definite yes. Middle Ages … DaVinci? Of course, we already knew about him. Richard the Lion-Hearted? Absolutely! William the Conqueror? Well, they did call him the Conqueror. That’s evidence enough for me.

The Age of Enlightenment … Napoleon? I think we can agree that’s a yes. No reason, really, just seems like he would be. And don’t even get me started on Abigail Adams.

Our generation can’t relax about gays. Either they’re the victims of bias, or they’re triumphantly out and thriving. And now we’re seeing our historical figures through the “Queer Eye for the Historical Guy”, and getting all excited about it. It’s a thrilling new branch of scholarship, and we can all look forward to future, stirring biographies.

I can’t wait for one on Mao Tse Tung. They didn’t call him the Chairman for nothing.

Pam Lobley writes the “Now That’s Funny” column. Sign up for her mailing list at www.pamlobley.com.


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