Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "We Have Always Been Here"

This is today's freebie, courtesy of a backchannel prompt from [personal profile] iamnotgod.


"We Have Always Been Here"


When I read an article that
Pete Buttigieg would, if elected,
become the first openly gay President

I was surprised to find others
saying that we already had one.

James Buchanan (s. 1857-1861)
was openly gay at a time when
half of America still thought it was
okay to own other human beings.

He lived with William Rufus King,
an Alabama Senator in a relationship
so close that Andrew Jackson and
various other coworkers called them
"Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy."

After William moved to Paris
to serve as America's ambassador
to France, James missed him
so much that he wrote in a letter:

__________________________________

I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no
companion in the house with me. I have
gone a wooing to several gentlemen,
but have not succeeded with any one
of them. I feel that it is not good for man
to be alone; and should not be astonished
to find myself married to some old maid
who can nurse me when I am sick,
provide good dinners for me when I
am well, and not expect from me any
very ardent or romantic affection.
__________________________________
Other historians have disputed the idea
that Buchanan was gay, arguing that
he also wooed various women.

Well, he said himself what he
would be wooing a woman for,
and what he could not provide her --
and was thoughtful enough to seek
(though he never found) a woman
who would not expect such of him.

So if he adored and pursued men,
then he was attracted to them; and if he
pursued women only out of practicality,
then he was not attracted to them;
and that made him homosexual,
which was no secret at the time.

This never came up in my classes
on Women's Studies, back when I was
the only one who called it Gender Studies --
and that left out a lot of important things,
even though James Buchanan lived
long before the advent of the major.

We have always been here.

We were here long before
anyone made an issue of it,
our nature accepted or rejected
by degrees in different societies,
a long colorful cha-cha through history.

It doesn't matter whether people today
believe it or not; for some of them,
no proof will ever be enough.

But we are enough for ourselves;
we learn even what they don't teach.

We have always been here,
and we always will be.


* * *

Notes:

President James Buchanan was gay, although Pete Buttigieg has claimed that he would become the first openly gay president if elected.

Women's Studies is a feminist field of study. The problem with this is that focusing only on women -- often, only on straight ciswomen -- still leaves out a great many gender issues already overlooked by masculine focus. Gender Studies takes a much wider look at human sexuality, romance, orientation, and identity. I've called it that all along, but the term only came into official use much later. It drove some of my professors up a wall. Heh ... I told you so.
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Tags: cyberfunded creativity, education, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, politics, reading, weblit, writing
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