Last week, after a trip to Miami for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s annual conference, I had a couple of days on my calendar that were blank and decided a break was in order. For me a short break means just resting someplace where I can see something new, veg out and read.


Since seeing “Hamilton” on Broadway a few months back, I bought the Ron Chernow biography it’s based on, but when it arrived I wasn’t sure when I’d get the opportunity to read an 832-page book. If you’ve read my work, you know I love history and especially biographies. Since my research and writing on Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a contemporary of Alexander Hamilton’s, this book seemed a natural for me.

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But here’s the fun part: Before you even get past the first 100 pages, you read the following:


“As in the case of John Laurens, there was such unabashed ardor in Hamilton’s relationship with the marquis that James T. Flexner has wondered whether it progressed beyond mere friendship.”


Did Hamilton’s grandson mean much or little when he wrote, “There is a note of romance in their friendship, quite unusual even in those days, and Lafayette, especially during his early sojourn in this country, was on the closest terms with Hamilton”?


“Hamilton had certainly been exposed to homosexuality as a boy, since many ‘sodomites’ were transported to the Caribbean along with thieves, pickpockets and others deemed undesirable,” the book continues. “In all 13 colonies, sodomy had been a capital offense, so if Hamilton and Laurens did become lovers — and it is impossible to say this with any certainty — they would have taken extraordinary precautions. At the very least, we can say that Hamilton developed something like an adolescent crush on his friend.”


Now much of that has been written about by historians, and LGBT historians have researched it a little more, but I’ve always discounted its possibility. As Chernow writes in the book, “We’ll never know.” But that’s what I appreciate; he doesn’t hide this possibility or discount it as so many historians have about historical figures. It’s why I went on my crusade about von Steuben and challenged any historian to refute my research. None has. What I’m getting at is that “Hamilton” on Broadway might be great music and it might even get people into history, but it left this little fact out.


History is important. LGBT history is ignored for the most part. October is LGBT History Month. It’s important that we know our history, especially for LGBT youth so they know that their lives can be fulfilled and as important as a von Steuben, or maybe even a Hamilton. History gives us role models, and our youth need them of yesterday as well as those of today. We as a people are not a new invention. We are America, and some of us have helped make this a country.

  

Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at PhilaGayNews. His memoir AND THEN I DANCED is available online and at your favorite bookstore.

 

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