If you say Eleanor Roosevelt was a lesbian everyone nods knowingly and you get featured on all the big gay sites.
If you pose with her picture and say she was bisexual people freak out and send you anons detailing in various ways how you are wrong, she was a lesbian and not a dirty bisexual OR they tell you how to unfair it is to try and say what peoples sexualities were after they died.
Unless they are proclaimed monosexual of course.
I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people were not offended because they think bisexuals are “dirty.” They were offended because one of the very, very few lesbian historical figures, and I would wager one of the most if not the most prominent in the entire United States, was suddenly being misidentified as bisexual. We have no indication of any attraction Roosevelt felt for men or of a romantic aspect to her marriage with FDR. Instead we have documentation of a long term relationship with a woman.
Taking a woman for whom all evidence points to her being a lesbian and calling her bisexual does not make you radical. You are taking a woman who we have no reason to believe was attracted to men and saying she felt het attraction. In a society that expects all women, including and especially lesbians, to feel het attraction, this is not a revolutionary or queer act. In fact it is something of a violent act. Taking a lesbian and calling her bi is conferring het attraction on her which, surprise, is a form of straightwashing! So as a bisexual I can pretty confidently tell you that you are completely misinterpreting the situation, which could have been a learning experience for you.
this is so complicated because
a) who “nods knowingly” when you say a major female historical figures like Eleanor Roosevelt were lesbians / queer? a small bunch of lesbians - while all the straight people freak out and tell them to stop trying to make everyone gay - the suggestion that Eleanor Roosevelt’s relationships with / attractions to men need to be “defended” from erasure by lesbians when 99% of the world regards those relationships and attractions as infinitely more valid than her relationships with / attractions to women comes off as really offensive
b) the reasons why we (we, “lesbian historians” of sorts) think Eleanor Roosevelt was a lesbian and care about this fact enough to tell people about it are not unbiased, they’re indeed tinged with biphobia and with a more general understanding of chaste white upperclass lesbianism expressed primarily through “female friendships” as the queer female sexuality
GATLINBURG, Tennessee, Monday—We reached Natural Bridge on Saturday at about 7 p.m. after a most glorious drive through the Shenandoah Park. The Skyline Drive is really very beautiful. Having started late—at a quarter of 1, to be exact—we didn’t stop until nearly 3 o’clock, when we pulled out at one of the parking places with a glorious view down into a ravine and drank hot coffee. We had brought orange juice also, but our hands were so cold that we couldn’t unscrew the top. We’ve learned, however, to accept such vicissitudes with calm, and we were grateful that it happened to be the coffee which we were able to unscrew! With my usual optimism, I thought that Spring began in April, but it really was mid-Winter—beautiful, clear blue sky and cold as Greenland.
After dinner we wandered down to see the illumination and pageant. The lighting is beautiful, and gives it all a mysterious, almost prehistoric aspect. This morning after breakfast we walked down along the stream again, under the Bridge, and thought it just as impressive as it was last night. It is extraordinary to think what years it has taken of slowly dripping water to break through that stone wall, and the old arbor vitae trees, said to be over a thousand years old, were a tremendous surprise to me, for I didn’t know they ever lived that long.
Sunday’s drive began at 10:30, and, until we came in view of the Great Smokies, the scenery was not as impressive as it was yesterday. We were stopped once by a constable, who had a telegram that had evidently been following us since early morning. Miss Hickok was driving, and I cheered her by saying that, while I had no idea what she had done, I was sure we were going to be arrested, so she had the laugh on me when it turned out to be nothing more than a telegram urging me to stop at Greenville, Andrew Johnson’s birthplace. Unfortunately we had not allowed enough time for any stops along the road, and so I had to decline.
We reached Gatlinburg at about 7:30, and we are both enchanted with the hotel, in which the furniture is all made by local craftsmen. The rooms are panelled. The curtains are woven in the local craft shop. And, though it is too dark for me to be sure tonight, I have a feeling that we are going to look out tomorrow morning on a panorama of mountain tops.
The last thing we saw tonight, as we drove in, was the deep blue of the mountain sides in contrast with the white snow and the white clouds floating above, which looked almost like mountain peaks themselves. Mountains have a beauty and a calm which should have a soothing effect on the most worried of little human souls.
We’re off in the morning to Cades Cove, and I have to file this before I go, because the nearest telegraph office is in Knoxville, and I feel that, if I wait until I return in the afternoon, it might not get in in time.
Only eight more days … Funny how even the dearest face will fade away in time. Most clearly I remember your eyes, with a kind of teasing smile in them, and the feeling of that soft spot just north-east of the corner of your mouth against my lips… .
I cannot go to bed tonight without a word to you. I felt a little as though a part of me was leaving tonight. you have grown so much to be a part of my life that it is empty without you, even though I’m busy every minute.
[details of day deleted]
Oh! darling. I hope on the whole you will be happier for my friendship. I felt I had brought you so much discomfort and hardship today & almost more heartache than you could bear & I don’t want to make you unhappy—All my love I shall be saying to you over thought waves in a few minutes.
Good night my dear one
Angels guard thee
God protect thee
My love enfold thee
All the night through
”—March 5, 1933 Written on the first evening after FDR’s inauguration.
“We left Miss Dreier’s at three o’clock Tuesday afternoon and went back into Ellsworth to file this daily record and send some telegrams. Miss Cook and Miss Dickerman were following us but they had to wait while Miss Dreier came up with eyeglasses which they had forgotten!”—My Day column, July 23rd, 1936
“Miss Lape and Miss Read had breakfast with us this morning and Miss Lape is travelling down with us to Washington. We are very good travelling companions for we all have plenty of work to do and none of us feel the urge to waste anyone else’s time. Miss Lape is reading proof, Mrs. Scheider and I going through stacks of mail and wondering how much more will be waiting for us when we arrive in Washington.”—My Day column, February 26th, 1937
“My mother-in-law who arrived several weeks ago and who has the cottage next to us up here, came over to supper with us last night, and my neighbors on the other side, Mrs. Prince and her daughter, Mildred, originally from St. Louis joined us also. We sat after supper in the old school room, which Miss Cook and Miss Dickerman have been rearranging for me with Val-Kill furniture, they were making and hanging gay tan and red and green curtains.”—My Day column, July 24th, 1936
The rest of the way through the city was uneventful, but it always seems to me a rather bewildering place. We reached Westbrook, and Miss Lape and Miss Read took us for a swim in the Sound. The beach near them is sandy and clean. so we enjoyed the first dip we have had this summer in salt water.
In a little while, however, people began to look at us rather curiously, and we realized that it was probably time to go home. As we drove away one lady waved her hand at me and before long I imagine every one up and down the beach would have been finding out how badly I swim!
…Australia is an underdeveloped country & I doubt if many people at home have any idea of transportation difficulties. The terrain in which those boys fight is also unfamiliar to us & unbelievably difficult. I do camps, hospitals, Red [Cross] services day & evening & see men who have either been in to New Guiney & come out with a shadow on their faces but a grim hatred of the Japs or few men going in to something they knew nothing about or are ill prepared for unless they have special training at home. There have been, of course in each big city some official entertainments but I only have one of those still left to do. At dinner tomorrow night in Brisbane given by Mrs. MacArthur. I’ve only done 2 radio talks which I prepared, one in New Zealand & one in Australia. There have been several ‘few words’ daily to my varied audiences. I begin to think the job has been a good one as far as these countries are concerned but for our own men I know F. should have insisted that I go to New Guinea & Guadalcanal or not sent me.
I have lots of information for the Red [Cross]. George Durno has felt responsible for me & I think he is satisfied. He has been very kind & nice. I didn’t take the trip for pleasure & I haven’t enjoyed it, but I am very well & it hasn’t been at all tiring.
My love to you dear. I think of you & your love for travel & wonder if you would have enjoyed it.
Well, the trip is nearly half over. The people here are kind & they like F.D.R. & our marines have won all their hearts, so they are very nice to me. I make so many speeches daily that I shall soon be talked out but George Durno is a help telling me what goes well & the reverse as he watches & overhears remarks in the crowd.
These boys break your heart, but they’re so young & so tired. Malaria is almost as bad as bullets. They are hardly out of the hospitals before they are at Red Cross Clubs & dances & they laugh at everything. I take my hat off to this young generation & I hope we don’t let them down. I’ve talked to every kind of group from Maories to hospital patients, high ranking officers & the people of New Zealand.
The Trumans have just been to lunch and nearly all that I can do is done. The upstairs looks desolate and I will be glad to leave tomorrow. It is empty and without purpose to be here now.
I’ve asked Helen and Mary Norton to come in on their way to Congress and say goodbye tomorrow and the Cabinet comes at 11. At 3 the top secretaries Steve, Dr. Mac. etc. At 3:30 office forces, at 4:30 household garage etc., at 5:30 I leave for the 6 p.m. train and so endeth a period. Franklin’s death ended a period in history and now in its wake for lots of us who lived in his shadow periods come and we have to start again under our own momentum and wonder what we can achieve. I hope you and I will be working together but as I don’t intend to take on anything new till all the business of the Estate is over, you may be at new work before I am.
I may be a bit weary when we get home tomorrow but I’m so glad you will be at the apartment. Tommy will probably be more weary than I am!
All day I’ve thought of you & another birthday I will be with you, & yet tonite you sounded so far away & formal. Oh! I want to put my arms around you. I ache to hold you close. Your ring is a great comfort to me. I look at it and think she does love me, or I wouldn’t be wearing it.
I had my first long drive through the countryside yesterday. I had spent Wednesday night with Miss Esther Lape at her home in Westbrook, Connecticut, and in the evening we stood on an upstairs porch and saw the full moon shine on the fields, with the background of Long Island Sound in the distance. It is interesting how places retain the spirit of the people who have lived in them. This house and the woods, and the view, all speak to me of Miss Elizabeth Read, who lived there and loved it. One can almost feel her presence as one remembers the joy she had in the beauties of nature.
That is one of the reasons why I like to go there. Miss Read was a rare personality, with great ability and marked integrity. I loved and admired her very much. Now, in a world with so many problems, it is good to be reminded of the way in which she would have approached many of the complicated questions we have to think through today.
“It began to rain as we left home a few minutes before eight yesterday morning and for a time it came down in torrents! Then as we arrived at the home of Miss Lape and Miss Read, the rain was kind enough to stop, so that we could eat out of doors. As we started off again, however, it came down gently and steadily, and even though I told myself that probably the farmers were glad and it was much needed, still I wish it had waited for two days, when our drive was over!”—My Day column, July 30th, 1941
“Yesterday afternoon the Pontchartrain, a Coast Guard Boat, carrying the Secret Service men suddenly appeared in our Bay and anchored opposite the house. We did not know what boat it was, and as no one put off and came ashore, after the first excitement we paid little attention to it. A little later in the afternoon when Miss Dickerman and I were playing tennis, the Captain came up with one of our Secret Service men to tell us the sad news that they had found Mr. Hollinger of the White House Secret Service dead on calling him that morning. He evidently died in his sleep which is perhaps an easy way to go, but a great shock to his family and to all of us who were really fond of him. Life seems full of the unexpected. Just as you think everything is serene around you it seems to be necessary to remind you that everything is uncertain and that life should always be lived with the feeling that this may be one’s last day on earth!”—My Day column, July 28th, 1936 (One minute you’re playing tennis with your gay bestie, the next, tragedy.)
“Miss Esther Lape, Miss Elizabeth Read and I had an early breakfast together. They came down yesterday afternoon for the Cabinet dinner and spent the night at the White House as did Mr. and Mrs. Edward J. Flynn.”—My Day column, January 7th, 1937