#Ladygraham Went Viral — And Not Just Because Of Lindsey Graham’s PoliticsRoundup
tags: scandals, LBTBQ history, rumors
Thomas Balcerski teaches history at Eastern Connecticut State University and is author of Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King.
Last week, the hashtag #LadyGraham exploded on social media in response to allegations made on Twitter by gay adult-film star Sean Harding against Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina (the hashtag, along with the abbreviated form “Lady G,” purportedly refers to Graham’s nickname among male sex workers). What followed has been a mixed bag of political commentary, wanton speculation and downright trolling.
While the #LadyGraham hashtag is a reflection of the coarseness of our politics and fury toward Graham for his embrace of President Trump and his policies, rumors about politicians’ sex lives are nothing new in American history.
From George Washington to Trump, illicit sexual liaisons have spanned more than two centuries of American politics. Of the 44 men elected president, the historian Robert P. Watson has estimated, seven engaged in sexual affairs during their time in office, while many more were mired in scandal before their election. Though the nature of these affairs differ, they share one factor in common: Gossip has swirled about them.
And the rumors about Graham’s sexuality expose the expectation underlying this gossip: Americans have long expected their politicians to be male, cisgender, straight and married, and have scrutinized those who are not.
Two men virtually leap off the page in this regard — James Buchanan of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King of Alabama, two 19th-century Democratic senators, one who became president, the other who became vice president, whose decades-long relationship sent tongues wagging in their day. While in Washington, they lived together in a shared boardinghouse for 10 years, and they exchanged more than 60 letters during their lifetimes.
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