Walt whitman and homosexuality
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Some critics evaluate Walt Whitman's poems not for their heterosexual content, but instead, for their hidden and obvious references to homosexuality. One reason early critics overlooked the homosexual message in his poetry was because the term homosexuality was not included in the English language until the year 1892. However, modern critics cannot overlook the homosexual references in his works. Research papers on Whitman's homosexuality note that the references were easier to ignore for critics of the nineteenth century in that most of their time and attention was spent on reviewing his work in terms of its explicit references to heterosexual acts. Gambino argues that Whitman's Calamus poems were clearly homosexual, although Whitman denied it while he was alive.
Even with the homosexual undertones in his works, Whitman tried to convince individuals that his first interest was in heterosexual love. To make his point he even went so far as to brag about having six illegitimate children. Gambino characterizes Whitman's sexual poems as "courageous." He was far ahead of his time in discussing the issue of sexuality openly and in a way that did not agree with commonly held religious views of the day.
Whitman called attention to his preference for men in other ways as well.
- Whitman made no attempt to hide the fact that he loved the whalemen of Long Island.
- Whitman extolled the virtues of these men in his works and in his interactions with other people.
- Whitman made a point of walking the beaches, notebook in hand, and writing down thoughts as they occurred to him.
- Whitman was fond of hanging out in New York's Bowery district, an area that was known to be a meeting place for gays.
- Whitman would state that his time on the beach and in the Bowery district provided him with the genesis of his works. At the same time he claimed these places served as the basis for his ideas on democracy and family rather that those relating to homosexuality.