A recently surfaced letter from 1982 has shed new light on former President Barack Obama’s early reflections on sexuality and identity. The letter, addressed to his ex-girlfriend Alex McNear, reveals a young Obama grappling with philosophical questions surrounding sexuality and imagination.
The letter, now over 40 years old, was obtained by The New York Post and had originally been redacted by McNear herself. The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Garrow managed to unearth the redacted portion of the letter for his biography on the former president, titled “Rising Star.“
In the letter, written when Obama was 21 and a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he delves into his thoughts on sexual identity and the power of imagination. “In regard to homosexuality, I must say that I believe this is an attempt to remove oneself from the present, a refusal perhaps to perpetuate the endless farce of earthly life. You see, I make love to men daily, but in the imagination,” Obama wrote.
He further expressed his desire for an androgynous mind and the hope to think in terms of people rather than distinguishing between women and men. “My mind is androgynous to a great extent and I hope to make it more so until I can think in terms of people, not women as opposed to men. But, in returning to the body, I see that I have been made a man, and physically in life, I choose to accept that contingency,” he added.
McNear, who had dated Obama during his time at Occidental College, had initially redacted these passages from the letter. Garrow’s friend, Harvey Klehr, transcribed the redacted portion by hand and provided it to the author. Klehr then passed on the redacted portion to The Post for further analysis.
The letter is currently owned by Emory University, which has imposed restrictions on its reproduction or removal. As a result, researchers and historians have had limited access to this historically significant document.
While these reflections from a young Barack Obama provide insight into his intellectual and personal development, the former president’s representatives have not issued any comments on the matter. However, David Garrow has suggested that Obama’s musings were not unusual for a young adult. “I’m a historian, not a psychologist, but I think it’s ‘public record’ news that a (vast?) majority of human beings have sexual fantasies!” Garrow stated via email.