The former US president wrote of his “androgynous mind” in a letter to his then-girlfriend, Alex McNear, which has since resurfaced in the New York Post. In the correspondence, Obama wrote: “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.”
“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,” he added. “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.”
The letter was written in November 1982, when a 21-year-old Obama and McNear were students at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She later redacted excerpts of the letter, which is currently held by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Contents of the letter gained renewed attention earlier this month when biographer David Garrow claimed that the 44th US president “repeatedly fantasizes about making love to men”. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, was the author of the 2017 biography, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama.
In an interview with Tablet published on 2 August, Garrow explained how he obtained letters from three of Obama’s former girlfriends as he was writing about the politician’s early career. The biographer suggested that McNear “wanted to have her role known” when she offered the 40-year-old letter to Garrow. “When Alex showed me the letters from Barack, she redacted one paragraph in one of them and just said: ‘It’s about homosexuality,’” Garrow told the magazine.
After McNear sold the letters to Emory University, Garrow asked college professor Harvey Klehr to transcribe the love letters by hand. “I emailed Harvey, said: ‘Go to the Emory archives.’ He’s spent his whole life at Emory, but they won’t let him take pictures,” Garrow explained. “So Harvey has to sit there with a pencil and copy out the graf where Barack writes to Alex about how he repeatedly fantasizes about making love to men.”
The former president co-operated in the writing of the book, as he was interviewed by Garrow for eight hours over the course of three days. He has not yet commented publicly about the contents of the resurfaced letter.
When Rising Star was published in 2017, the biography also revealed that Obama had proposed to another woman before he met his current wife, Michelle Obama. Speaking to Garrow, Obama’s ex-girlfriend Sheila Miyoshi Jager told the author: “In the winter of 86, when we visited my parents, he asked me to marry him.”
Obama and Jager began dating after they were introduced by mutual friends. The former Illinois senator proposed in 1986, when he was 25 and Jager was 23. While she rejected his proposal, the ex-couple stayed together until Obama’s political aspirations caused a strain on their relationship.
“He became… so very ambitious very suddenly,” Jager told Garrow. “I remember very clearly when this transformation happened, and I remember very specifically that by 1987, about a year into our relationship, he already had his sights on becoming president.”
In the book, Garrow also wrote that Obama allegedly attempted to end his relationship with Jager – who is of Japanese and Dutch ancestry – because of race. The author claimed that Obama believed marrying his then-girlfriend would hurt his credibility as an African American politician, writing that he had a “calling” to be president and “a heightened awareness that to pursue it he had to fully identify as African American”.
According to Garrow, Obama and Jager continued to see each other during his first year of law school – around the same time that he met Michelle Obama (née Robinson) while working at a Chicago law firm.
The soon-to-be president and first lady were married on 3 October 1992. They welcomed their first child, Malia Ann Obama, in July 1998 and their second daughter, Natasha “Sasha” Obama, in July 2001.
The Independent has contacted representatives for Barack Obama for comment.