The Secret Queer Lives of Historical Figures: Nikola Tesla

By: Bryan K. Ludeña Campoverde

Nikola Tesla’s personal life has been the subject of much speculation, and there is no definitive proof of his sexual orientation. However, some evidence suggests that Tesla may have been gay. In addition to his close friendship with Robert Underwood Johnson, Tesla also had a strong emotional attachment to his friend George Sylvester Viereck, a poet and writer. Some of Tesla’s letters to Viereck have been described as having a romantic tone, with phrases like “I cannot help loving you dearly” and “I love you as a brother”.

Tesla was also known to be a private person, which may have contributed to the secrecy surrounding his personal life. In any case, his sexual orientation does not diminish his achievements as a brilliant inventor and engineer.

Tesla’s Work and Its Connection to His Sexual Orientation

Some scholars have analyzed Tesla’s work and inventions through a queer lens, suggesting that his fascination with electricity and light was linked to his own sexuality. For example, his invention of the Tesla coil, which produces high-voltage, low-current, and high-frequency alternating-current electricity, has been interpreted by some as a metaphor for queer desire and energy.

In addition, Tesla’s experiments with wireless power transmission have been seen as a rejection of traditional power structures, echoing the desire for freedom and autonomy often associated with queer communities. These interpretations are not widely accepted, but they demonstrate the importance of considering diverse perspectives when studying historical figures and their work.

The Importance of Acknowledging LGBTQ+ Historical Figures

Nikola Tesla is just one example of a historical figure whose sexuality has been questioned or erased from history. However, the erasure of LGBTQ+ people from history is a common problem, and it has profound effects on our understanding of the past.

By acknowledging LGBTQ+ historical figures and their contributions, we can challenge the idea that queer people are a recent invention or anomaly. We can also show that LGBTQ+ people have always been part of human history, despite efforts to suppress their identities and experiences.

In addition, recognizing and celebrating LGBTQ+ historical figures can provide role models and inspiration for current and future generations of LGBTQ+ people. It can also promote empathy and understanding among people of all identities and backgrounds.

Insure Equality learning and support

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Huffington Post. 2013. “Nikola Tesla, The Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived, Loved Pigeons And Maybe Men.” Accessed May 12, 2023. 2016. “Nikola Tesla.” Accessed May 12, 2023. 2020. “Tesla’s “Godfather of Wireless” William J. Bailey was a homosexual.” Accessed May 12, 2023.

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