Gore Vidal

The openly bisexual Gore Vidal, one of America’s most influential writers, has died at the age of 86 at his home in Hollywood.

His nephew Burr Steers told The New York Times that his death was due to complications related to pneumonia.

During his life, Vidal wrote over 20 novels, two memoirs and various plays, screenplays and scores of essays.

Most will know Vidal for his work on screenplays for films such as Ben-Hur and Caligula and his novels, including the transsexual satire Myra Breckinridge, Empire and Live from Golgotha: the Gospel according to Gore Vidal.

His third novel, The City and the Pillar (1948), generated huge controversy for being one of the first major American novels to feature gay characters and themes. Some bookstores refused to sell it at the time.

The book was dedicated to J. T., who Vidal only later revealed was Jimmie Trimble, killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945, and who he said was the only person he had loved.

Vidal was a biting, witty and often controversial social and political commentator, acted in films such as Gattaca and With Honors and even featured on The Simpsons.

He was open about his bisexuality and boasted that by the time he was 25 he had slept with more than 1,000 men and women.

In 1969 he wrote in Esquire: “We are all bisexual to begin with. That is a fact of our condition. And we are all responsive to sexual stimuli from our own as well as from the opposite sex. Certain societies at certain times, usually in the interest of maintaining the baby supply, have discouraged homosexuality.

“Other societies, particularly militaristic ones, have exalted it. But regardless of tribal taboos, homosexuality is a constant fact of the human condition and it is not a sickness, not a sin, not a crime … despite the best efforts of our puritan tribe to make it all three. Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality. Notice I use the word ‘natural,’ not normal.”

In 1950, Vidal met his long-term partner Howard Austen. They were together until Austen died in 2003.

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