Jim Loewen in Salon, riffing on the silly Newsweek cover, points out that James Buchanan, president from 1857 to 1861, was actually, obviously gay.
There can be no doubt that James Buchanan was gay, before, during and after his four years in the White House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too — he was not far into the closet.
So why is it not more popularly known that Buchanan was gay? Loewen's answer is interesting:
One reason why Americans find it hard to believe Buchanan could have been gay is that we have a touching belief in progress. Our high school history textbooks’ overall story line is, “We started out great and have been getting better ever since,” more or less automatically. Thus we must be more tolerant now than we were way back in the middle of the 19th century!
Loewen also knows a bunch about beards. Not beards like women married to gay men, but facial beards. As he points out, it's been a long time since a president had one.