Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. He is a part of the American canon and often called the father of free verse.
At the time, much of his writing was considered very controversial. Leaves of Grass (1855) was especially targeted because of its overt sexuality, in which he wrote about men and women. Even though some critics complained that his poetry was vulgar and obscene, many, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, praised his revolutionary writing style.
There is limited verifiable information about Whitman's sexuality. However, it seems that many of his romantic and sexual poems were written about men. Oscar Wilde met Whitman in America in 1882 and told the homosexual-rights activist George Cecil Ives that Whitman's sexual orientation was beyond question — "I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips."
It is speculated that he may have been in a relationship with a bus conductor named Peter Doyle. The two were inseparable for many years, and in an 1895 interview, Doyle once said, "We were familiar at once — I put my hand on his knee — we understood. He did not get out at the end of the trip — in fact, went all the way back with me."
He also had a romantic relationship with New York actress Ellen Grey, who he would refer to as "an old sweetheart". He claimed to have fathered six children with various women, although no one knows who these women or children were.