Friday, November 16, 2012

Was Abraham Lincoln Gay?

With the release of Steven Spielberg biopic, "Lincoln," speculation has again been set off about whether or not America's perhaps greatest president was a "friend of Dorothy."  It's an issue addressed before on this blog here, here and here, as well as on The Bilerico Project, and it has a particularly fun quality about it because it makes the far right veritably foam at the mouth - they simply cannot countenance the reality that great figures in history weren't heterosexual.  As these past posts indicated, there IS ample evidence to suggest that Lincoln had a" touch of lavender" as Tony Kushner describes it.  The new movie - which I hope to see this weekend - unfortunately does not delve into this question for reasons that Kushner recently explained.   That is not to say that Kushner rejects the speculation that Lincoln played for our team.  A piece in Huffington Post looks at the movie and the speculation about Lincoln's sexual orientation.  Here are highlights:

Abraham Lincoln's sexual proclivities have long been the subject of titillating rumors and historical debate, but Lincoln's alleged "lavender side" is conspicuously absent from Tony Kushner's Steven Spielberg biopic, "Lincoln."

The outspoken activist and writer first began writing the script six years ago, according to Gold Derby, but the final version, while meticulously detailed, is also sexless.

Kushner sat down with Gold Derby for an interview about the writing process. He addressed the absence of homosexual undertones in the film, despite his personal belief that there is reason to speculate Lincoln might have been gay or bisexual.

"I wanted to write about a very specific moment and I chose this moment and I don’t feel that there’s any evidence at this particular moment that Lincoln was having sex with anybody," Kushner said in the interview. "He seems to have not slept and taken no time off and during this period I think he was beginning to feel ground to a pulp by the war and by the pressures of his job. I find it difficult to believe that Lincoln was banging anybody."

Lincoln's close relationships with male friends is well documented.  Following his move in 1837 to Springfield, Ill., a young Lincoln shared a bed for several years with Joshua Speed, and he continued a lifelong correspondence with him after, according to Slate.

Then there was the former president's relationship with his bodyguard, Captain David Derickson, with whom he also occasionally shared a bed, according to Gold Derby.
Lincoln once answered a knock at his bedroom door while wearing Derickson's nightshirt as the captain slumbered in his sack. Gossipmeisters buzzed about them. The wife of a navy aide wrote, "Oh, there is a Bucktail soldier here devoted to the president, drives with him, and when Mrs. L is not home, sleeps with him. What stuff!"
The main problem for Kushner, as it has been for Lincoln's past historians and biographers, is a serious lack of solid evidence showing these hints and relationships ever moved out of the realm of speculation and rumor and became sexually intimate.  "There are, unfortunately, no memoirs, no diaries, nothing to say for sure," Kushner explains.

And of course, there is Mary Todd Lincoln, with whom Lincoln bore several children during a union that lasted for more than two decades.     "I absolutely believe that the Lincoln’s marriage was a real marriage. These two people loved each other," Kushner said. "It wouldn’t be the first time that a gay man and a straight woman hooked up and had a great marriage. But I don’t know. I really don’t know.
We may never know for certain, but the possibility that Lincoln was gay or bisexual should continue to be explored and make a case for not judging individuals solely by prudish heterosexual standards.

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