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How Gay Will “Lincoln” Be?

How Gay Will "Lincoln" Be?

So Jeff Wells’ is saying that Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” might out in time to find a place the 2010 Oscar mix. Whether the film even makes it out is one thing (Ropes of Silicon notes: “This isn’t anything new for Spielberg who pulled a similar rush job on Munich in 2005 when he began principal photography in early July and the film debuted on December 23 that year and went on to earn $130 million worldwide and was nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay. Kushner also penned Munich with the aid of Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).”), but my main curiosity lies in whether Spielberg and company will pull a Beautiful Mind and skip over the fact that Abraham Lincoln was the country’s first homosexual president. Alright, so it isn’t a fact. But there’s no way it ever can be since everyone around during Lincoln’s homosex romps is long dead. Doubters can take a read at the following wikipedia info and decide for themselves:

The sexuality of Abraham Lincoln is a topic of debate. Lincoln was married to Mary Todd from November 4, 1842 until his death on April 15, 1865. They had four children. C. A. Tripp has commented that Lincoln’s problematic and distant relationship with women stood in contrast to his more warm relations with a number of men in his life and that two of those relationships had arguable homosexual overtones.

Lincoln met Joshua Fry Speed in Springfield, Illinois, in 1837. They lived together for four years, during which time they occupied the same bed during the night (some sources specify a large double bed) and developed a friendship that would last until their deaths.

Captain David Derickson was Lincoln’s bodyguard and companion between September 1862 and April 1863. They shared a bed during the absences of Lincoln’s wife, until Derickson was promoted in 1863. Derickson was twice married and fathered ten children, but whatever the exact level of intimacy of the relationship, it was the subject of gossip. Elizabeth Woodbury Fox, the wife of Lincoln’s naval aide, wrote in her diary for November 16, 1862, “Tish says, ‘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!'”

Commentary on Abraham Lincoln’s sexuality has existed for some time but re-entered the public light in 2005 with the posthumous publication of C.A. Tripp’s book The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. In his biography of Lincoln, Carl Sandburg in 1926 made an allusion to the early relationship of Lincoln and his friend Joshua Fry Speed as having “a streak of lavender, and spots soft as May violets………” “Streak of lavender” was slang in the 1930s for a “sissy” or an effeminate man; later “lavender” connoted homosexuality. Sandburg did not state that either was homosexual or that the relationship was sexual in nature.

C. A. Tripp, who died in 2003, was a sex researcher and protege of Alfred Kinsey. He began writing The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln with Philip Nobile until a falling out between them. The New York Times quoted Nobile saying “Tripp’s book is a fraud”. Nobile wrote a critical review of Tripp’s book in the Weekly Standard, in which he accused the Tripp book of plagiarizing his own work, of relying heavily on Charles Shiveley without proper attribution and of distortion. Tripp’s book includes an afterword by historian and Lincoln biographer Michael Burlingame titled “A Respectful Dissent”, in which he states:

“Since it is virtually impossible to prove a negative, Dr. Tripp’s thesis cannot be rejected outright. But given the paucity of hard information adduced by him, and given the abundance of contrary evidence indicating that Lincoln was drawn romantically and sexually to some women, a reasonable conclusion, it seems to me, would be that it is possible but highly unlikely that Abraham Lincoln was “predominantly homosexual”

In a second afterword to the book titled “An Enthusiastic Endorsement”, historian Michael B. Chesson makes the argument for the historical significance of the work:

“Tripp, for all his research, sophistication, and insight, has not proved his case conclusively. … But any open-minded reader who has reached this point may well have a reasonable doubt about the nature of Lincoln’s sexuality. The “Tall Sucker” was a very strange man, one of the strangest in American history, and certainly the oddest to reach a position of national prominence, let alone the presidency. If Lincoln was a homosexual, or primarily so inclined, then suddenly our image of this mysterious man gains some clarity. Not everything falls into place. But many things do, including some important, even essential, elements of who Lincoln was, why he acted in the way he did, and a possible reason for his sadness, loneliness, and secretive nature.”

In 1999, author and gay activist Larry Kramer claimed that he had uncovered new primary sources which shed fresh light on Lincoln’s sexuality. The sources included a hitherto unknown Joshua Speed diary and letters in which Speed writes explicitly about his relationship with Lincoln. These items were supposedly discovered hidden beneath the floorboards of the old store where the two men lived, and are said to reside in a private collection in Davenport, Iowa.

Kramer has yet to publish any of this material for critical evaluation, and historian Gabor Boritt, referring to Kramer’s documents, wrote, “Almost certainly this is a hoax … .” Tripp also expressed skepticism over Kramer’s discovery, writing, “Seeing is believing, should that diary ever show up; the passages claimed for it have not the slightest Lincolnian ring.” Time magazine also addressed the book as part of a prominent cover article by Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness. However Shenk dismissed Tripp’s conclusions, stating that arguments on Lincoln’s homosexuality were “based on a tortured misreading of conventional 19th century sleeping arrangements”.

So here’s why I think the “Lincoln” biopic might not entirely skip over these theories. Its being written by Tony Kushner. Openly gay, writer of “Angels in America” Tony Kushner. And Spielberg has been a long friend of the gays – and this is his opportunity to make up for his controversially Sapphic-less “Color Purple.” So we shall see. And if they do include some gayness, expect a bit of a shitstorm. A very interesting one.

And if it does end up in the Oscar race, we could be looking at yet another best pic lineup featuring a gay(ish, I mean.. don’t get me wrong: “Lincoln” will not be “Milk,’ or even “Capote” for that matter) biopic (or maybe two, as Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock” is another definite possibility).

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