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Re: The Gay Lincoln Thing

Re: The Gay Lincoln Thing

In regard to this post a few days back, in which I perhaps overthrew my totally unconfirmed beliefs that not only was Abe Lincoln l’homosexual, and the thought that Tony Kushner might include these suspicions in my screenplay. Comparing the potential omission of such to what happened when A Beautiful Mind totally ignored John Nash’s bisexuality is a bit unfair. No one knows for sure whether Lincoln was gay. And if they don’t include it, well, I get that.

But at least we know Kushner’s thinking about it:

In an interview with the Boston Phoenix, though noted to “have nothing to do with the movie,” Kushner says he thinks there’s a possibility Lincoln was bi.

So I think we can expect at least a bit of homoeroticism Neeson’s Abe and however ends up playing Joshua Speed.

More important though, is not speculating about the movie, but understanding what these dates really mean. Take into consideration this piece that ran on Queerty today, which hammers home the three most important things to consider if this story keeps getting brought up: 1. We’ll never know if Lincoln was gay; 2. Overexcited gays (guilty) and ultraconservative bigots are going to jump on extremes of either side of the fence; 3. The imperative thing to all of this is that if Lincoln was gay, it exemplified how LGBT people have always been here, and that the reason we dont know for sure is that they were never, ever allowed to be open:

So, is Lincoln gay? I’m no historian (though a definite history buff), but it seems to me, the real question is, “Can we know if Lincoln was gay?” The answer to that question has to be a definite “No.” There are simply too many problems for us to ever hope to get a definitive answer. Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Lincoln’s Melancholy, argues that Lincoln wasn’t gay by pointing to the nature of both frontier life, where sharing beds was common, and Victorian masculinity, which valued intimacy and florid language, especially in letter writing. The only scholarly work that seriously argues that Lincoln was gay is The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln by C. A. Tripp,and even that features a dissenting forward.

And yet, the “controversy” continues. Last week, playwright Tony Kushner, who’s written the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln, told The Boston Phoenix, “I think that there’s the possibility that Lincoln was bisexual. Shakespeare was. Why not Lincoln? All the best people are!” On CBS’ Early Show, New York University history professor Jeffrey Sammons said, “One of the very interesting stories about Abraham Lincoln is that he might have been gay. Lincoln actually did sleep in the same bed with a gentleman for a four-year period,” leading host Maggie Rodriguez to conclude, “So the question of Abraham Lincoln’s sexuality still remains a mystery.” And of course, the gay blogs jumped on the 200th anniversary of his birth as on opportunity to bring up the “Lincoln is gay” meme, much to the chagrin of conservative wingnuts.

With there never being a definitive answer to Lincoln’s sexuality and most of the evidence pointing to him being “gay” specious at best, why do we still look for it? The obvious answer is that we want to prove that gays and lesbians have always been there, to weave the history of gays and lesbians into the history of America and if the evidence is weak, that’s only because we were never allowed to be open.

I just thought I’d post this as an afterthought to the previous entry, because Queerty’s piece brings together the truly thoughtful ideas that I wish I had been capable of last week. If this controversy does continue with regard to the film “Lincoln,” I think its important for anyone interested to understand some truths before jumping on either bandwagon, myself included.

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