Lincoln in His Lover’s Nightgown

Tariq Ali for London Review of Books, January 30th 2013

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is consciously restrictive, concentrating as it does on how the vote was manipulated and the 13th Amendment passed, but Mrs Lincoln is not exactly missing from the movie. So why didn’t the scriptwriter Tony Kushner, a staunch gay rights activist who ‘personally believe[s] that there is some reason to speculate that Lincoln might have been bisexual or gay’, include any of that speculation in the film? There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Lincoln slept with a number of men. In an interview with Gold Derby, Kushner said:

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… 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.

Not very convincing. Especially when you consider that one of the men who shared Lincoln’s bed was his military aide and bodyguard, Captain David Derickson (in 1862-63, before the film begins). Kushner may find it difficult to believe that at the height of a political crisis ‘banging’ is not possible. But history and present times contradict such a narrow view.

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