In my last post, I took offense at conservative individuals trying to pigeonhole my cartoon characters of childhood as gay or drug users. Today, I’m even more upset that the Pulitzer Prize- winning author of To Kill A Mockingbird, (Nellie) Harper Lee, who died on February 19th, can’t rest in peace. The website vipgaq (“Facts, Rumors and the latest Gossip on your favorite celebrities”) asks “Is Harper Lee gay or straight? Feel free to tell us – what you think! Vote by clicking below.”
• 78% think she’s gay
• 11% think she’s straight
• 11% think she’s bisexual
I can’t imagine caring if Harper Lee is gay. Biographers before now tried to coax the confession out of her. Much to no avail.
Ally With Truman Capote until….
We do know that she was a friend of Truman Capote who visited his relatives next door to Lee in Monroeville Alabama (Maycomb County in the book that loosely based the character “Dill” on Capote). As children, Capote and Lee used to compose stories on typewriters and act them out. They were considered outsiders with their peers.
Later, as we learned from the movie Capote (2005), she and Truman had a falling-out over his cavalier attitude about what she, as a research assistant, contributed to In Cold Blood (1966). She actually sat in the jail cells with Truman and his subjects, paved the way for skeptics to allow interviews with this “flagrant, effeminate writer.” Yet, she only got a token of thanks in In Cold Blood. Maybe Capote was jealous of her success? But it was Lee who had the genius of taking a fictitious town in the South as a microcosm for larger issues that loomed large in the United States such as segregation, civil rights, and class.
Truman wanted the limelight. Lee, on the other hand, gave her last documented interview to McCall’s magazine in 1964, four years after To Kill A Mockingbird was published. She was a recluse.
I hope in the future the public will not want to know if people, famous or not, are gay, straight or bisexual. It doesn’t matter and is for those whose privacy is invaded to tell if they wish. Lee didn’t wish to acknowledge her sexual orientation nor did she deem it important to her work. She was too busy writing her heart out, on her way to the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.