Famed for writing 1960’’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird, and, most recently, 2015’s controversial release Go Set A Watchman, author Harper Lee’s works have been the subject of much debate and discussion.
However, Lee’s sexuality was also a talking topic for some of her readers and following the author’s death in February of this year, these discussions have flared up once more.
Addressing the rumours that Lee was a lesbian is Gay Star News, which collates the speculation in a recent article.
One reason people believe the assumptions that the author was not heterosexual is the Marja Mills biography, The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee, as Mills asked Lee (as well as her sisters) if they’d ever dated people, to which Lee and her siblings said “a little”, but, Mills adds, “that was that”. (It should also be noted that Lee opposed the release of the biography).
Others have also looked at the content of To Kill A Mockingbird for clues. “Scout was a tomboy,” notes Lee’s best friend Tom Butts, who adds that so was Lee and that “she kind of kept that almost masculine way about her as an adult”.
Meanwhile, the character of Dill, who has what some people describe as having ’effeminate mannerisms’, is based on Lee’s childhood friend and gay author Truman Capote.
But is this enough to suggest that Lee was in fact, a lesbian, albeit one who wasn’t out to the general public? Many would argue that Lee’s friendship with Capote and her choice of clothing (“always pants and kind of baggy clothes sometimes,” says Butts) don’t prove anything and that drawing such conclusions is offensive.
Regardless of whether or not Lee was gay, though, there’s no denying the impact that To Kill A Mockingbird had on its LGBTQ+ readers.
As Gay Star News notes, the book was number 67 on the Publishing Triangle’s list of The 100 Best Lesbian and Gay novels while Lambda Literary’s Victoria Brownworth wrote that “no lesbian or gay reader of To Kill a Mockingbird came away from the book without feeling that there was someone else like him or her”.
So, even if questions remain about Lee’s sexuality, clearly the book means a lot to those who have found (or are looking) for answers about their own.
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