J. Edgar Hoover: Gay marriage role model?
Will the search for famous gay partnerships lead to adding a homophobe to the purple pantheon?
Jan. 5, 2000
In 1999 the hunt for gay role models outed numerous historical figures
and fictional characters from Honest Abe to Tinky Winky.
2000 may yet provide even more eye-popping additions to the
lavender hall of fame. Now with the anti-gay Knight Initiative pending a popular
vote in California this spring, at least two gay Web sites are gathering examples of
proto-gay marriage as inspiration.
But will the relentless search for homosexual love-nests lead to elevating a
homophobe to the purple pantheon?
J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI chief, and his longtime companion, Clyde Tolson, were
an ambiguously gay crime-fighting duo. Inseparable for 44 years,
1928-1972, the two top G-men vacationed together, often dressed similarly
and continue their cohabitation even after death. They’re buried alongside one another.
Such facts have garnered Hoover and his handsome right-hand henchman
praise as homosexual role models from the Web site Partners’ list of “Famous
Lesbian and Gay Couples.” Along with an impressive
lineup of long-term lovers, the crime-fighting couple are touted as the
11th-longest romance on a list headed by Canadian authoress
Mazo de la Roche and Carol Clement’s 75-year love affair. Other famous
persevering pairs include Greek historical novelist Mary Renault and Julie
Mullard (50 years), cubist writer Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
(39 years), poet W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman (34 years), Renaissance
wonder Leonardo da Vinci and his apprentice Giacomo Caprotti (30 years) and
conqueror Alexander the Great and his cavalry commander Hephaistion (19
Do Hoover and Tolson really belong on this list? No one has unearthed
documentation that the two men had blazing hot sex together. Couldn’t they
have just been platonic pals? Evidence of physical intimacy is merely
circumstantial, although suspicions about J. Edgar and Clyde ran
rampant through Washington political circles. Richard Nixon’s obscene
hearing of Hoover’s death (“Jesus Christ, that old cocksucker!”) perhaps
describes the opinion of inside observers, but no letters, photos,
diaries or reliable witnesses can carnally tie the two men together. The
best “proof” comes from the wife of Hoover’s psychiatrist; she claims that
Hoover admitted his homosexuality to her husband during a confidential session.
Even if Hoover and Tolson did engage in a lifelong love affair,
does that really make them worthy of admiration? After all, he spread
destructive, unsubstantiated rumors that Adlai Stevenson was gay to damage
the liberal Illinois governor’s 1952 bid for the presidency. He hunted down
and threatened anyone who dared to utter an innuendo about his sexual preference. And his extensive secret files contained surveillance material on Eleanor Roosevelt’s alleged lesbian
lovers, probably gathered for the purpose of blackmail.
The Who’s Who
gay role model page of
Getting Real Online, a youth support Web site, lists Hoover as
“somebody to look up to,” citing his lengthy relationship with Tolson and
suggesting that Hoover was a “part-time cross-dresser.” But this is
another allegation that lacks reliable substantiation, such as a photo of J.
Edgar in drag.
Hoover’s and Tolson’s names will undoubtedly be bandied about in the next
three months as the battle over the proposed ban on gay marriage heats up.
Yanking J. Edgar and Clyde flamboyantly out of the closet and waving their
relationship with the rainbow flag may assist the
cause of gay activists, but the truth remains that the master detective who
spied on everyone else’s sex life left the dossier on his own libido
Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.More Hank Hyena.
More Related Stories
- The 10 most horrifying fast food gimmicks of all time
- Why do we fumble over athletes and rape accusations?
- Our American love-hate relationship with pot
- The 5 most egregious failures of the Jameis Winston rape investigation
- Finland rolls out amazing, slightly NSFW stamp collection
- Hunger gains: Why eating less may increase your lifespan
- When HIV is a turn-on
- "I should have had the drugs": The pregnancy that made me fear cars, carrots, forest fires and David Bowie
- Bill Nye: Creationism is "bad for science education, bad for the U.S., and thereby bad for humankind"
- A breast cancer anthem that rocks
- Motherhood isn't the "world's toughest job"
- Medical experts urge Tennessee governor to veto bill that would jail women for their pregnancy outcomes
- LA school administrators suspend science teacher for doing his job
- Scientists: Australian prime minister is engineering an "environmental train wreck"
- 10 most endangered (and unique) birds on the planet
- How "Dungeons & Dragons" saved my autistic son
- Boston Marathon bombing, one year later: Were the Tsarnaevs really cowards?
- My iconic nightmare: How I became the face of the Boston bombing
- Report: Many girls view sexual assault as normal behavior
- Turn off your iPad in church!
- Marsha Blackburn: "It is Republicans that have led the fight for women’s equality"
Featured Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Kim Leeson/George W. Bush Presidential Center via Flickr
Recent Slide Shows
- The best and worst series finale music of all time
- Stories from a Warming Planet: Wildfires
- Seven celebrity "authors" who didn't do it alone
- They're no "Divergent": Eight young-adult movie franchises that died untimely deaths
- Space porn: These images are (quite literally) out of this world
- Gridlock in Atlanta
- The 7 most awkward family holiday photos of all time
- Red List 2013