FBI and Homosexuality: 1980-1989

When Athan Theoharis began researching a biography of Hoover in the 1980s he was the recipient of numerous volunteered allegations of Hoover's homosexuality, all of which turned out to be baseless, or unconfirmable.

Poveda and others (1998), page 137. Buttino autobiography. Research request: full citations?

Powers, Richard Gid. G-Men: Hoover’s FBI in American Popular Culture (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983).

1984, March 6
Anderson, Scott P. Anderson, “ACLU Seeks Data about FBI Spying on Gays since 1950,” Advocate, 6 March 1984.

Potter, "Queer" (2006), page 373 citing “Our Own KGB: Spreading Rumors about J. Edgar Hoover Would Invite a Visit,” New York Native, 16 September 1991; Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, 33, 39; and “FBI Wiretapping: A Case Study in Bureau Autonomy,” Political Science Quarterly 107, no. 1 (1992): 117–18.

1984, September 24
Stadler, Matthew. Research request: Title? Report on FBI in gay press. New York Native, 24 September 1984.

Research request: Cited in Carter, Stonewall, page 96, and note 13 page 286. Full citation? Content?

1984, October 30
[Article on FBI and homosexuality.] Advocate, 30 October 1984.

Research request: Full citation? R Poveda and others (1998), 122.

1984, November 28
Gay & Lesbian Youth of New York (GLYNY), a peer youth organization, becomes entangled in a collaborative relationship with the FBI. When the involvement is exposed by an article in The Connection, it arouses a controversy that pits a growing interest in protecting the community's youth from exploitative relationships and abuse against a long-standing fear and repudiation of government surveillance as a threat to privacy and personal freedom – also echoing slowly-healing, deep factional divisions over these issues.

Research request: Full citation? 

1984, December 11
Michael Balter. “Decades of FBI Surveillance Unveiled,” Advocate, 11 December 1984.

Potter, "Queer Hover", 355-356: This account is taken from Anthony Summers' extremely controversial, strongly questioned book Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1993), 253–55.

1984, December 7
Christopher Street. [Report on the FBI in the gay press]. 7 December 1983.

Potter "Queer" (2006), page 375. Research request: full ciation and content?

1980s, late
"by the late 1980s Hoover could not avoid being articulated as a closeted gay man because he persecuted and reviled other homosexuals."

Potter, "Queer" (2006), page 377, citing Theoharis, J. Edgar Hoover, Sex and Crime, 44–45, 53.

Powers, Richard Gid. SECRECY AND POWER The Life of J. Edgar Hoover. Illustrated. 624 pp. New York: The Free Press.

Norval on Powers:"Mr. Powers avoids preoccupation with the question of whether Hoover's 44-year close and daily association with the handsome Clyde Tolson was overtly homosexual; but he sketches the details of their working days and holidays together, and concludes that their relationship was spousal and so close, so enduring, and so affectionate that it took the place of marriage for both bachelors. To me it seems clear that sexual sublimation accounts in part for the astonishing and unwavering energy Hoover dedicated to the virtuous task he saw himself as privileged to perform - the creation of a great law enforcement agency."

Potter, "Queer" (2006), page 363, citing: Joshua Gamson, Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998); Summers, 13; quotations from the A&E special are from [Potter's] own transcriptions. The blackmail theory has been widely repeated; it can be found in Diarmuid Jeffreys, The Bureau: Inside the Modern FBI (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995), 84.

Oshinsky on Powers: "In 1987 the historian Richard Gid Powers provided a compelling portrait of the young Hoover in "Secrecy and Power." In his view, Hoover was a natural product of his environment: "Southern, white, Christian, small-town, turn-of-the-century Washington." His neighborhood was homogeneous -- and closed."

Poveda and others, page 137.

Potter on Powers: "already in 1987 Powers pointed to Hoover’s “straitlaced Presbyterian upbringing and his almost fanatical conventionality” to argue that the relationship with Tolson may have been loving but not sexual. “Yet human sexual drives being what they are,” Powers retreats, “it is also possible that it was a fully sexual relationship. There is no compelling evidence for a definitive judgment in either direction. Weighing all known information, such a term as ‘spousal relationship’ describes most fairly what is known about the bonds between the two men, bonds that grew stronger and more exclusive with the passing years.”

Potter, "Queer" (2006), pages 366-67 citing Powers, Secrecy and Power, 172–73. See also Powers 2004.

1987, March 8
Morris, Norval. "Director of All He Surveyed." [Review of Powers, Secrecy, 1987.] New York Times. March 8, 1987

1987, October 17
Ginsberg, Allen, interviewed by Obie Benz.

Cited in Carter, Stonewall, pages 94-95, 319, etc.

Ginsberg says that a friend or acquaintance told him in 1947 about being accosted for sexual purposes in a Washington, D.C. hotel by J. Edgar Hoover. Ginsberg also says in this same interview that Hoover "insisted there was no organized crime. In fact, in those years [the late 1940s] I had the fantasy that the Mafia might have secret movies of J. Edgar Hoover in the basement with some big, hairy Mafia Lothario and were blackmailing him so he'd lay off organized crime, because he insisted there was no organized crime."

1988, April
Cox, John Stuart and Athan Theoharis and John Stuart Cox. The Boss: J. Edgar Hoovr and the Great American Inquisition. Temple University Press, April 1988.

The authors spoke of J. Edgar Hoover as "molded by a family life reminiscent of a Dickens novel. Yet they, too, portrayed him as a captive of his parochial culture -- a man of narrow interests and "homely tastes.

"Oshinsky, David M. "The Senior G-Man". New York Times, September 15, 1991.

Potter, Queer (2006): The authors argued "that despite Hoover’s “overriding preference for male companionship” he was not a sexual person. They drew on niece Margaret Hoover’s observation that her uncle saw marriage as a distraction from his career. Indeed, this explanation is so ubiquitous among family members that we have to imagine that they gossiped about him too. Theoharis and Cox then argue, in contrast to Powers, that Hoover’s failure to act on his sexual desires made him into “what the clinical literature calls a ‘defended person’” who diverted this unused and unsatisfied sexual desire into his work. His perversions of state power were, therefore, a visible manifestation of closeted homosexual fantasies. “The entire structure of his life,” they write, was “designed to hide his own unacceptable impulses and turn them into external threats.” In other words, Hoover’s sexual acts took the form of political acts.

Potter, "Queer" (2006), page 367.