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Was J Edgar Hoover Gay?

Updated on August 23, 2017

Or Was He a Transvestite?

Was the powerful head of the FBI, the G-man in chief, gay? Was he seen cross-dressing in the company of naked young men? Or was this fiction, designed to discredit a man who was hated and feared by dissidents and criminals all over the United States?

With the release of the 2011 movie, J Edgar Hoover's life is being looked at again, with fresh eyes. In this lens, we'll look at the facts and see what they tell us about this mid-20th century icon.

Photo: Wikipedia, J. Edgar Hoover

G-Men, FBI Detectives Pulp Fiction Magazine, USA, 1935

Poster, 12 in. x 16 in. Other sizes available

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Do You Think Hoover Was Gay? - Share Your Opinion!

Before reading further, let us know what you think. Was J Edgar Hoover gay? Did he wear dresses in public? Were the stories about him true? Please vote, then add your thoughts to one of the two Comment areas immediately below.

Poll

Was J Edgar Hoover a gay cross dresser?

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A Basic Biography of John Edgar Hoover

John Edgar Hoover was born on 1 January, 1895 in Washington, D.C. He attended George Washington University, and received a law degree in 1917. After school, he was hired by the U.S. Department of Justice, becoming the acting director of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, and became the director shortly afterwards.

He was zealous in his job of finding and catching major criminal gangs and organized crime.Hoover was also very concerned with the danger of subversive people and radicals, and often overstepped constitutional limits in spying on them. Hoover uncovered Nazi spy groups in the days before and during World War 2, and afterward, was equally vigilant against Soviet spies and Communists in general.

J. Edgar Hoover died in 1972, while he was still director of the FBI.

Source: Wikipedia, and other online information

Hoover and Tolson
Hoover and Tolson

Was He Gay?

Evidence for and against

Hoover was publicly very anti-gay, and anti-sex in general. He tried to discredit Martin Luther King by claiming he tired to arrange "sex parties", accused Hollywood lobbyist Jack Valenti of being gay (despite his happy straight marriage), and spread rumors about presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson to upset his campaign in 1952. He kept records claiming Eleanor Roosevelt had female lovers.

However, Hoover never married. He spent large amounts of time with his assistant, Clyde Tolson, both on the job and during personal time. Tolson inherited Hoover's estate, moved into Hoover's home after Hoover died, and is buried near Hoover's grave. They were described as "constant companions for more than 40 years."

It is hard to interpret this evidence. In the mid-20th century public figures had to stay "in the closet", or risk losing their jobs and reputations. If Hoover and Tolson had a relationship, they would never have gone public. It does sound like Hoover and Tolson were a couple in secret.

Many gay men, especially if they are uncomfortable with their own sexuality, do become hyper-vigilant about persecuting other perceived gay people. Hoover certainly displayed this.

Though the evidence we have is not definite, I do believe J. Edgar Hoover was gay.

Photo: Wikipedia

Political Cartoon of Hoover in a Dress
Political Cartoon of Hoover in a Dress

But Did Hoover Cross-Dress?

The evidence that J. Edgar Hoover was a transvestite rests on one person's report. Susan Rosenstiel, the former wife of a bisexual millionaire, claims her then husband took her to watch an orgy where Hoover was wearing a "fluffy pink dress". She reported another incident with "young blond boys in leather". This supposedly happened at the Plaza Hotel, New York, a hotel that was frequented by members of High Society.

However, both reports come from one woman who had reasons to hate Hoover. Mr Rosenstiel was rumored to have connections to organized crime, And Ms Rosenstiel believed Hoover was helping her husband during their divorce. Ms Rosenstiel later did jail time for perjury (lying).

If Hoover was interested in cross dressing, it is unlikely he would have done so in a place where he was likely to get caught. He understood blackmail very well (having blackmailed many people in the course of his own work). Hoover was many things, but not stupid. If he cross dressed, he would not have done so in public.

Cartoon: Library of Congress

Conclusions

I believe J. Edgar Hoover probably was gay, though he grew up at a time when he had to repress his interests, and was always "in the closet."

When I started researching Hoover, I believed he did cross dress in public. I had heard these rumors first in the early 1970s, when he was considered a vigilante, and disliked by any Americans holding unpopular political views.

However, after reading the evidence, and thinking a bit, I realize Hoover was too intelligent to cross dress in a public place where he was sure to be seen. I don't think he ever did cross dress.

I learned something from writing this, and I hope you learned, too.

Sources

The material in this article was drawn from a number of online web sites.

  1. Wikipedia: J. Edgar Hoover
  2. The Straight Dope: Was J. Edgar Hoover a cross-dresser?
  3. History News Network: Did J. Edgar Hoover Really Wear Dresses?

Closing Comments

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    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 3 years ago from California, United States of America

      Very interesting information. I had heard that he was a cross-dresser but I hadn't heard anything about him being gay and that's very interesting his relationship with the guy who worked with him and inherited his home. It would be okay, of course, if he were gay or a cross-dresser, but what is not so much okay is that he was a reactionary bully that caused a lot of misery for a whole lot of people. Some people speculate that he did the bad things he did because he was repressed. I think that might be the case. Repression can cause crazy behavior, for certain.

    • iWriteaLot profile image

      iWriteaLot 5 years ago

      Yes, there will always be an ongoing debate - along with everything else Kennedy-related. I love researching this era of American history. Blessed

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is a great lens. I think you're right about him but the debate will always rage. You hit the nail on the head when you said he had to repress his interest and stay in the closet. I vote gay...