There has been an avalanche of opinions voiced by ex-FBI agents and current ones over the film “J Edgar” and his portrayal as being gay. Now, some Gay rights advocates are weighing in.
“I don’t know specifically why current officers object to the claim that Hoover was gay,” Jacob Appel, a New York-based lawyer that has written and advocated for gay and lesbian rights, told ticklethewire.com. “If their concern is solely for historical accuracy, and they don’t feel there is evidence to support that claim, then that’s certainly a reasonable position.”
“On the other hand, if these individuals actually believe that being gay would somehow tarnish Hoover’s image–and I sincerely hope that no one in the FBI holds such deeply misguided views today–then their positions would reflect the sort of bigotry and ignorance that have no place in civilized society,” said Appel.
Clint Eastwood has produced the film and Leonard DiCaprio plays the legendary Hoover. The film portrays Hoover as having a romantic relationship with Clyde Tolson, his number two man in the bureau.
Some agents, and particularly some retired agents who still idolize Hoover, credit him with building a world-class law enforcement agency, and have expressed concern about his portrayal as being gay.
Many say there’s no evidence that Hoover was gay. Instead, they argue that he was married to the job and that he was essentially asexual.
“I find it interesting that Hollywood has no proof of Hoover being a homosexual, a story that was sparked by a discredited author,” former FBI official Anthony Riggio recently wrote in a column for ticklethewire.com. “Yet it tickled the media’s fancy and now the media can’t get over it, and every chance they get, they herald this unfounded suspicion.”
Then again, there are some FBI agents today who simply could care less.
Eastwood has caught some flack for the portrayal, but defends the film.
“It’s not a movie about two gay guys,” Eastwood told GQ. “It’s a movie about how this guy manipulated everybody around him and managed to stay on through nine presidents. I mean, I don’t give a crap if he was gay or not.”
DiCaprio says he’s not sure of Hoover’s sexual orientation.
“If I were a betting man, I actually don’t know what I would bet,” he told GQ.
Some gay rights advocates concerns are not just over the negative reactions from some FBI and former FBI agents, but of Hoover himself.
Rod Hearne, the Executive Director of the Seattle-based Equal Rights Washington, comments:
“In 2011 it’s hard to imagine that two such powerful, unmarried, near-constant companions as J Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson would be seen as anything but gay.
“If the FBI and J Edgar Hoover’s friends and associates resist the notion that the blackmailing, extorting, empire-building, racist, homophobic man was gay, fine, whatever they wish to think. The straights can have him.”
Author Ronald Kessler, who penned the book “The Secrets of the FBI”, wrote in an article on the website Newsmax: “Hoover and Tolson, both bachelors, were inseparable. They ate lunch together every day and dinner together almost every night. They vacationed together, staying in adjoining rooms, and they took adoring photos of each other.”
The relationship with Tolson, he wrote, “points to Hoover’s being gay. Most telling, when Hoover’s will was probated, Tolson received his estate estimated at $560,000 … the equivalent of $2.9 million today. The bequest to Tolson was the final word on the closeness of their relationship and another indicator that Hoover was gay.” Kessler called the movie’s portrayal of their relationship a “legitimate dramatization.”
Appel, the New York lawyer, says if there is evidence that Hoover was gay, or for that matter, a cross dresser as some have suggested, it would be a matter of “public historical interest…especially in light of his fierce and nearly monomaniacal persecution of gays and lesbians throughout his career.”
Bit what is far more important, he said, is “to remember the shameful legacy that Mr. Hoover left this country with in regard to his persistent hounding of ethnic, sexual and ideological minorities … Mr. Hoover squandered tax-payer dollars in a bizarre and longstanding effort to expose the supposed (and extraordinarily unlikely) homosexuality of Adlai Stevenson, one of our nation’s great statesmen and patriots.”
Appel called Hoover a “divisive and destructive figure, whether or not he slept with Clyde Tolson.”
But not all the gay rights advocates have such pointed views.
Christian Berle, the Executive Director at Log Cabin Republicans, which works within the Republican party and advocates for gay and lesbian rights, was far more cautious in his statement to ticklethewire.com:
“Speculation as to J. Edgar Hoover’s sexuality has a long history, and it is natural that Clint Eastwood might want to explore that angle in this film. At the same time, it is understandable that members of the FBI and those who value his memory would be concerned that Hoover’s story be treated with respect and dignity. Whatever Hoover’s orientation may have been, the world today is a much different place than when he was at the helm of the FBI, and Americans can be proud that today’s FBI has a solid record of nondiscrimination.”
Most certainly the controversy over the movie’s portrayal of Hoover’s sexuality will help bolster tickets sales.
Nontheless, Warner Bros.. which is producing the film, is remaining equally tight-lipped about the portrayal.
“We respectfully decline to comment on the portrayal (of Hoover’s sexual orientation), “their online press spokeswoman Anne Chun told ticklethewire.com.