This OutHistory chronology documents the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's surveillance of homosexuals and alleged homosexuals. It includes references to what was considered sexual and gender deviance. It also includes surveillance of the activities of members of homosexual rights groups, and anti-homosexual persons and groups.
This is a feature under construction. OutHistory is asking the public to help survey what evidence exists about the FBI's surveillance of homosexuals and homosexuality. On December 18, 2011, I sent out a press release asking the public for such research assistance. Data provided by that crowd-sourcing is included in this chronology. That crowd-sourcing of historical research continues here.
The construction of this chronology is already suggesting insights about Hoover's and the FBI's surveillance of American's sexuality and gender.
1. As a representative of the U.S. state, as a long-term and powerful member of the federal bureaucracy, Hoover's surveillance of Americans sexual lives constitutes an active, institutional intervention into those lives. Hoover's actions, and the actions of his FBI associates, and collaborating bureaucrats, led to political repression, public humiliations, firings, suicides, loss of employment, broken marriages and ended relationships. The source of Hoover's power, his heading an investigative state bureaucracy, allowed him to collect data on the intimate lives of thousands of Americans, data that provided a source of his long-term power. Just as the political repression called McCarthyism was not just the work of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the political repression led by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was not just the work of one man.
2. In part, this is a survey of the history and evidence of rumors. We are interested in evaluating the content and political effect of rumors within their original social and historical context. We are asking what rumors reveal, especially about American sexuality, gender, and the politics of the surveillance state. We were inspired to treat the content of rumors as historical evidence, quite apart from the rumors' truth or falsity, by Claire Bond Potter's essay "Queer Hoover: Sex, Lies, and Political History," Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol. 15, Number 3, July 2006, pages 355-381.
3. In particular, the rumors about J. Edgar Hoover's queer gender displays and performance -- rumors that started early in his career -- provide profound insights into the history of American norms of masculinity, and the changing historical association of gender deviance with sexual deviance.
4. The documents presented here show that Hoover continually sat at his desk reading reports of the rumors about his own gender and possible sexual deviance, often sending FBI agents to reprimand and threaten particular rumor mongers. The weird, surreal, and frightening aspect of Hoover's response is documented in this chronology.
5. The large amount of photographic evidence refereced here shows that, despite the persistent rumors of J. Edgar Hoover's deviant sexuality, he continued to vacation and attend public events with Clyde Tolson, both of them often wearing identical outfits. Did Hoover have so much evidence of sexual scandal in the lives of so many people that he didn't care to hide his intimate relationship with Tolson? Or was Hoover so repressed that he saw abolutely no link between his intimate relationship with Tolson and rumors of his own homosexuality? This chronology raises interesting questions for future researchers to answer.
The entries and sources are based on information provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and in numbers of articles, books, and newspapers. We aspire to provide full citations to sources, to further this investigation of the investigators. Numbers of "Research request" notations are included in this chronology. Data may be sent to OutHistory@gmail.com.