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Gay Rumors In History: Celebrities And U.S. Presidents Who May Have Been LGBT (PHOTOS)

Posted: 04/20/2012 11:22 am Updated: 04/20/2012 11:30 am

Gay Rumors History

If the old adage that you "haven't made it until the gay rumors start" is true, then Jessie J. can rest easy this week.

The British pop star, who is already openly bisexual, defended herself against allegations that she'd been ordered by her record company to withhold the fact that she is actually a lesbian. "Jessie might have been with boys in the past — but she is 100 per cent gay," author Chloe Govan wrote in an excerpt of "Jessie J: Who's Laughing Now," as published in The Sun. "Jessie was openly lesbian and didn’t hide it."

Though the singer quickly took to Twitter to deny the story (calling it "boring" and "untrue"), she now finds herself in good company. James Dean, Vivien Leigh and Cary Grant are just a few of the many iconic celebrities to have faced speculation (some posthumously) about the true nature of their sexuality.

And the rumors reach beyond Tinseltown and into the political sphere of Washington, too, with Richard Nixon and even Abraham Lincoln among the U.S. presidents rumored to have engaged in same-sex love.

Take a look at the celebrities and public figures of yesteryear who were rumored to have been LGBT below:

  • Abraham Lincoln

    The 16th president of the United States has long been rumored to have been gay. Numerous historians point to his rocky marriage with Mary Todd Lincoln as well as the fact that he very close relationships with several men, including Joshua Speed, who shared his bed for four years. In the New York Times book review of "The Intimate World Of Abraham Lincoln" by C.A. Tripp, Richard Brookhiser writes:

    "In 1831, when he was 22, Lincoln moved to New Salem, an Illinois frontier town, where he met Billy Greene. Greene coached Lincoln in grammar and shared a narrow bed with him. ''When one turned over the other had to do likewise,'' Greene told Herndon. Bed-sharing was common enough in raw settlements, but Greene also had vivid memories of Lincoln's physique: 'His thighs were as perfect as a human being could be.' Everyone saw that Lincoln was tall and strong, but this seems rather gushing."

  • James Dean

    Few stars have endured such long-standing rumors about their sexuality as James Dean. "James Dean was one of [Marlon] Brando's most lasting yet troubled gay relationships," biographer Darwin Porter wrote. " They had a relationship for a number of years but it was always turbulent. At one point they had a big stand-up fight at a party in Santa Monica, California, witnessed by dozens of people." In addition to Brando, the "Rebel Without A Cause" actor also had alleged trysts with fellow stars Rock Hudson and Clifton Webb, among others.

  • Eleanor Roosevelt

    The "First Lady to the World" has long been rumored to have been bisexual or a lesbian. According to author Lillian Faderman, author of "To Believe in Women," Roosevelt had a long term relationship with journalist Lorena Hickok. The two shared a series of intimate love letters. "Funny, everything I do my thoughts fly to you," Roosevelt reportedly wrote."Never are you out of my heart."

  • Marlon Brando & Vivien Leigh

    Brando had a reputation as a notorious womanizer in Hollywood, but fans might be surprised to learn that his liaisons are also rumored to have included men, many of them famous. "James Dean was one of Brando's most lasting yet troubled gay relationships," Darwin Porter, author of "Brando Unzipped," reportedly wrote. "They had a relationship for a number of years but it was always turbulent." Porter also calls Brando's alleged affair with Montgomery Clift "a long and enduring relationship." Meanwhile, Brando's "Streetcar Named Desire" co-star Vivien Leigh has also been the subject of ample speculation about her love life. "Damn You, Scarlett O'Hara" claims the star was involved in a relationship with Isabel Jeans, a British actress who appeared in early films by Alfred Hitchcock, for about three months.

  • Joan Of Arc

    While most people think that Joan of Arc was executed for witchcraft, according to "The Transgender Studies" reader By Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle, the French peasant-turned-soldier was actually put to death for dressing as a man.

    "Joan was condemned because of her assertion that her transvestism was a religious duty and that she regarded her visions as higher than the authority of the church. In the verbatim proceedings of her interrogation... the court records show that Joan's judges found her transvestism repugnant and demanded that she wear women's clothing. Joan refused, knowing her defiance meant she was considered damned... She vowed, "For nothing in this world will I swear not to arm myself and put on a man's dress."
    She eventually recanted and was sentenced to life in prison wearing women's clothing. However, as Stryker and Whittle note, "within days she resumed male dress." When asked why she had reverted, she said that she preferred men's clothing to women's. She was sentenced to death for dressing as a man with the Inquisition's judges stating "time and again you have relapsed, as a dog returns to its vomit." Photo: Image provided by brxo on

  • J. Edgar Hoover

    Historians have for years speculated about the sexuality of the first FBI chief, J. Edgar Hoover, with some suggesting he was gay and enjoyed cross-dressing, the Daily Mail notes. "He was a man of mystery," director Clint Eastwood told ABC last fall. "He might have been [gay]. I am agnostic about it. I don't really know and nobody really knew."

  • Katherine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy

    Former male hustler Scotty Bowers' memoir "Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars" alleges that both Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn enjoyed the company of same-sex lovers during their respective heydays, according to the New York Times. Meanwhile, William J. Mann's "Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn" also details the actress's alleged lesbianism.

  • Pope Julius III

    One of several popes rumored to have been gay, Julius III was involved in a scandal after he became infatuated with a teenage beggar named Innocenzo. Julius made his brother adopt Innocenzo and then the pope named him a cardinal, notes, adding, "the Venetian ambassador reported that Innocenzo shared the pope's bedroom and bed."

  • Vincente Minnelli

    Minnelli was once married to one of the world's most beloved gay icons (Judy Garland, pictured) and father to another (Liza Minnelli), but the Oscar-winning director's connection to the LGBT community allegedly doesn't stop there. "Despite the fact that Minnelli was married to Judy Garland and three other was generally assumed that he was a closeted gay man who, due to the societal conditioning of his era, felt compelled to marry and procreate," biographer Mark Griffin wrote. "It seems clear to me that on several levels, Minnelli was living in two different worlds."

  • James Buchanan

    Many consider the 15th president of the United States to be our first gay president. Historian James W. Loewen writes about Buchanan's alleged homosexuality in his book "Lies Across America." In it he states "I'm sure that Buchanan was gay," and points to Buchanan's relationship with William Rufus King, a senator from Alabama. The Washington Blade adds:

    Loewen said contemporary records indicate the two men were inseparable, and wags would refer to them as "the Siamese twins." Loewen also said Buchanan was "fairly open" about his relationship with King, causing some colleagues to view the men as a couple. For example, Aaron Brown, a prominent Democrat, writing to Mrs. James K. Polk, referred to King as Buchanan's "better half," "his wife" and "Aunt Fancy ... rigged out in her best clothes."

  • Cary Grant

    Speculation over the "An Affair to Remember" star's love life continues 25 years after his death. As People magazine reported, however, aughter Jennifer Grant, who penned a memoir of her famous father last year, dashed the rumors. "Can't blame men for wanting him, and wouldn't be surprised if Dad even mildly flirted back," she wrote. Then again, she added, "Dad somewhat enjoyed being called gay. He said it made women want to prove the assertion wrong."

  • Richard Nixon

    UPI White House reporter Don Fulsom, who penned the new memoir "Nixon's Darkest Secrets," suggested a "homosexual nature" in the relationship between the former U.S. president and his best friend Bebe Rebozo, the president's alleged mob bagman who was at Nixon's side when he died. According to U.S. News & World Report, Fulsom cites several examples of the two men holding hands, sometimes in public, along with cuddling and awkward swimming pool games.

  • Paul Newman

    The handsome star of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" was allegedly bisexual, and is rumored to have enjoyed "hot and heavy" romances with the likes of James Dean, Sal Mineo, Howard Hughes, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Tony Perkins.

  • Amelia Earhart

    The famed aviatrix has been the subject of much speculation over her sexuality, no doubt fueled by what some have described as her boyish appearance. Still, "Amelia" director Mira Nair thinks rumors about Earhart's lifestyle are far-fetched. "The boyish appearance has, over the many years, thrown many people off and made them think this or that about her," she told the Orlando Sentinel. "But that was the flapper look. The more pictures I looked at of her, the less boyish she appeared."

  • Laurence Olivier

    Sir Laurence Olivier was rumored to have had affairs with actors Henry Ainley and Danny Kaye. When asked about his alleged homosexuality, Olivier's widow, Dame Joan Plowright, would neither confirm nor deny but spoke of the actor having "demons." According to she said:

    "I don't think there is any need to defend his memory. His performances, his greatness as an artist are there. "If a man is touched by genius he is not an ordinary person. He does not lead an ordinary life. He has extremes of behaviour which you understand and you just find a way not to be swept overboard by his demons. "Such men are also normally attended by demons. And he would fight to overcome those demons. Sometimes he would and sometimes he wouldn't."


Filed by Curtis M. Wong  |