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Harry Hay

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Harry Hay

Harry Hay
Harry Hay, April 1996, Anza-Borrego Desert, Radical Faeries Campout
Born Henry Hay, Jr.
April 7, 1912
Worthing, Sussex, England
Died October 24, 2002 (aged 90)
San Francisco, California, USA
Nationality American
Known for LGBT rights activist;
co-founder, Mattachine Society;
co-founder, Radical Faeries
Movement pro-LGBT rights, Socialist,[1] Communist[1]
Spouse(s) Anita Platky (1938–1951)
Partner(s) Will Geer (1934-?)[2]
Rudi Gernreich (1950–1952)
Jorn Kamgren (1952–1962)
John Burnside (1963–2002)
Children Hannah Margaret
Kate Neall

Henry "Harry" Hay, Jr. (April 7, 1912 – October 24, 2002) was a prominent American labor advocate, and Native American civil rights campaigner. He was a founder of the Mattachine Society, the first sustained gay rights group in the United States, as well as the Radical Faeries, a loosely-affiliated gay spiritual movement.

Born to a upper middle class family in England, Hay was raised in Chile and California. From an early age he acknowledged his same-sex sexual attraction, and came under the influence of Marxism. Briefly studying at Stanford University, he subsequently became a professional actor in Los Angeles, where he joined the Communist Party USA, becoming a committed activist in left-wing labor and anti-racist campaigns. As a result of societal pressure, he attempted to become heterosexual by marrying a female Party activist in 1938, with whom he adopted two children. Recognizing that he remained homosexual, his marriage ended and in 1950 he founded the Mattachine Society. Although involved in campaigns for gay rights, he resigned from the Society in 1953.

Hay's developing belief in the cultural minority status of homosexuals led him to take a stand against the assimilationism advocated by the majority of gay rights campaigners. He subsequently became a co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, although in 1970 moved to New Mexico with his longtime partner John Burnside. Hay's ongoing interest in Native American spirituality led the couple to co-found the Radical Faeries in 1979 with Don Kilhefner and Mitchell L. Walker. Returning to Los Angeles, Hay remained involved in an array of activist causes throughout his life, and became a well-known, albeit controversial, elder statesman within the country's gay community.

Hay has been described as "the father of gay liberation", and has been the subject of a biography and documentary film.

Early life

Youth: 1912–29

Hay was born in the coastal town of Worthing in Sussex, South East England, on April 7, 1912.[3] Raised in a upper middle class American family, he was named after his father, Harry Hay, Sr., a mining engineer who had been working for Cecil Rhodes first in Witwatersrand, South Africa, and then in Tarkwa, Ghana.[4][5] His mother, Margaret Hay (née Neall),[6] a Catholic, had been raised in a wealthy family among American expatriates in Johannesburg, South Africa, prior to her marriage in April 1911.[7][5] Hay Sr. converted to her religion on their marriage, and their children were brought up Catholic.[7]

Their second child, Margaret "Peggy" Caroline Hay, was born in February 1914, but following the outbreak of the First World War the family moved to Northern Chile, where Hay Sr. had been offered a job managing a copper mine in Chuquicamata by the Guggenheim family's Anaconda Company.[8][5][9]

In Chile, Hay Jr. contracted bronchial pneumonia, resulting in permanent scar tissue damage to his lungs.[10] In May 1916, his brother John "Jack" William was born.[11] In June 1916, Hay Sr. was involved in an industrial accident, resulting in the amputation of a leg. As a result, he resigned from his position and the family relocated to California in the United States.[12] In February 1919 they moved to 149 Kingsley Drive in Los Angeles, with Hay, Sr. purchasing a 30-acre citrus farm in Covina, also investing heavily in the stock market.[13][9] Despite his wealth, Hay, Sr. did not spoil his son, and made him work on the farm.[14] Hay had a strained relationship with his father, whom he labelled "tyrannical". Hay Sr. would beat his son for perceived transgressions, with Hay later suspecting that his father disliked him for having effeminate traits.[15] He was particularly influenced on one occasion when he noted that his father had made a factual error: "If my father could be wrong, then the teacher could be wrong. And if the teacher could be wrong, then the priest could be wrong. And if the priest could be wrong, then maybe even God could be wrong."[16]

Los Angeles High School, where Hay studied.

Hay was enrolled at Cahuenga Elementary School, where he excelled at his studies but was bullied.[17] He began experimenting with his sexuality, and aged 9 took part in sexual activity with a 12-year-old neighbour boy.[18] At the same time he developed an early love of the natural world and became a keen outdoorsman through walks in the wilderness around the city.[19] Aged 10 he was enrolled at Virgil Junior High School, and soon after joined a boys' club known as the Western Rangers, through which he was introduced to Native American societies and met groups from the Hopi and Sioux communities.[20][9] Becoming a voracious reader, in 1923 he began to volunteer at a public library, where he discovered a copy of Edward Carpenter's book The Intermediate Sex. Reading it, he discovered the word homosexual for the first time and came to recognize that he was gay.[21] Aged 12 he then enrolled at Los Angeles High School, where he continued to be studious and developed a love of theater.[22] Coming to reject Catholicism,[23] he remained at the school for three mandatory years before deciding to remain for a further two. In this period he took part in the school's poetry group, became State President of the California Scholarship Federation, President of the school's debating and dramatic society, and competed in the Southern California Oratorical Society's Contest, as well as joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps.[24]

During the summer holidays, Hay's father sent him to work on his cousin's cattle ranch in Smith Valley, Nevada. Here he was introduced to Marxism by fellow ranch hands who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World ("Wobblies"). They gave him books and pamphlets written by Karl Marx, leading to his adoption of socialism.[25] He learned of men having sex with other men through stories passed around by ranch hands, telling him of violent assaults on miners who attempted to touch men with whom they shared quarters.[26][5] Through contact with a Native co-worker, in 1925 Hay was invited to a local celebration of Natives, where he was blessed by the Ghost Dance prophet Wovoka, who declared that Hay would one day be a great friend to the Native American people.[27][28][note 1] Aged 14, Hay took his union card to a hiring hall in San Francisco, convinced the union officials he was 21, and got a job on a cargo ship. In 1926, after an unloading at Monterey Bay, he met and had sex with a 25-year-old merchant-sailor named Matt, who introduced him to the idea of gay men as a global "secret brotherhood".[29][5][30] Hay would later build on this idea, in combination with a Stalinist definition of nationalist identity, to argue that homosexuals constituted a "cultural minority".[note 2]

Stanford University and the Communist Party: 1929–38

"The little pockets existed and either you were lucky enough to fall into them or you could go your whole life and not know about them. The close-down, the terror, was so complete that people could remain ignorant, unsocialized, and undeveloped. 'Communities' were the little groups that formed by accident. And with lots of restrictions. Tiresome bitchiness and boasting predominated. To find someone whose sensibility was more wide-ranging was relatively rare."

Harry Hay on Los Angeles' gay scene in the 1930s.[31]

Graduating from school in 1929, Hay hoped to study paleontology, but was forbidden from doing so by his father, who insisted that he pursue law. Hay, Sr. obtained an entry level job for his son at his friend's legal firm, Haas and Dunnigan.[32] While working at the firm, Hay discovered the gay cruising scene in Pershing Square, where he developed a sexual relationship with a man who taught him about the underground gay culture.[33] It has been claimed that here he learned about Chicago-based gay rights group, the Society for Human Rights,[34] although Hay would later deny having any knowledge of previous LGBT activism.[35]

In 1930 Hay enrolled at James Broughton.[40] In 1931 he came out as gay to some people he knew at Stanford, and while he did not face any vehement backlash, some friends and associates (including a number who were gay) chose not to be seen with him from then on.[41][34][42] A severe sinus infection led Hay to drop out in 1932 and he returned to his cousin's Nevada ranch to recuperate; he would never return to university.[43]

Relocating to Los Angeles, Hay moved back in with his parents.[44] He associated with artistic and theatrical circles, befriending composer Gnostic Mass given by the Agape Lodge, the Hollywood branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis.[51]

It was while working on a play that Hay met actor Will Geer, with whom he entered into a relationship. Geer was a committed leftist, with Hay later describing him as his political mentor.[52][53][54] Geer introduced Hay to Los Angeles' leftist community, and together they took part in activism, joining demonstrations for laborers' rights and the unemployed, and on one occasion handcuffed themselves to lamposts outside UCLA to hand out leaflets for the American League Against War and Fascism.[52] Other groups whose activities he joined in with included End Poverty in California, Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, the Mobilization for Democracy, and Workers' Alliance of America.[55] Hay and Geer spent a weekend in San Francisco during the city's 1934 General Strike, where they witnessed police open fire on protesters, killing and injuring many; this event further committed Hay to societal change.[56][48] Hay joined an agitprop theatre group that entertained at strikes and demonstrations; their performance of Waiting for Lefty in 1935 led to attacks from the fascist Friends of New Germany group.[57]

After Hay had become increasingly politicized, Geer introduced him to the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), however from the beginning Hay was perturbed at the Party's hostility to homosexuals and its view that same-sex attraction was a deviance resulting from bourgeoise society.[58][59] Although he joined the Party in 1934, his involvement was largely restricted to attending fundraisers until 1936.[55] In late 1937, Hay attended further classes in Marxist theory at which he came to fully understand and embrace the ideology, becoming a fully committed member of the Party.[60] From the time he joined the Party until leaving it in the early 1950s, Hay taught courses in subjects ranging from Marxist theory to folk music at the "People's Educational Center" in Hollywood and later throughout the Los Angeles area.[61] Hay, along with Roger Barlow and LeRoy Robbins, directed a short film titled Even As You and I (1937) featuring Hay, Barlow, and filmmaker Hy Hirsh, in which they spoofed surrealism.[62] In early 1937, Hay, Sr. was partly paralysed following a stroke, leaving Hay to take on many of his family duties.[63]

Marriage and Marxist class: 1938–48

Hay began Jungian analysis in 1937. He later claimed that the psychiatrist "misled" him into believing that through marriage to a woman, he could become heterosexual; the psychiatrist suggested that Hay find himself a "boyish girl".[64][42] After confiding with fellow Party members that he was homosexual, they too urged Hay to marry a woman, adhering to the party line that same-sex attraction was a symptom of bourgeoise decadence.[65] Acting on this advice, in 1938 he married Anna Platky, a Marxist Party member from a working-class Jewish family. Hay maintained that he loved her, and was happy to have a companion with whom he could share his political pursuits; he also got along well with her family.[66][67] Their marriage took place in September 1938, in a non-religious wedding ceremony overseen by a Unitarian minister.[68] Their honeymoon however was cut short as a result of the sudden death of Hay, Sr.[68] Settling into married life, Hay gained employment with the Works Progress Administration supervising the cataloguing of Orange County's civil records,[69] while the couple continued their activism by taking photographs of Los Angeles' slums for a leftist exhibition.[70] However, the marriage did not quell Hay's same-sex attractions, and by 1939 he had begun to seek sexual encounters with other men in local parks on a weekly basis.[70] He would later describe the marriage as "living in an exile world".[65]

The couple moved to Stanislavski method.[72] By 1940 he was having a series of affairs with men in the city, developing a 7-month relationship with architect William Alexander, almost leaving his wife for him.[73] During this period he took part in the research of sexologist Alfred Kinsey.[74]

In 1942 the couple returned to Los Angeles, renting a house near to Silver Lake and Echo Park; the area was colloquially known as "the Red Hills" due to its large left-wing community.[75] There, Hay went through various jobs, including with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. From 1947 he taught classes on musicology titled "The Historical Development of Folk Music", through which he articulated a Marxist understanding of the genre; he continued to teach these classes through to the mid-1950s.[79]

In September 1943, Hay and his wife adopted a daughter, Hannah Margaret, soon moving to a larger home nearby to accommodate her.[80][81] They adopted a second daughter, Kate Neall, several days after her birth in December 1945.[82][83] Hay was a caring parent, and encouraged his children's interests in music and dance.[84] In 1945, Hay was diagnosed with hypoglycemia,[85] and the following year began to suffer intense mental anxiety and repeated nightmares as he realised that he was still homosexual and that his marriage had been a serious mistake.[86] The couple divorced in 1951.[87]

Gay rights activism

Mattachine Society: 1948–53

"The post-war reaction, the shutting down of open communication, was already of concern to many of us progressives. I knew the government was going to look for a new enemy, a new scapegoat. It was predictable. But Blacks were beginning to organize and the horror of the holocaust was too recent to put the Jews in this position. The natural scapegoat would be us, the Queers. They were the one group of disenfranchised people who did not even know they were a group because they had never formed as a group. They – we – had to get started. It was high time."

Harry Hay.[88]

Influenced by the publication of the Alcoholics Anonymous.[94] At the centre of its approach was Hay's view that homosexuals were "a social minority" or "cultural minority" who were being oppressed; in this he was influenced by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's Marxist–Leninist concepts of what constituted a minority group.[93]

Hay met Rudi Gernreich in July 1950, with the pair soon entering a relationship. Gernreich shared many of Hay's leftist ideas, and was impressed by The Call. He became an enthusiastic financial supporter of the venture, although he did not lend his name to it, going instead by the initial "R".[95][42][96][97] On November 11, 1950, Hay, Gernreich, and their friends Dale Jennings, Bob Hull, and Chuck Rowland held the first meeting of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles, under the name "Society of Fools".[98][99] The group changed its name to "Mattachine Society" in April 1951, a name chosen by Hay at the suggestion of fellow Mattachine member James Gruber,[100][101] based on Medieval French secret societies of masked men who, through their anonymity, were empowered to criticize ruling monarchs with impunity.[102]

In April 1951, Hay informed his wife about his continuing homosexuality and his work with the Mattachine Society; she was angry and upset. In September they gained a divorce on the grounds of Hay's "extreme cruelty" and he moved out of their home.[103] He continued to send half his paycheck to Anita for twelve years, meanwhile cutting out most of his friends from that social milieu.[104] He informed the Communist Party of the news, recommending that he be expelled; the Party forbade homosexuals from being members. Although they agreed and discharged him as a "security risk", they also declared him a "Lifelong Friend of the People" in recognition of his many years of service.[105][106] Hay's relationship with Gernreich ended not long after, with Hay entering a relationship with Danish hat-maker Jorn Kamgren in 1952; it would last for 11 years, during which Hay helped him establish a hat shop, attempting to use his contacts within the fashion and entertainment industries to get exposure for Kamgren's work and meeting with moderate success.[107]

Hay (upper left) with members of the Mattachine Society in a rare group photograph. With Hay are (l-r) Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings, Rudi Gernreich, Stan Witt, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland (in glasses), Paul Bernard. Photo by James Gruber, about 1951.

Mattachine's structure was based partly on that of the Communist Party and partly on fraternal brotherhoods like [108][109] The founding members constituted the "Fifth Order" and from the outset remained anonymous. Mattachine's membership grew slowly at first but received a major boost in February 1952 when founder Jennings was arrested in a Los Angeles park and charged with lewd behavior. Often, men in Jennings' situation would simply plead guilty to the charge and hope to quietly rebuild their lives. Jennings and the rest of the Fifth Order saw the charges as a means to address the issue of police entrapment of homosexual men. The group began publicizing the case under the name Citizens Committee to Outlaw Entrapment, and the generated publicity brought financial support and volunteers. Jennings admitted during his trial to being a homosexual but insisted he was not guilty of the specific charge. The jury deadlocked (11-1 in favor of acquittal), with the judge dismissing the charges; Mattachine declared victory.[110][111]

Following the Jennings trial, the group expanded rapidly, with founders estimating membership in California by May 1953 at over 2,000 with as many as 100 people joining a typical discussion group.[112] This brought greater scrutiny of the group, and in February 1953 a Los Angeles daily newspaper published an article exposing Hay as a Marxist; not wishing to tar the Society as a Communist group, Hay stepped down from his position.[113] The group's membership was diversifying, with people from a broader political spectrum becoming involved. Many members were concerned by the far left control of the group and felt that it should have a more open, democratic structure. At a group convention held in Spring 1953, [116] Hay was distraught at Mattachine's change in direction, having an emotional breakdown as a result.[117]

After Mattachine: 1953–69

Hay's relationship with Kamgren was strained, and he was bored by a life of domesticity and annoyed with Kamgren's controlling and regimented nature. They had little in common, with Kamgren not sharing Hay's interest in political activism, instead being [120] Although his writing style was widely deemed difficult to read, he published articles on many of his findings in the gay press, namely ONE Institute Quarterly and ONE Confidential, also giving lectures on the subject at ONE's Mid-Winter Institute.[121] Meanwhile, in May 1955 Hay was called to testify before a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee that was investigating Communist Party activity in Southern California. The subcommittee was aware that Hay was a Marxist, and as such he struggled to find legal representation, fearing that he would lose his job and worrying that his sexuality would be used to smear the Party.[122]

Feeling that he was being restrained by the relationship, Hay left Kamgren, in 1963 beginning a brief relationship with [127]

Fascinated by spirituality, they regularly attended events of the Griffith Park and "funky dances" at Troupers Hall to challenge the legal restrictions on same-sex dancing.[133][134]

Later life

New Mexico and the Radical Faeries: 1971–1979

In May 1971, Hay and Burnside moved to [138][139] During the campaign, his mother died although he had been unable to return to Los Angeles for her memorial service.[140]

After this, he involved himself in the foundation of a local LGBT rights group, the Lambdas de Santa Fe, designed to fight homophobic violence in northern New Mexico. The group sponsored a gay ball and in June 1977 held Alburquerque's first Gay Pride Parade.[141][139] Hay's fame had begun to grow across the U.S., and at this time he was contacted by the historians Jonathan Ned Katz and John D'Emilio over the course of their independent research projects into the nation's LGBT history.[142] He and Burnside also appeared in Peter Adair's documentary film, Word Is Out (1977).[143]

A Faerie gathering in 1986, with Hay in bottom left corner

In 1978, Hay teamed up with Don Kilhefner and The Advocate; the Sri Ram Ashram was a gay-friendly spiritual retreat in the desert near Benson, Arizona, owned by an American named Swami Bill.[146] Hay, Kilhefner, and Walker visited to check its suitability, and although Hay disliked Bill and didn't want to use the site, the others insisted.[146]

Their conference, set for [150] A flier advertising the event was released which proclaimed that gays had a place in the "paradigm shift" of the New Age, and quoted Mark Satin and Aleister Crowley alongside Hay; these fliers were sent out to gay and leftist bookstores as well as gay community centres and health food stores.[151]

Around 220 men turned up to the event, despite the fact that the Ashram could only accommodate around 75.[152] Hay gave a welcoming speech in which he outlined his ideas regarding Subject-SUBJECT consciousness, calling on those assembled to "throw off the ugly green frogskin of hetero-imitation to find the shining Faerie prince beneath".[152] Rather than being referred to as "workshops", the events that took place were known as "Faerie circles",[152] and were on such varied subjects as massage, nutrition, local botany, healing energy, the politics of gay enspiritment, English country dancing, and auto-fellatio.[153] Those assembled took part in spontaneous rituals, providing invocations to spirits and performing blessings and chants,[152] with most participants discarding the majority of their clothes, instead wearing feathers, beads, and bells, and decorating themselves in rainbow makeup.[154] Many reported feeling a change of consciousness during the event, which one person there described as "a four day acid trip – without the acid!".[155] On the final night of the gathering, they put together a performance of the Symmetricon, an invention of Burnside's, while Hay gave a farewell speech.[156]

After Hay and the others returned to Los Angeles, they received messages of thanks from various participants, many of whom asked when the next Faerie gathering would be.[157] Hay decided to found a Faerie circle in Los Angeles that met at their house, which became known as "Faerie Central", devoting half their time to serious discussion and the other half to recreation, in particular English circle dancing. As more joined the circle, they began meeting in West Hollywood's First Presbyterian Church and then the olive grove atop the hill at Barnsdall Park; however they found it difficult to gain the same change of consciousness that had been present at the rural gathering.[158] The group began to discuss what the Faerie movement was developing into; Hay encouraged them to embark on political activism, using Marxism and his Subject-SUBJECT consciousness theory as a framework for bringing about societal change. Others however wanted the movement to focus on spirituality and exploring the psyche, lambasting politics as part of "the straight world".[159] Another issue of contention was over what constituted a "Faerie"; Hay had an idealized image of what someone with "gay consciousness" thought and acted like, and turned away some prospective members of the Circle because he disagreed with their views. One prospective member, the gay theater director John Callaghan, joined the circle in February 1980, but was soon ejected by Hay after he voiced concern about hostility toward heterosexuals among the group.[160]

The second Faerie gathering took place in August 1980 in Estes Park near Boulder, Colorado. Twice as long and almost twice as large as the first, it became known as Faerie Woodstock.[161] It also exhibited an increasing influence from the U.S. Pagan movement, as Faeries incorporated elements from Evans' Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture and Starhawk's The Spiral Dance into their practices.[162] At that gathering, Dennis Melba'son presented a shawl that he had created with a crocheted depiction of the Northwest European Iron Age deity Cernunnos on it; the shawl became an important symbol of the Faeries, and would be sent from gathering to gathering over subsequent decades.[163] There, Hay publicly revealed the founding trio's desire for the creation of a permanent residential Faery community, where they could grow their own crops and thus live self-sustainably. This project would involve setting up a non-profit corporation to purchase property under a community land trust with tax-exempt status. They were partly inspired by a pre-existing gay collective in rural Tennessee, Short Mountain.[164]

In 1980 Walker secretly formed the "Faerie Fascist Police" to combat "Faerie fascism" and "power-tripping" within the Faeries. He specifically targeted Hay: "I recruited people to spy on Harry and see when he was manipulating people, so we could undo his undermining of the scene."[165]

At a winter 1980 gathering in southern Oregon designed to discuss acquiring land for a Faerie sanctuary, a newcomer to the group, coached by Walker, confronted Harry about the power dynamics within the core circle. In the ensuing conflict, the core circle splintered. Plans for the land sanctuary stalled and a separate circle formed.[166] The core circle made an attempt to reconcile, but at a meeting that came to be known as "Bloody Sunday", Kilhefner quit, accusing Hay and Burnside of "power tripping", while Walker resigned.[167] Walker and Kilhefner formed a new Los Angeles-based gay spiritual group called Treeroots which promoted a form of rural gay consciousness associated with Jungian psychology and ceremonial magic.[168] However, despite the division among its founders, the Radical Faerie movement continued to grow, largely as a result of its egalitarian structure, with many participants being unaware of the squabbles.[169] Hay himself continued to be welcomed at gatherings, coming to be seen as an elder statesman in the movement.[170]

Later years: 1980–2002

Harry Hay in September 2000

During the 1980s, Hay involved himself in an array of activist causes, campaigning against [171] Hoping for a left-ward turn in U.S. politics, he was involved in the Lavender Caucus of Jesse Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition.[172] Although pleased with the popular protests in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was unhappy that those nations abandoned the socialist cause altogether and retained his faith in Marxism.[173]

Hay came to be viewed as an elder statesman within the gay community, and was regularly invited to give speeches to LGBT activist and student groups. He was the featured speaker at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade in 1982, and Grand Marshal of the Long Beach Gay Pride Parade in 1986. In 1989, West Hollywood city council awarded him an honor for his years of activism while that year he was invited to give a lecture at the [176]

He was also critical of the HIV/AIDS queer activist group ACT UP, arguing that their confrontational tactics were rooted in the typical machismo of straight men and thus reflected an assimilationist approach. Hay believed that by adopting these tactics and attitudes, ACT UP was shrinking the space available for diversity of gender roles for gay men, with the gentle and the effeminate discarded in their favor. He went so far as to condemn the group while at a June 1989 rally in New York's Central Park where he shared the stage with Allen Ginsburg and Joan Nestle.[177][178] In 1994 Hay refused to participate in the official parade in New York City commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots because of its exclusionary policies. Instead he joined an alternate parade called "The Spirit of Stonewall".[102] As late as 2000 Hay continued to speak out against assimilation, saying, "The assimilationist movement is running us into the ground."[53]

Hay and Burnside returned to San Francisco in 1999 after concluding that Hay was not receiving proper care in Los Angeles for his serious health concerns, including pneumonia and lung cancer. He served as the grand marshal of the San Francisco gay pride parade that same year. While in hospice care Hay died of lung cancer on October 24, 2002 at age 90.[179]


As he had throughout his life of activism, Hay continued to oppose what he perceived as harmful assimilationist attitudes within the gay community. "We pulled ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that's how we got through school with a full set of teeth," Hay once explained. "We know how to live through their eyes. We can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you're going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you."[180] Having rooted his political philosophy from the founding of Mattachine in the belief that homosexuals constituted a cultural minority, Hay was wary of discarding the unique attributes of that minority in favor of adopting the cultural traits of the majority for the purpose of societal acceptance. Having witnessed the move of Mattachine away from its founding Marxist activist principles and having seen the gay community marginalize drag queens and the leather subculture through the first decade of the post-Stonewall gay movement, Hay opposed what he believed were efforts to move other groups to the margins as the gay rights movement progressed.[181]


In 1990, Stuart Timmons published a biography, The Trouble with Harry Hay, on the basis of three years of research.[182] Timmons described Hay as "the father of gay liberation".[183]

Hay was the subject of Eric Slade's documentary film Hope Along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay (2002). He also appeared in other documentaries, such as Word Is Out (1978), in which he appeared with his partner Burnside. In 1967, Hay and Burnside had appeared as a couple on Joe Pyne's syndicated television show.[184]

Hay, along with Gernreich, is one of the main characters of the play The Temperamentals by Jon Marans with Thomas Jay Ryan playing Hay and Michael Urie as Gernreich; after workshop performances in 2009 the play opened off Broadway in 2010.[185]

On June 1, 2011, the Silver Lake, Los Angeles Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to rename the Cove Avenue Stairway in Silver Lake in honor of Hay.[186]

See also


Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Hay's family had a bloody connection to Wovoka and the Ghost Dance movement. In 1890, a misinterpretation of the Ghost Dance ritual as a war dance by Indian agents led to the Wounded Knee Massacre. Hay's great-uncle, Francis Hardie, carried the Third Cavalry flag at Wounded Knee. (Timmons, p. 7)
  2. ^ Joseph Stalin stated in Marxism and the National Question that a nation is "a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture" (Stalin, quoted in Hay/Roscoe, p. 41). Hay asserted that homosexuals manifested two of the four criteria, language and a shared psychological make-up, and thus qualified as a cultural minority (Hay/Roscoe, p. 43).
  3. ^ Hay and others switched to the older spelling, "faeries", after 1979.
    Harry Hay (1996) Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder, edited by Will Roscoe.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^
  3. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 10.
  4. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 6–8.
  5. ^ a b c d e Loughery, p. 224
  6. ^ Shively, from Bronski, p. 171
  7. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 9.
  8. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 11.
  9. ^ a b c Hay/Roscoe, p. 355
  10. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 14–15.
  11. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 15.
  12. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 15–16.
  13. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 18.
  14. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 19.
  15. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 8, 19–20.
  16. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 23.
  17. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 19, 21–22.
  18. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 22.
  19. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 24.
  20. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 25.
  21. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 27–28.
  22. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 30–31.
  23. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 36–37.
  24. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 38–40.
  25. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 31–32.
  26. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 33.
  27. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 33–35.
  28. ^ Shively, from Bronski, p. 173
  29. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 35–36.
  30. ^ Hogan, et al., p. 275
  31. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 83.
  32. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 40–41.
  33. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 41–43.
  34. ^ a b Loughery, p. 225
  35. ^ Gay Almanac, p. 131
  36. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 43–45.
  37. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 45–46.
  38. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 52.
  39. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 46.
  40. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 47–48, 50–52.
  41. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 49–50.
  42. ^ a b c
  43. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 53.
  44. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 63.
  45. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 56–59.
  46. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 60–61.
  47. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 61.
  48. ^ a b Hay/Roscoe, p. 356
  49. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 70.
  50. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 71–72.
  51. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 75–76.
  52. ^ a b Timmons 1990, pp. 64–65.
  53. ^ a b
  54. ^ John Gallagher, "Harry Hay's Legacy" (obituary) The Advocate, 26 November 2002; pp. 15; No. 877; ISSN 0001-8996
  55. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 78.
  56. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 68–69.
  57. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 67, 72–74.
  58. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 67, 69.
  59. ^ D'Emilio, p. 59
  60. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 92–93.
  61. ^ Timmons, pp. 120—21
  62. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 86–87.
  63. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 87–89.
  64. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 97–98.
  65. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 96.
  66. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 98–101.
  67. ^ Hogan, et al., p. 273
  68. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 104.
  69. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 104–105.
  70. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 105.
  71. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 106–107.
  72. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 107, 113.
  73. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 111–112.
  74. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 111.
  75. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 115.
  76. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 116, 118.
  77. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 131.
  78. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 119–121.
  79. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 127–129.
  80. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 118.
  81. ^ Hay/Roscoe, p. 357
  82. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 123.
  83. ^ Hay/Roscoe, p. 358
  84. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 123–124.
  85. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 122.
  86. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 127.
  87. ^ Hay/Roscoe, p. 359
  88. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 135.
  89. ^ Timmons 1990, p. =132–134.
  90. ^ Miller, p. 333
  91. ^ Hay/Roscoe, p. 61
  92. ^ Hay, quoted in Hay/Roscoe, p. 63
  93. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 136.
  94. ^ Hay, quoted in Hay/Roscoe, p. 65
  95. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 139–142.
  96. ^ Ehrenstein, p. 47
  97. ^ D'Emilio, p. 62
  98. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 143–145.
  99. ^ Hogan, et al., pp. 382–3
  100. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 150.
  101. ^ Johansson and Percy, p. 92
  102. ^ a b c
  103. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 157–158.
  104. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 161.
  105. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 159.
  106. ^
  107. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 169–170, 181–183.
  108. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 151–152.
  109. ^ D'Emilio, p. 64
  110. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 164–167.
  111. ^ D'Emilio, pp. 69–70
  112. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 170–171.
  113. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 174.
  114. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 175–178.
  115. ^ Loughery, pp. 228–29
  116. ^ Hogan, et al., p. 383
  117. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 180.
  118. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 181, 191.
  119. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 193–197.
  120. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 197.
  121. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 196.
  122. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 183–190.
  123. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 203–207.
  124. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 208.
  125. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 208, 224.
  126. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 214.
  127. ^ Shively, from Bronski, p. 175
  128. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 223.
  129. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 220–221.
  130. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 222–223.
  131. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 225–227.
  132. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 228–229.
  133. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 230.
  134. ^ Hay/Roscoe, p. 361
  135. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 230–235.
  136. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 237–238.
  137. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 235.
  138. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 239–244.
  139. ^ a b Hogan, et al., pp. 273–74
  140. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 243.
  141. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 245.
  142. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 238–239.
  143. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 247.
  144. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 261.
  145. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 261, 264.
  146. ^ a b Timmons 1990, p. 262.
  147. ^ Adler 2006, p. 357.
  148. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 250; Timmons 2011, p. 33.
  149. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 250; Timmons 2011, p. 32.
  150. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 264.
  151. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 264–265.
  152. ^ a b c d Timmons 1990, p. 265.
  153. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 267.
  154. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 266.
  155. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 266–267.
  156. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 268.
  157. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 268–269.
  158. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 269.
  159. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 269–270.
  160. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 270–271.
  161. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 272–273.
  162. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 272.
  163. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 273.
  164. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 273–275.
  165. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 275.
  166. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 277–78.
  167. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 282–83.
  168. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 284.
  169. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 285.
  170. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 288.
  171. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 291.
  172. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 290.
  173. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 294–295.
  174. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 293.
  175. ^
  176. ^ Timmons 1990, p. 295.
  177. ^ Timmons 1990, pp. 293–294.
  178. ^ Loughery, p. 441
  179. ^
  180. ^
  181. ^
  182. ^ Timmons 1990, p. xv.
  183. ^ Timmons 1990, p. xiii.
  184. ^
  185. ^
  186. ^


  • D'Emilio, John (1983). Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-14265-5.
  • Ehrenstein, David (1998). Open Secret (Gay Hollywood 1928–1998). New York, William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-15317-8.
  • Hay, Harry, with Will Roscoe (ed.) (1996). Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-7080-7.
  • Hogan, Steve and Lee Hudson (1998). Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia. New York, Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-3629-6.
  • Johansson, Warren, and William A. Percy (1994). Outing: Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence. Psychology Press. ISBN 1-56024-419-4.
  • Loughery, John (1998). The Other Side of Silence – Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth-Century History. New York, Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-3896-5.
  • Miller, Neil (1995). Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. New York, Vintage Books. ISBN 0-09-957691-0.
  • The National Museum & Archive of Lesbian and Gay History (1996). The Gay Almanac. New York, Berkeley Books. ISBN 0-425-15300-2.
  • Shively, Charley. "Harry Hay". Collected in Bronski, Michael (consulting editor) (1997). Outstanding Lives: Profiles of Lesbians and Gay Men. New York, Visible Ink Press. ISBN 1-57859-008-6.
  • Stryker, Susan and Jim Van Buskirk (1996). Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco, Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-1187-5.
  • Thompson, Mark. "Harry Hay: A Voice from the Past, a Vision for the Future" [interview], in Gay Spirit. Myth and Meaning ed. Mark Thompson, St. Martin's Press, 1987, ISBN 0312006004, rept. White Crane Books, 2005, ISBN 1590210247. Reproduced at, retrieved 2014-09-01.

Further reading

  • Katz, Jonathan. "The Founding of the Mattachine Society: An Interview with Henry Hay," Radical America, vol. 11, no. 4 (July–August 1977), pp. 27–40.

External links

  • Interview of Harry Hay, Center for Oral History Research, UCLA Library Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Obituary
  • Harry Hay Photo gallery
  • Harry Hay Wolf Creek Photos 1996
  • Harry Hay at the Internet Movie Database
  • Hope Along the Wind: The Story of Harry Hay
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