|Henry "Harry" Hay, Jr.|
Harry Hay, April 1996, Anza-Borrego Desert, Radical Faeries Campout
|Born||April 7, 1912
Worthing, Sussex, England
|Died||October 24, 2002 (aged 90)
San Francisco, California, USA
|Known for||LGBT rights activist;
co-founder, Mattachine Society;
co-founder, Radical Faeries
|Spouse(s)||Anita Platky (1938–1951)|
|Partner(s)||Rudi Gernreich (1950–1952)
Jorn Kamgren (1952–1962)
John Burnside (1963–2002)
Henry "Harry" Hay, Jr. (April 7, 1912 – October 24, 2002) was an English-born American labor advocate, teacher and early leader in the American LGBT rights movement. He is known for his roles in helping to found several gay organizations, including the Mattachine Society, the first sustained gay rights group in the United States.
Hay was exposed early in life to the principles of Marxism and to the idea of same-sex sexual attraction. He drew upon these experiences to develop his view of homosexuals as a cultural minority. A longtime member of the Communist Party USA, Hay's Marxist history led to his resignation from the Mattachine leadership in 1953. Hay's involvement in the gay movement became more informal after that, although he did co-found the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969. Following a move to New Mexico with his longtime companion John Burnside in 1970, Hay's ongoing interest in Native American spirituality led the couple to co-found the Radical Faeries.
Hay's belief in the cultural minority status of homosexuals led him to take a stand against assimilationism. This stance led him to offer public support to controversial groups like the North American Man/Boy Love Association and to criticize both the mainstream gay rights movement and some of the movement's radical components, including the AIDS activist group ACT UP.
Hay died on October 24, 2002, following a series of illnesses.
Hay was born April 7, 1912 to Americans Margaret (née Neall) and Harry Hay, Sr. in the coastal town of Worthing, Sussex, England. His father was a mining engineer who had worked for Cecil Rhodes and the Guggenheim family. Hay was raised Catholic, in deference to his mother Margaret's family as a condition for the marriage. While Harry Sr. was negotiating his Guggenheim contract, Margaret gave birth to their second child, Margaret Caroline (nicknamed "Peggy") in February 1914. Hay's family moved to Chuquicamata, Chile in 1914, where his father managed an Anaconda Copper mine. In May 1916, Hay's brother John William (nicknamed "Jack") was born in Chile. Harry Sr. managed the mine until an accident in June 1916 cost him a leg. The family moved to the United States and settled in California where Harry Sr. bought and ran several commercial citrus farms. The Hay family moved to Los Angeles in 1919. Hay became an avid outdoorsman.
Hay had a strained relationship with his father, whom Hay believed had unconsciously realized that Hay was, if not homosexual, at least "sissified". Harry Sr. repeatedly punished Hay, including boxing his ears so often that Hay suffered permanent hearing loss. In an incident Hay recalled as being at the root of his later lack of guilt over his sexuality, Harry Sr. made a statement about Egypt over an evening meal and Hay, knowing him to be wrong, tried to correct him. Harry Sr. flew into a rage, beating his son with a razor strop in a futile attempt to get the boy to recant. After later confirming that he was indeed correct, Hay realized, "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." Hay's mother, on the other hand, was devoted to Hay, making no secret of the fact that he was her favorite. She encouraged his early interest in and talent for music, spending hours playing the piano and singing with him and arranging for piano and dance lessons. Hay became an accomplished pianist and organist and a professional-caliber ballroom dancer. When his dance instructor suggested he take ballet, Harry Sr. put a stop to the lessons.
In 1922, Hay joined a boys' club called the Western Rangers. Through the Rangers, Hay was first exposed to Native American spirituality when he witnessed members of the Hopi tribe performing rituals and, later, performing traditional dances for the group.
In 1923, at age 11, Hay first realized that there were others who had the same sorts of feelings for other boys as he did, when he discovered a copy of Edward Carpenter's book The Intermediate Sex. Sneaking a look at the volume at the public library, Hay encountered for the first time the word homosexual. He looked it up in a dictionary, where it was not listed. Still, he somehow realized that this word applied to him, and the volume listed several people who shared his feelings. "As soon as I saw it, I knew it was me," Hay said. "So I wasn't the only one of my kind in the whole world, and we weren't necessarily weird or freaks or perverted... the book... even named some who believed in comradeship and being everything to each other. Maybe, someday, I could... meet another one."
Hay spent summers growing up working on cattle ranches, where he was introduced to the tenets of Marxism by fellow ranch hands who were members of the Industrial Workers of the World ("Wobblies"). They taught him Marxist philosophy and gave him books and pamphlets written by Karl Marx. 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.
In 1925, Hay attended a feast day celebration at the invitation of a Native American co-worker, where he met the Ghost Dance prophet Wovoka. Wovoka blessed Hay, saying that Hay would one day be a great friend to the Native American people.[note 1] 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 sailor named Matt. Through Matt, a decade his senior, he was introduced to the concept of homosexual men as a world-wide "secret brotherhood". 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]
College, acting and politicization
Hay graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1929 and went to work at a law firm. At around this time he discovered the cruising scene in Pershing Square, where he met a man who told him about the Society for Human Rights, a homosexual rights group that had existed briefly in Chicago in the 1920s (although Hay would later deny that he had any knowledge of previous LGBT activism). In 1930 Hay enrolled in Stanford University, and in 1931 he came out as "temperamental" (then a code word for "homosexual") to friends and classmates. A severe sinus infection led Hay to drop out in 1932 and he was financially unable to return to college.
Relocating to San Francisco, Hay quickly fell in with the city's theatrical and artistic circles. He relocated again, to Hollywood, finding work as a stunt rider in B movies. Unable to secure steady employment in films, Hay joined an agitprop theatre group that entertained at strikes and demonstrations. Many of his associates in the theatre group were members of the Communist Party and Hay joined the Party in 1934. 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.
Also in 1934, Hay joined the cast of the Tony Pastor Theatre. There he met and became lovers with fellow actor Will Geer, whom Hay credited as his political mentor. Hay and Geer participated in a milk strike in Los Angeles, where Hay was first exposed to radical gay activism in the person of "Clarabelle", a drag queen who held court in the Bunker Hill neighborhood, who hid Hay from police. Later that year, Hay and Geer performed in support of the San Francisco General Strike. Hay witnessed police firing on demonstrators and this cemented his commitment to social change.
Hay began Jungian analysis in 1937. He was, he later said, "misled" by his psychiatrist, who suggested that Hay find himself a "boyish girl". In 1938, Hay confided to his fellow Party members that he was homosexual. Like his therapist, they encouraged him not to act on his feelings and suggested that he get married. He did, later that same year, to Party member Anna Platky. The couple adopted two daughters, Hannah Margaret in 1943 and Kate Neall in 1945. Hay realized by 1941 that his therapist had been wrong and that he was not going to become heterosexual through marriage. He continued having relationships with men throughout his marriage and the couple divorced in 1951.
Hay conceived of the idea of a homosexual activist group in 1948. After signing a petition for Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry A. Wallace, Hay spoke with other gay men at a party about forming a gay support organization for him called "Bachelors for Wallace". Encouraged by the response he received, Hay wrote out the organizing principles that night, a document he referred to as "The Call". However, the men who had been interested at the party were less than enthused the following morning. Over the next two years, Hay refined his idea, finally conceiving of an "international...fraternal order" to serve as "a service and welfare organization devoted to the protection and improvement of Society's Androgynous Minority". He planned to call this organization "Bachelors Anonymous" and envisioned it serving a similar function and purpose as Alcoholics Anonymous. Hay met Rudi Gernreich in July 1950. The two became lovers,[note 3] and Hay showed Gernreich The Call. Gernreich, declaring the document "the most dangerous thing [he had] ever read", became an enthusiastic financial supporter of the venture, although he did not lend his name to it (going instead by the initial "R"). Finally on November 11, 1950, Hay, along with Gernreich and friends Dale Jennings and lovers Bob Hull and Chuck Rowland, held the first meeting of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles, under the name "Society of Fools". 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, based on Medieval French secret societies of masked men who, through their anonymity, were empowered to criticize ruling monarchs with impunity.
As Hay became more involved in his Mattachine work, he correspondingly became more concerned that his homosexuality would negatively affect the Communist Party, which did not allow gays to be members. Hay himself approached Party leaders and recommended his own expulsion. The Party refused to expel Hay as a homosexual, instead expelling him as a "security risk" at the same time declaring him to be a "Lifelong Friend of the People".
Mattachine was originally organized in similar structure to the Communist Party, with cells, oaths of secrecy and five different levels of membership, each of which required greater levels of involvement and commitment. As the organization grew, the levels were expected to subdivide into new cells, creating the potential for both horizontal and vertical growth. The founding members constituted the so-called "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 publicity it generated brought in 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) and Mattachine declared victory.
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. Membership diversified, with more women and people from a broader political spectrum becoming involved. With that growth came concern about the radical left slant of the organization. In particular, Hal Call and others out of San Francisco along with Ken Burns from Los Angeles wanted Mattachine to amend its constitution to clarify its opposition to so-called "subversive elements" and to affirm that members were loyal to the United States and its laws (which laws declared homosexuality illegal). In an effort to preserve their vision of the organization, the Fifth Order members revealed their identities and resigned their leadership positions at Mattachine's May 1953 convention. With the founders gone, Call, Burns and other like-minded individuals stepped into the leadership void, and Mattachine officially adopted non-confrontation as an organizational policy. The reduced effectiveness of this newly-organized Mattachine led to a precipitous drop in membership and participation. The Los Angeles branch of Mattachine shut down in 1961.
Following the end of his involvement with Mattachine, Hay became largely disillusioned with the homosexual political scene and withdrew. Hay had become involved with a young Danish immigrant named Jorn Kamgren in 1952, several months before severing ties with Mattachine. Kamgren was a milliner. 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. Hay's time with Kamgren was not particularly happy, although Hay's mother Margaret liked Kamgren and encouraged Hay to remain with him (even going so far as to invest some $25,000 into the hat business). Hay spent much of his time studying Native American society and culture, in particular the Two-Spirit or berdache and their roles in native societies. Hay's studies in this area led him into further areas of historical research, in which he searched for any evidence or indication of homosexuals and the societal and cultural roles that they played.
In 1955, Hay was called to testify before a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee that was investigating Communist activity in Southern California. Hay had been identified before the subcommittee as a Communist, which was particularly interested in Marxist teachers like Hay. Hay struggled to find legal representation, feared losing his job and worried that his sexuality would be used to smear the Party. Ultimately his appearance, on July 2 of that year, was brief; he was asked if he was currently a member of the Party, to which he could truthfully answer "no". A committee member angrily asked when he had quit the Party to which Hay replied that he did not "confide in stool pigeons or their buddies on this committee". Amid gales of laughter from the audience, Hay was dismissed.
Hay maintained some contact with activists, including Jim Kepner of ONE, Inc., and continued his social contacts in the homophile community through ONE events. After 11 years with Kamgren, Hay moved out of their house and ended the relationship. Hay and Kepner had a brief affair in 1963, then Hay met inventor John Burnside through a ONE event, who became his life partner. Together the two created a group called the Circle of Loving Friends (although Hay and Burnside were frequently the only members of the circle). As the Circle they participated in early homophile demonstrations throughout the 1960s and helped establish the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO) in 1966. Following the Stonewall riots, the couple helped organize a Gay Liberation Front chapter in Los Angeles and Hay was elected its first chair.
In 1970, Hay and Burnside moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they became involved in activism over water rights to the Rio Grande. They also became involved with a local LGBT rights group, Lambdas de New Mexico. There Hay continued his studies into Native American culture. Hay, along with Los Angeles activist Don Kilhefner and Jungian therapist Mitchell L. Walker, co-hosted a workshop on the subject at UCLA in 1978. Building on that workshop, the three collaborated for months to develop a "Spiritual Conference for Radical Fairies".[note 4] This conference, held over the Labor Day weekend in Benson, Arizona, attracted over two hundred participants, and led the three, along with Burnside, to form the Radical Faeries.
However, less than a year after the Faeries formed, internal pressures threatened to fracture the group. 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." At a gathering in 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. 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". Then Walker resigned, in the process allegedly calling Hay a "cancer on the gay movement" (a remark Walker later denied making). Walker and Kilhefner formed a new gay spiritual group called Treeroots.
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." 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 leather enthusiasts 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.
In the early 1980s, Hay joined other early gay rights activists protesting the exclusion of the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which advocated sex with boys below the current age of consent, from participation in LGBT social movements, most noticeably pride parades on the grounds that such exclusions constituted a betrayal by the gay community. In 1983, at a New York University forum, sponsored by an on-campus gay organization, he remarked "[I]f the parents and friends of gays are truly friends of gays, they would know from their gay kids that the relationship with an older man is precisely what thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old kids need more than anything else in the world." In 1986 Hay was confronted by police when he attempted to march in the Los Angeles pride parade, from which NAMBLA had been banned, with a sign reading "NAMBLA walks with me."[note 5] Hay refused to participate in the official 1994 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".
Hay's opposition to assimilation extended to groups like ACT UP. Hay believed that the confrontational tactics favored by the AIDS activist group were rooted in the typical machismo of straight men. 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. As late as 2000 Hay continued to speak out against assimilation, saying, "The assimilationist movement is running us into the ground."
Death and legacy
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.
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.
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.
- RFD - Journal of The Radical Faerie Movement
- List of civil rights leaders
- Avant-Garde: Experimental Films of the 1920s and 1930s (DVD set featuring Hay's 1937 film Even as You and I)
- 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)
- 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).
- Hay and Gernreich were together until 1952, when Gernreich ended the relationship (Hay/Roscoe, pp. 359).
- Hay and others switched to the older spelling, "faeries", after 1979 (Hay/Roscoe, p. 240).
- Hay's protest walk was also in support of Valerie Terrigno, the lesbian former mayor of West Hollywood whom the parade committee had also barred from marching after a political scandal. (Timmons, p. 296)
- Shively, from Bronski, p. 171
- Loughery, p. 224
- Timmons, p. 9
- Timmons, p. 11
- Hay/Roscoe, p. 355
- Timmons, p. 15
- Timmons, p. 18
- Timmons, p. 20
- Hay, quoted in Timmons, p. 23
- Hay, quoted in Timmons, p. 28
- Timmons, p. 32
- Timmons, p. 33
- Shively, from Bronski, p. 173
- Hogan, et al., p. 275
- Timmons, p. 35
- Loughery, p. 225
- Gay Almanac, p. 131
- Cusac, Anne-Marie (September 1999). "Harry Hay Interview". The Progressive. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
- Stryker, et al., p. 26
- Hay/Roscoe, p. 356
- D'Emilio, p. 59
- Timmons, pp. 120—21
- Levy, Dan (2000-06-23). "Ever the Warrior: Gay rights icon Harry Hay has no patience for assimilation". San Francisco Chronicle. p. DD–8. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
- John Gallagher, "Harry Hay's Legacy" (obituary) The Advocate, 26 November 2002; pp. 15; No. 877; ISSN 0001-8996
- Hogan, et al., p. 273
- Hay/Roscoe, p. 357
- Hay/Roscoe, p. 358
- Hay/Roscoe, p. 359
- Miller, p. 333
- Hay/Roscoe, p. 61
- Hay, quoted in Hay/Roscoe, p. 63
- Hay, quoted in Hay/Roscoe, p. 65
- Ehrenstein, p. 47
- D'Emilio, p. 62
- Hogan, et al., pp. 382–3
- Johansson and Percy, p. 92
- Bronski, Michael (2002-11-07). "The real Harry Hay". The Phoenix. Retrieved 2008-11-16.
- Feinberg, Leslie (June 28, 2005). "Harry Hay: Painful partings". Workers World. Retrieved 2007-11-01
- D'Emilio, p. 64
- D'Emilio, pp. 69–70
- Loughery, pp. 228–29
- Hogan, et al., p. 383
- Timmons, p. 189
- Shively, from Bronski, p. 175
- Hay/Roscoe, p. 361
- Hogan, et al., pp. 273–74
- Shively, from Bronski, p. 176
- Timmons, p. 275
- Timmons, pp. 277–78
- Timmons, pp. 282–83
- Timmons, p. 284
- "Gay pioneer Harry Hay dies". The Advocate. 2002-10-25. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Lord, Jeffrey (2006-10-05). "When Nancy Met Harry". The American Spectator. Retrieved 2009-04-14.
- Loughery, p. 441
- Heredia, Christopher (2002-10-25). "Henry 'Harry' Hay -- gay rights pioneer; He started Mattachine Society". San Francisco Chronicle. p. A–21. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
- Highleyman, Liz (09-18-2008). "John Burnside dies at 91". The Bay Area Reporter Online. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Brantley, Ben (03-01-2010). "The Churning Insides of a Quiet Revolution". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
- Silver Lake stairway may be renamed in honor of gay activist
- 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.
- Timmons, Stuart (1990). The Trouble With Harry Hay. Boston, Alyson Publications. ISBN 1-55583-175-3.
- Katz, Jonathan. "The Founding of the Mattachine Society: An Interview with Henry Hay," Radical America, vol. 11, no. 4 (July-Aug. 1977), pp. 27-40.
- 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
- A Gay Conservative article critical of Hay