Rejecting hetero-imitation, the Radical Faerie movement began during the 1970s sexual revolution among gay men in the United States. The movement has expanded in tandem with the larger gay rights movement, challenging commercialization and patriarchal aspects of modern LGBT life while celebrating pagan constructs and rituals. Faeries tend to be fiercely independent, anti-establishment, and community-focused. Faerie culture is undefinable as a group; however, it has similar characteristics to "Marxism, feminism, paganism, Native American and New Age spirituality, anarchism, the mythopoetic men's movement, radical individualism, the therapeutic culture of self-fulfillment and self-actualization, earth-based movements in support of sustainable communities, spiritual solemnity coupled with a camp sensibility, gay liberation and drag." 
Today Radical Faeries embody a wide range of genders, sexual orientations, and identities. Many sanctuaries and gatherings are open to all, while some still focus on the particular spiritual experience of man-loving men co-creating temporary autonomous zones. Faerie sanctuaries adapt rural living and environmentally sustainable concepts to modern technologies as part of creative expression. Radical Faerie communities are generally inspired by indigenous, native or traditional spiritualities, especially those that incorporate genderqueer sensibilities.
The Faeries trace their name to the 1979 Spiritual Conference for Radical Fairies.[note 1] The conference, organized by Harry Hay and his lover John Burnside, along with Los Angeles activist Don Kilhefner and Jungian therapist Mitch Walker, was held over the Labor Day weekend in Benson, Arizona and attracted over two hundred participants. From this, participants started holding more multi-day events called "gatherings". In keeping with hippie, neopagan, and eco-feminist trends of the time, gatherings were held out-of-doors in natural settings. To this end, distinct Radical Faerie communities have created sanctuaries that are "close to the land".
It was Hay who adopted the name "Radical Faerie" for this burgeoning movement, with "radical" referring to its politically extreme viewpoint. The term "Faerie" was chosen in reference both to the immortal animistic spirits of European folklore and to the fact that "fairy" had become a pejorative slang term for gay men. Initially, Hay rejected the term "movement" when discussing the Radical Faeries, considering it to instead be a "way of life" for gay males, and he began referring to it as a "not-movement".
The magical and "radical humanist" views of Arthur Evans, specifically his 1978 book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, influenced some early members of the movement. Evans had previously formed the Faery Circle in San Francisco in the fall of 1975, a group that "combined neo-pagan consciousness, gay sensibility, and ritual play."
However, less than a year after the first "Radical Faerie" gathering in 1979, 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.
Philosophy and ritual
Faeries represent the first spiritual movement to be both "gay centered and gay engendered", where gayness is central to the idea, rather than in addition to, or incidental to a pre-existing spiritual tradition. The Radical Faerie exploration of the "gay spirit" is central, and that it is itself the source of spirituality, wisdom, and initiation. Founding Faerie Mitch Walker claims that "because of its indigenous, gay-centered nature, the Radical Faerie movement pioneers a new seriousness about gayness, its depth and potential, thereby heralding a new stage in the meaning of Gay Liberation."
In her study of the Pagan movement in the U.S., sociologist Margot Adler noted that the Faeries placed a great emphasis on the "transformative power of play", believing that playful behavior had a role within ritual that could lead to an altered state of consciousness. In keeping with this, they were often the "public anarchists" at Pagan events, challenging the formalized ritual structures propagated by other Pagans; at one event in the 1980s, a group of Faeries stood at the entrance to the ritual circle, calling out "Attention! No spontaneity! We're the spontaneity police!" as a way of parodying what they saw as formalised trends within Pagan ritual. Adler also noted similar trends within other Pagan groups, such as the Reformed Druids of North America and the Erisian movement.
Sanctuaries and gatherings
Radical Faerie sanctuaries — rural land or urban buildings where Faeries have come together to live a communal life — now exist in, for example:
- North America
- Folleterre in France
- Asian Faeries in Thailand
- Faerieland in New South Wales
Faeries hold gatherings at faerie sanctuaries and also in non-sanctuary space all over the globe ranging from non-Faerie centric rural spaces (such as IDA) in Tennessee to urban spaces, such as Queer Magic in Oregon.
- Homosexuality and Neopaganism
- LGBT themes in mythology
- Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
- Subject-SUBJECT consciousness
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- Thompson, Mark, ed. (1987), Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-1-59021-024-6
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- Hay and others switched to the older spelling, "faeries", after 1979.
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- Timmons, 2011, p. 32.
- Johnson, Toby, "Critique of Patriarchal Reason (book review)", International Gay and Lesbian Review, retrieved 2008-03-25
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- Adler 2006. pp. 335–354.
- A Sistory: Blow by blow
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- Bond, Justin (2011), Mx Justin Vivian Bond: A User’s Guide
- RadFae, web portal for Faerie-related resources including local circles
- Beginnings of a movement, personal recollections from men involved in early days of the Faeries (and the Sisters)
- Faerie Tales (1992) documentary short by Philippe Roques