Talk:Mattachine Society

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Origin of the Name[edit]

in London South Bank University Webpage I've found Its name was given by the pioneer activist Harry Hay in commemoration of the French medieval and Renaissance Société Mattachine, a musical masque group which he had studied while preparing a course on the history of popular music for a workers' education project. The name was meant to symbolise the fact that "gays were a masked people, unknown and anonymous", and the word, also spelled matachin or matachine, has been derived from the Arabic of Moorish Spain, in which mutawajjihin, relates to masking oneself. Such an opaque name is typical of the homophile movement of the time in which open proclamation of the purposes of the group through a revealing name was regarded as imprudent. Can anyone comment on the origin of the name? I can't say myself who is right.--Dia^ 15:17, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

Well spotted. An article from the Boston Phoenix writes: "Hay took the name Mattachine from a secret medieval French society of unmarried men who wore masks during their rituals as forms of social protest. They, in turn, took their names from the Italian mattaccino, a court jester who was able to tell the truth to the king while wearing a mask." So both accounts may be accurate. I will merge the additional information from your source into the article. ntennis 01:08, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
OK, found the source: In a 1976 interview with Jonathan Ned Katz, Hay was asked the origin of the name Mattachine. Hay mentioned the medieval-Renaissance French Sociétés Joyeux:

"One was known as the Société Mattachine. These societies, lifelong secret fraternities of unmarried townsmen who never performed in public unmasked, were dedicated to going out into the countryside and conducting dances and rituals during the Feast of Fools, at the Vernal Equinox. Sometimes these dance rituals, or masques, were peasant protests against oppression — with the maskers, in the people’s name, receiving the brunt of a given lord’s vicious retaliation. So we took the name Mattachine because we felt that we 1950s Gays were also a masked people, unknown and anonymous, who might become engaged in morale building and helping ourselves and others, through struggle, to move toward total redress and change." (Katz, Jonathan. 1976. Gay American history: Lesbians and gay men in the U.S.A. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.)

ntennis 01:26, 24 May 2006 (UTC)


thanks for the prompted answer!--Dia^ 14:51, 24 May 2006 (UTC)


wow, great original text. i like it so much that i'm going to incorporate it into the main entry. i've read a lot of conflicting accounts (some of which seem to derive from this wikipedia entry!), and more people should get exposure to hay's own explanation, since it's so concise and erudite. Aroundthewayboy 06:21, 6 June 2006 (UTC)
Ehmm...since you have been so nice to answer me so propmptly, I would have an other related question for you, actually I found it on the Coming out page, I put a note there but they are not as fast as you.

In the article is: "The decidedly clandestine Mattachine Society, founded by Harry Hay and other veterans of the Wallace for President campaign in Los Angeles in 1950, also moved into the public eye with many gays emerging from the closet after Hal Call took over the group in San Francisco in 1953" Can anyone confirm that the society was clandestine at the beginning and clarify how Harry Hay and the other could be "veterans of the Wallace for President campaign in Los Angeles in 1950" when Wallace candidate for president the first time in 1964, he was in 1950 still pro-segregation -he change mind later- (so I doubt he would have had anything to do with "comunists" and homosexual as Hay and the others) and he was in 1953 elected judge in the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Alabama? Do you know anything about it? Thanks --Dia^ 15:21, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

I guess I'm not always prompt! But the same book can offer an answer to this question too. The "Wallace for President" campaign was referring to Henry A. Wallace (who ran for president in 1948) not George Wallace (the one you describe above). “The first thing we did was set up a semipublic-type discussion group,” Hay explained to interviewer Jonathan Katz, “so you didn’t have to reveal yourself if you didn’t want to. Only certain persons would be invited at first, but later they’d be invited to ask some friends.” Katz asked Hay where the idea of the underground organization came from. Hay replied, “This is also the way the Communist party had moved as a political organization in 1930-37, when it had been truly underground. I thought of the Freemason movement and the type of Communist underground organization that had existed in the 1930s, which I had known and been part of... The 1948 prospectus outlined the basic idea. The 1949 version described how we would set up the guilds, how we would keep them underground and separated so that no one group could ever know who all the other members were and their anonymity would be secured.”
In John D'Emilio's "Sexual Politics", Hay said: “As the membership of the Mattachine Society grew, the orders were expected to subdivide into separate cells so that each layer of the pyramid could expand horizontally. As the number of cells increased, members of the same order but in different cells would be largely unknown to one another.” Those who took part in the discussion groups were “petrified that the government might get a list” of participants and feared that “the cops would come barging in and arrest everybody.” Fear of police raids, Timmons emphasized, required that the Mattachine founders meet in secret. “When the occasional guest was invited, it was a standard security process for him to meet a Mattachine member at some public landmark, then to be driven around for a few blocks before being taken to the meeting place.” Rowland said, “We did not want to lead the police to our meetings, so we did not give guests the address.” They changed locations regularly and kept the shades and curtains drawn—men meeting together in one room would appear suspicious. Timmons added, “Because they had read that telephones could be used to bug a room, Rowland always put the phone in a dresser drawer and put a pillow over it. When people left the meetings, they kept their voices down.”
ntennis 03:16, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

Why is the NY branch given prominence in the first line? The Los Angeles group was the first group and who incorporated first is irrelevant in my view, and it's laughable in light of the Society's communist origins. The Los Angeles chapter was there first so I feel that the "of New York Inc." part, while maybe true in an abstract, corporate by-laws sense, overstates that chapter's importance as the "first homophile organization in the United States".

24.127.119.115 05:36, 24 August 2006 (UTC) Jeremy Bender

Citations and sources needed[edit]

Some of the information in this article is good, some is dubious; all of it needs citation of specific sources--like those already named on this talk page, and more--so I've slapped the {unreferenced} tag on here. --Textorus 03:10, 31 December 2006 (UTC)

Who are the real founders?[edit]

Franklin E. Kameny says Kameny founded the Mattachine Society with Jack Nichols, making no mention of Harry Hay. But the Mattachine Society article says it was founded by "Harry Hay with a small group of friends". Which is right? Dybryd 01:06, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

Well both are, sort of. Kameny and Nichols founded the Washington DC Mattachine, similar name, but different from Hay's. There were Mattachines in several cities, DC was just one to use that name, the article here refers to the first one. Jacksinterweb (talk) 20:23, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
I have a book at home that explains this so I can cite it later, but from what I understand Harry Hay started it and the group kind of ousted him for being a bit too radical. Kameny started the DC chapter. --Moni3 (talk) 21:11, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
Somewhat true. I believe the situation is actually talked about on Harry Hay. -- SatyrTN (talk | contribs) 23:49, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Dated terms[edit]

It seems to me that we should include a note that the article includes terms (such as Negro and homosexual used as a noun) that are now politically incorrect. Certainly, the people the article is about used the language of the day: it's hard to tell their story withtout using their language. However, it's good to tell readers that we know that some terms are now deprecated, and we know why, but we choose not to belabor the point. Perhaps WP needs a generic note for this purpose, so that other articles can use it.Donfbreed (talk) 22:31, 20 January 2010 (UTC)

Hm. That's a good point, Donfbreed. I think most of the "outdated" words are wikilinked to articles that describe that situation. -- SatyrTN (talk / contribs) 05:43, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

Mattachine Review[edit]

I came to this article expecting to find something to wikilink Mattachine Review to, only to find that while the srticle does include a picture of the magazine, it gets no explicit mention in the text. If the Review was a publication of the Society, that probably deserves a mention; if it is not, then the picture is misleading. --Nat Gertler (talk) 15:23, 26 January 2014 (UTC)

Ken Burns and WP:BLP[edit]

When this article says "Ken Burns from Los Angeles" does it refer in an unlikely way to Ken Burns, the producer of numerous acclaimed TV series or someone else of the same name? Without better sourcing, this violates the policy WP:BLP and the text must be deleted. Edison (talk) 04:47, 27 December 2015 (UTC)

Given that Kenneth Burns is a name common enough that we have a disambiguation page for it, that we are not linking to the producer's page, that we are specifying a man from Los Angeles when the producer was neither born nor lives there, and that no one would reasonably think the producer took over the society before he turned one year old, I don't see a BLP problem here. -Nat Gertler (talk) 11:06, 27 December 2015 (UTC)

Sociétés Joyeuses vs. Société Mattachine[edit]

Were they the same, or was one a subset of the other? ZFT (talk) 03:18, 7 August 2016 (UTC)

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