Harry Hay




Harry Hay(April 7, 1912, Worthing, England – October 24, 2002)- was born in England where he grew up until his parents emigrated to California in 1919, where he attended Stanford, but later dropped out in 1932 to pursue a life in San Francisco's theatrical and artistic circles[1]. An early member of the Communist Party USA, Hay in 1934 had a relationship with Will Geer, the grandpa from the Waltons. Hay, along with Roger Barlow and LeRoy Robbins, directed a short film Even As You and I (1937) featuring Hay, Barlow, and filmmaker Hy Hirsh. A married man (beard/wife Anita Platky) and a member of the Communist Party USA, Hay composed the first manifesto of the American gay rights movement in 1948.

Hay and the Mattachine Society were among the first to argue that gay people were not just individuals but in fact represented a "cultural minority" They even called for public marches of homosexuals, predicting later gay pride parades. Hay's concept of the "cultural minority" came directly from his Marxist studies, and the rhetoric that he and his colleague Charles Rowland employed often reflected the militant Communist tradition. As the Mattachine Society grew with chapters around the country, the organization saw the Communist ties of its founders, including Hay, as a threat during the McCarthy era, and expelled them from leadership. Starting in Los Angeles in 1950, Hay worked with a handful of supporters to found the Mattachine Society. At this time, nineteen years before the Stonewall riots, virtually no gays or lesbians were publicly out, it was illegal for homosexuals to gather in public, and the American Psychiatric Association defined homosexuality as a mental illness.

Very slowly, he gathered members to this group. The Mattachine Society met in secret, with members often accompanied by a female friend to prevent being publicly identified as gay. Though Henry Gerber's gay rights group The Society for Human Rights had briefly flowered in Chicago twenty years earlier, it was quickly shut down by authorities. Hay's successful launching of a lasting national gay network makes him a plausible entry for the founder of the American gay rights movement. Hay went on to help found the Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition and was active in Native American concerns. In addition, he also founded the Radical Faeries.In 1963, at age 51, he met an inventor named John Burnside, who became his life partner. They lived first in Los Angeles and later in a Pueblo Indian reserve in New Mexico. After returning to Los Angeles to organize the Radical Faerie movement with Don Kilhefner, the couple moved to San Francisco, until his death at 90.