Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 13 - Harry Hay

Harry Hay

The antithesis of the Stonewall movement of 1969, Harry Hay was the founder of the Mattachine Society in 1950, argued to be the first gay rights group in the United States (it's not officially known whether it or the Chicago Society for Human Rights came first). The Mattachine Society was conceived as a "service and welfare organization devoted to the protection and improvement" of gay men. The Los Angeles branch later extended to several regional groups by 1961, though Hay had resigned from the society within the first few years of its existence, when the group's direction changed from one of activism to something lesser.

Hay always considered himself a Marxist (and even identified as a Communist prior to founding Mattachine), even going so far as to try to cure himself of his homosexuality by marrying a woman in the 1930s, but after leaving the Society in 1953, Hay became interested in Native American communities and spirituality. He later was a member of the Council on Religion and Homosexuality. Following the Stonewall riots, Hay founded the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front before moving to New Mexico and creating the Radical Fairies group in 1979, a New Age "not-movement" merging liberation and spirituality, which may be his most lasting contribution to the gay community. He was vocally opposed to "gay assimilation," favoring the unique attributes which come with being a minority over adopting traits of the majority for acceptance (for example, movements distancing themselves from drag and leather culture in the 1970s). Hay remained active in gay liberation efforts well into his eighties; he died of cancer in 2002, at the age of 90.

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