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Harry Hay

Harry Hay (1912-October 24, 2002) was a leader of the gay rights movement in the United States.

Starting in Los Angeles in 1950, Mr. 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 each member accompanied by a female friend in case the police broke the meeting up. It was the first public gay rights group in the United States, making Mr. Hay a plausible entry for the founder of the American gay rights movement.

A married man and a member of the American Communist Party, Mr. Hay composed the first manifesto of the American gay rights movement, writing:

We, the Androgynes of the world, have formed this responsible corporate body to demonstrate by our efforts that our physiological and psychological handicaps need be no deterrent in integrating 10 percent of the world's population towards the constructive social progress of mankind.

Though it may seem very dated today, the group was very radical compared to the rest of society at the time of its beginnings. It and Mr. Hay were among the first to advance the argument that gay people represented a cultural minority (see Queer culture) as well as being just individuals. However, the Mattachine Society came more and more to be seen by many as stodgy and assimilationist, especially after the Stonewall riots.

Hay later became an outspoken critic of gay assimilationism and went on to help found both Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition[?] and the gay men's neo-pagan group the Radical Faeries, as well as being active in the feminist and Native American movements.

"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."

In 1963, at age 51, he met an inventor named John Burnside, who became his life partner. They lived first in a Pueblo Indian reserve in New Mexico, then in Los Angeles, and finally in San Francisco, where Mr. Hay died on October 24, 2002, of lung cancer.

External link

  • Obituary (http://www.instepnews.com/harryhaydead)

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