Radically Gay: The Life of Harry Hay

For Immediate Release
Contact: Michelle Jeffers
(415) 557-4282; mjeffers@sfpl.org

March 8, 2012

Radically Gay: The Life of Harry Hay

Exhibition on the Founder of the Gay Rights Movement,

San Francisco Main Library, Jewett Gallery, April 21 through July 29, 2012

On the centennial anniversary of his birth, the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center of the San Francisco Public Library is pleased to present an exhibition that celebrates the remarkable life and work of activist Harry Hay, who laid the foundation for the modern lesbian and gay rights movement. Radically Gay: The Life of Harry Hay, will be on view in the Main Library’s Jewett Gallery, April 21-July 29, 2012.

Harry HayThis exhibition, curated by Joey Cain, explores the life, ideas and contributions of Hay, who is considered the founder of the modern Gay Movement.  Drawing on original papers, ephemera, videos and personal items archived in the Harry Hay Papers Collection of the Library’s History Center, the epic story of this compelling and complex civil rights leader is brought to life.

Chronicling Hay’s life, the exhibition includes his early years through his labor activism and strong involvement with the Communist Party, to his founding of the Mattachine Society, the first gay activist group in America, and co-founding of the gay men’s spirit group, the Radical Faeries. An actor, Communist labor organizer, musicologist, gay theoretician and political activist, Hay left a lasting mark that continues well into the 21st century.

The multifaceted exhibition explores Hay’s work as an actor, his involvement in the avant-garde arts movement in 1930s Los Angeles, his participation in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 and on to his activism in fighting fascism, racism and anti-Semitism in the 1940s. In 1948, at a time when homosexuality was considered by society to be an illness, Hay had the vision that homosexuals were a cultural minority that could organize themselves and create a community to fight for their human and civil rights.

Harry HaySixty years later, his vision developed into a worldwide civil rights movement and inspired the creation of Lesbian, Gay and Transgender communities on every continent.  Hay continued his theoretical and organizational work for gay rights and social justice, right up until his death in 2002.

Related programs and exhibitions:

May 8: Opening program “Above All Audacity!”

Guest curator Joey Cain will give an introduction to the exhibition. Colleagues, friends and other community leaders will discuss Hay’s contribution to the modern LGBT movement.  Special guests include Jewelle Gomez, Phyllis Lyon, Sally Hay, niece of Harry Hay, Will Roscoe, Mark Thompson, Malcolm Boyd. Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 6 p.m.

June 13: Documentary: Hope Along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay Screening of award-winning documentary followed by Q & A with filmmaker, Eric Slade.  This program is co-sponsored by the SF Pride Committee. Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 6 p.m.

July 11: Which Side Are You On? Harry Hay and Labor Organizing – Chris Carlsson, Bettina Apthekar and others talk about Hay’s labor activism in this panel discussion moderated by Joey Cain. Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 6 p.m.