• Public and Private
  • Barbara Grier
  • Pulp Paperbacks
  • Poets & Artists
  • Harry Hay
  • Periodicals
  • Personal Into the Political
  • Gay Games

Harry Hay appearing before HUAC, 1955
Photographer unknown
Harry Hay appearing before HUAC, 1955
Gelatin silver print
The Harry Hay papers document the life and activist legacy of Harry Hay (1912-2002)— a dynamic, visionary man considered by many to be the father of the modern gay rights movement. Hay’s lifelong goal was for LGBT people to gain recognition as a cultural minority, and to be protected as such as citizens. Hay’s papers are extensive, ranging from his youth as a handsome undergraduate at Stanford University to his later years as a political activist living harmoniously with his soul mate John Burnside. The papers include correspondence, photographs, and annotated research files chronicling Hay’s studies of “Two-Spirit” people, music, gay culture, and leftist activism, as well as a collection of gay periodicals and newspapers. The papers document Hay’s involvement with the Communist Party and his subsequent appearance before the House on Un- American Activities Committee. Hay’s papers also document his part in founding the early gay rights organization—the Mattachine Society. This extensive collection was donated in 1997 by Harry Hay and John Burnside. Additional material was added up until Hay’s death in 2002.

Linoleum block
Harry Hay
Linoleum block, 1937
A striking early linoleum block print - the block shown to the right - portrays Hay as a young revolutionary. At this time he was active in the Communist Party and was a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. The seeds of the Mattachine Society were planted in 1948, the year that saw the publication of Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, and the birth of Hay’s “International Bachelors Fraternal Order for Peace and Social Dignity.” By 1951, this discussion group had transformed to the Society of Fools, then, formally, the Mattachine Society. The Mattachine Society is widely thought of as the first group of its kind for gay men, as well as the most influential. It was one of several West Coast pre-Stonewall homophile movements of the era, including liberation movements such as its counterpart, the Daughters of Bilitis. By 1952, a periodical evolved out of these discussion groups, and ONE Magazine: The Homosexual Viewpoint was born, along with a new corporation, ONE, Inc., whose board was composed of early Mattachine members. By 1953, the original Mattachine Society dissolved, but ONE thrived and Hay continued to disseminate his political views. ONE was bold in its vision and achieved a wide circulation; by 1961, such surveys as the “Homosexual Bill of Rights” were being distributed—strong statements urging gays to consider the personal in relation to the political.

In the 1960s, Hay met and began his lifelong relationship with John Burnside, who helped found the Circle of Loving Companions, a group that espoused Hay’s belief that gay people make separate and unique contributions. The Circle of Loving Companions was one of many groups comprising the growing gay liberation movement. At this time, Hay was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and especially the antidraft movement, helping distribute information to gays and lesbians, who, Hay believed, had different counseling needs.

By the 1970s, Hay’s focus on gays and lesbians as “a separate people with unique contributions to make to the straight world” had found a collective, communal outlet. Hay and Burnside had been living in New Mexico, and had become involved with such causes as the Gay American Indian Movement, as well as the local gay rights group, the Lambdas of Santa Fe. It was here that Hay conducted research on Native American “Two-Spirit” people—shamans considered to be both man and woman.

Cover of
Citizens Committee to Preserve American Freedoms
Courage is Contagious: the Bill of Rights Versus the House Un-American Activities Committee
The 1970s saw a rise in gay subcultures, and two striking figures dominated this period: the Clone—a hyper-macho, masculinist, and homogeneous gay male type; and the Faerie—a gay man who embraced gender differences and blurred gender stereotypes. In 1979, the first “Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries” was held—the name coined by Hay from the word “radical,” meaning “root” and “politically/culturally extreme,” and the word “faerie,” which alluded both to the pejorative connotation of effeminate masculinity but also to magical spirits, furthering the view of gay people as coming from a separate tribe. The Radical Faeries, while creating a sacred space for spirituality and espousing an antiassimilationist form of gay liberation, also produced art and published numerous periodicals such as RFD, Raddish, Salt & Sage, and the Fifth Element. Faerie gatherings and groups spread across the nation—communal land was purchased, and the Faeries proved themselves more than just a back-to-nature collective. The archives contains several photo albums depicting their elaborate rituals and communal sexuality.

Throughout the 1980s, Hay’s activism continued in the struggle against AIDS, as well as in events such as the “Keep Dan White Out of L.A.” protest. During the 1990s, Hay worked tirelessly to disseminate his views that gays should reject heterosexual models. Hay believed in casting off the “green frog skin” of hetero-imitation to reveal the faerie within. His death in 2002 ended an extraordinary life, and almost a century of activism.

Take our survey