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social sciences

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Hay, Harry (1912-2002)  
page: 1  2  3  

The Move to New Mexico

In May 1970, however, the couple left California for New Mexico, where they found new premises for the kaleidoscope factory. In New Mexico, Hay and Burnside not only continued their work for gay rights, but they also became involved in a successful effort to block a federal canal-building project that would have diverted water from the Rio Grande for the benefit of wealthy private developers while local agrarian communities would have suffered a devastating loss of water for irrigation.

The move to New Mexico had been partly motivated by the high cost of living in Los Angeles, but it also provided Hay the opportunity to study Native American cultures, with which he had been fascinated since hearing Quechua and Aymara music in the Chilean mountains as a child. In more recent years he had extensively studied the role of berdaches or two-spirit people in Amerindian cultures.

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The Radical Faeries

In addition to these studies, Hay had also been reflecting on gay consciousness, concluding that whereas heterosexual men see themselves as subjects and their female partners as objects, gay men perceive in their lovers fellow subjects--"equals to be respected and cherished."

In a 1976 "Call to Action" Hay envisioned a "gay fairy family of loving-sharing equals." He pursued the idea by founding the Radical Faeries two years later.

Meetings of the Radical Faeries generally occur in rural settings, and their celebrations combine Native American and New Age elements. The first took place in the desert near Tucson, Arizona in September 1979. Since then the Radical Faeries movement has spread across the United States and also to Europe.

Belated Recognition

Over the next decade Hay was somewhat eclipsed by younger members of the glbtq rights movement. He was "rediscovered," however, at the end of the twentieth century, and by the end of his life he was recognized and revered as a founding elder of the movement for equality.

Stuart Timmons published a biography, The Trouble with Harry Hay, in 1990, and a collection of Hay's writings, Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of Its Founder, appeared in 1996. When in 1999 the choice of grand marshal for San Francisco's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade was put to a public vote for the first time, Hay was the winner. He was also the subject of Eric Slade's PBS documentary Hope along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay (2002), which was nominated for an Emmy and won numerous awards at film festivals.

In 1999 Burnside moved Hay, who was suffering from lung cancer, to San Francisco's Castro district, where he was cared for by hospice nurses and care-taking members of the Radical Faeries. At the same period Hay arranged for his personal papers to be donated to the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library.

Harry Hay died on October 24, 2002. At his side were John Burnside, with whom he had registered as domestic partners only weeks before, and his care givers from the Radical Faeries, who laid Hay out and sprinkled rose petals over him.

Biographer Timmons had visited Hay a few weeks before, at which time Hay had given him a message: "Tell my people I want them to be happy and strong. And free. And contributive. And to fly."

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  McCarthyism

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social sciences >> Overview:  Native Americans

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social sciences >> Overview:  Organized Labor

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social sciences >> Overview:  Parades and Marches

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social sciences >> Overview:  Radical Faeries

A movement that emerged in the late 1970s, the Radical Faeries identify with the gender variant sacred outsider that has appeared and reappeared in many cultures throughout human history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Rural Life

Rural life offers both challenges and satisfactions for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Wicca

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social sciences >> Berdache

Both male and female berdaches (or two-spirit persons), common among Native American tribal cultures, were characterized by gender variation sanctioned by supernatural dreams and visions.

arts >> Bourbon, Ray

Legendary drag performer and recording artist Ray Bourbon appeared in silent movies, vaudeville acts, Broadway plays, and, from the 1940s through the 1960s, performed across the United States in a gay nightclub circuit.

literature >> Carpenter, Edward

Edward Carpenter, a champion of both women's and homosexuals' liberation, was one of the great socialist visionaries of England at the turn of the twentieth century.

social sciences >> Gay Liberation Front

Formed soon after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the short-lived but influential Gay Liberation Front brought a new militancy to the movement that became known as gay liberation.

arts >> Gernreich, Rudi

Associated particularly with the 1960s fashion revolution, Rudi Gernreich was one of the great modernists of fashion design, making his clothes futuristic both technically and stylistically.

social sciences >> Hormel, James C.

Philanthropist and political activist James C. Hormel became the first openly gay United States ambassador despite the vociferous opposition of conservative groups.

social sciences >> Jennings, William Dale

Editor and author Dale Jennings was a pioneer of the American gay rights movement, one of the co-founders of both the Mattachine Society and ONE, Inc.

literature >> Kepner, Jim

Jim Kepner was both a pioneering gay journalist and a homophile activist who founded the International Gay and Lesbian Archives.

social sciences >> Legg, W. Dorr

A pioneer in the American gay rights movement and in glbtq studies, W. Dorr Legg won a landmark Supreme Court decision establishing the right to send homosexual content through the U.S. mail.

social sciences >> Mattachine Society

One of the earliest American gay movement organizations, the Mattachine Society was dedicated to the cultural and political liberation of homosexuals; but in the face of McCarthyism, it adopted conservative policies of accommodationism.

social sciences >> Rhodes, Cecil

Throughout his adult life, Cecil Rhodes, one of nineteenth-century Britain's most ambitious imperialists, conducted romantic friendships with younger male associates.

arts >> Roberts, Mel

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social sciences >> Stonewall Riots

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literature >> Whitman, Walt

Celebrating an ideal of manly love in both its spiritual and physical aspects, Walt Whitman has exerted a profound and enduring influence on gay literature.


D'Emilio, John. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States 1940-1970. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Hay, Harry. Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of Its Founder. Will Roscoe, ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

_____. "A Separate People Whose Time Has Come." Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. Mark Thompson, ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987. 279-91.

Heredia, Christopher. "Henry ' Harry' Hay--Gay Rights Pioneer; He Started Mattachine Society." San Francisco Chronicle (October 25, 2002): A21.

Herscher, Elaine. "Pride of Place; Father of Gay Movement to Lead Sunday's Parade." San Francisco Chronicle (June 25, 1999): A17.

Hoare, Philip. "Harry Hay; Founder of Gay Liberation." The Independent (London) (October 29, 2002): 18.

Katz, Jonathan. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1976.

Shively, Charles. "Harry Hay." Gay & Lesbian Biography. Michael J. Tyrkus, ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997. 222-24.

Sullivan, Gerard. "Hay, Henry, Jr." Who's Who in Gay & Lesbian History from World War II to the Present Day. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. New York: Routledge, 2001. 181-83.

Thompson, Mark. "This Gay Tribe: A Brief History of Fairies." Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning. Mark Thompson, ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987. 260-78.

Timmons, Stuart. "Lend Me Your Ears." The Gay & Lesbian Review 10 (February 28, 2003): 10.

_____. The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1990.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Hay, Harry  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 29, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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