Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Today in Gay History

Harry Hay

(April 7, 1912 – October 24, 2002)

HARRY HAY was a leading figure in the dawn of gay liberation, and as a Communist Party organizer in America - and like the early gay activist Edward Carpenter before him - he connected homosexual freedom with a possible Utopia; freedom from the rest of the capitalist
hegemony. But one of the more remarkable aspects of this extraordinary proponent of American radicalism is the fact that he was actually born in Worthing in Sussex. --From Hay's Obit in London's The Independent, 2002

from wiki>>Harry Hay (April 7, 1912 – October 24, 2002) was the earliest prominent leader in the gay rights movement in the United States, known for founding the Mattachine Society in 1950 and the Radical Færies in 1979, and partner of inventor John Burnside for 40 years, from 1962 until Hay's death.

Hay is listed in histories of the American gay movement as first in applying the term "minority" to homosexuals. A communist early in his life, and an uncompromising radical for his 90 year life, he easily dismissed "the heteros," and never rested from challenging the status quo, including within the gay community. Due to the pervasive homophobia of his times (it was illegal for more than two homosexuals to congregate in California during the 1950s) Hay and his colleagues took an oath of anonymity that lasted a quarter century until Jonathan Ned Katz interviewed Hay for the ground-breaking book Gay American History. Countless researchers subsequently sought him out; in recent years, Hay became the subject of a biography, a PBS-funded documentary, and an anthology of his own writings.
His most enduring legacy is the Radical Færie movement, which fosters a queer identity based on a blending of rural settings, and spiritual nods to Native American and New Age cultural memes. He and his longest life-partner, John Burnside, truly lived the Radical Færie lifestyle in Arizona for many years, until lung cancer made independent living in the desert environs too difficult for them.

The invitation he sent out to the first Radical Faerie gathering stated its purpose:

"To share new insights about ourselves,
To dance in the moonlight,
To renew oaths against patriarchy,
corporations and racism,
To hold, protect, nurture and
caress one another,
To talk about the politics of gay enspiritment
and the enspiritment of gay politics,
To find healing space inside our hearts,
To become the inspirer and the listener as we share new breakthroughs in how we perceive gay consciousness,
To soar like an eagle,
To rediscover and reinvent our myths,
To talk about gay living and loving alternatives,
To experience the groundedness of the calamus root,
To share our gay visions,
To sing, sing, sing,
To evoke a great fairy circle."

Harry, right in later years

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."


No comments:

Post a Comment