<% IssueDate = "10/25/02" IssueCategory = "World" %> GayToday.com - World
Harry Hay, 90, a Founder of
the American Gay Movement, Dies

By Jack Nichols

San Francisco--Harry Hay, 90, a founding father of the American gay movement and of the original Mattachine Society and the Radical Faeries, is dead. For the past few weeks he'd been surrounded by a Caregivers Circle and watched over by his longtime loving comrade, John Burnside, according to a report first received late last week.

"Today (October 24) our movement lost one of its treasures. The death of legendary gay activist Harry Hay leaves a heavy sadness in our hearts and minds," said Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

He was the "Johnny Appleseed" of the American gay movement, according to the preeminent historian of sexuality, Vern Bullough, RN, PhD, in Before Stonewall a major forthcoming history book chronicling the lives of America's earliest LGBT movement pioneers. (Haworth Press) http://www.haworthpressinc.com/store/product.asp?sku=4646&AuthType
Harry Hay was a founding father of the American gay movement

"Harry Hay is the Johnny Appleseed of the American gay movement," writes Bullough, "brimming with ideas, planting seeds for new projects and organizations, and then moving on. He is an unusual combination of the dreamer, the planner, the mystic, and the activist, who has devoted his life to trying to bring about change in the status quo."

Hay and four other Los Angelinos founded The Mattachine Society in November, 1950 The group became America's first ongoing gay liberation organization. Hay, considered politically too controversial by some, stepped into the background, however, when a group of mainstream activists led by Hal Call of San Francisco were given control over Mattachine in 1953.

In the 1960's Hay helped organize the first "gay pride" parade in Los Angeles, was chair of the L.A. Committee to Fight the Exclusion of Homosexuals from the Armed Forces and chair of the Southern California Gay Liberation Front.

In 1978, Hay announced the formation of a new group he'd conceptualized, the Radical Faeries. He hoped thereby to promote ecological awareness as well as gay avoidance of what he called "hetero-imitation." Hay's strategies attracted mostly self-identified gay males. His vision, however, did not, apparently, encompass bisexuals, although he himself was once married.

His 1978 Radical Faerie announcement was made at the annual conference of the Gay Academic Union in Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter, a retreat, composed of hundreds of Faeries, met at Sri Ram Ashram, a spiritual center near Benson, Arizona. This group's activities were chronicled at the time by Mark Thompson, then Cultural Editor for The Advocate.

An e-mail message forwarded last week to GayToday and originating from Harry Hay's Caregiver's Circle said:

"Please keep Harry and John in your thoughts. We request that people not come-by to visit Harry as he has said he does not have the strength or energy for visits. Our job right now is to keep the space around Harry as serene and calm as possible to help him leave."

A second forwarded e-mail, sent prior to his passing, said:

Harry Hay: The young activist
"Brothers, Sisters... this news just came to me, so I thought I should share it with you. I get the digest, so if this is a repeat, please pardon me. ------

"dear Faeries (harry would want us to capitalize that 'F')

"i share with you that word has come that Harry Hay, the beloved Duchess who helped birth the modern Gay rights movement and other Queerious movements of natural loveliness and his most beloved community endeavor, the Radical Faeries, is approaching the thinnest veil and very near to crossing over. As I have told some of you, he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer a few weeks back and will only be with us in a physical state for a few days now. I am reminded of the words of one of Harry's forebears, Edward Carpenter, whose writings influenced Harry and belong to the Queer lineage of Whitman, and Ginsberg and now Hay:

And whatever the region to which we pass, Love saves us there, as it does now. It creates a world in which the soul can live and expand in freedom. The ties which bind us together here are not going to be snapt so easily as some of you may think. For indeed, I believe that those who truly love are already joined together in a world far beyond the visible and in that world they are safe - and their love is safe - from the storms of time and misadventure. Therefore do not think too much of the dead husk of your friend, or mourn too much over it; but send your thoughts out towards the real soul or self which has escaped - to reach it. For so, surely, you will cast a light of gladness upon his onward journey, and contribute your part towards the building of that kingdom of love which links our earth to heaven.

---Edward Carpenter

"Light candles, burn incense, prayers of thanksgiving and transcendence and grounding, meditate on a wonderful soul who dreamed of liberating his fellow Faes from thinking they were not worthy of the gifts of life and spirit, and lived long enough to see his dream become an unfolding reality. I struggle with the words, but it seems that Harry lay the stones that all of us walk upon in finding places to be free and to free others. His greatest legacy is our liberty and our willingness to liberate others. Keep Harry in your Hearts and bid him well on his passage."

Finally, Harry Hay himself was quoted by his friends:

"Gay people are stewards of the great Mother Earth…We do indeed have a responsibility to drum."
Harry Hay and his partner, John Burnside
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