Harry Hay was born in England in 1912, but a few years later he moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he lived most of his life.
Many people consider him to be the founder of the modern American gay rights movement. He fought against the treatment and the intolerance that gays were suffering in the 1920s and 1930s from the police and from society in general. He was widely involved in politics, considered himself a communist and was active in different labour and civil rights causes until the end of his days.
In 1950, Harry Hay founded an underground organisation, called the Mattachine Society, which was America’s first gay rights group. In the 1970s he decided to become more public about his activism for the gay cause, and he co-founded the Radical Faeries, a gay men’s movement which affirmed gayness as a form of spiritual calling.
“His central idea–as revolutionary then as now–is that gay people have a special role to play in human evolution. He was the first to insist that we are a separate, distinct minority with certain traits and talents, mainly in the areas of teaching, healing, mediating opposites, and creating beauty” Thompson RadFae,org. As a result of this he was against the progressive assimilation of gay men and gay culture into the mainstream society.
He lived with John Burnside, his soulmate and lover of 39 years, until his death in 2002 in San Francisco at the age of 90.
Anyone who wants to know more about Harry Hay should read Stuart Timmons’ biography, The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement, and the collection of Harry’s writings and essays, Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder.
His life has been the subject of a documentary by Eric Slade called Hope along the wind which won several film awards, More information on the film and on Harry´s life and work can be found at www.harryhay.com