Hay was exposed early in life to the principles of Marxism and to the idea of same-sex sexual attraction. He drew upon these experiences to develop his view of homosexuals as a cultural minority. A long time member of the Communist Party USA, Hay's Marxist history led to his resignation from the Mattachine leadership in 1953.
Hay conceived of the idea of a homosexual activist group in 1948. After signing a petition for Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry A. Wallace, Hay spoke with other gay men at a party about forming a gay support organization for him called "Bachelors for Wallace". Encouraged by the response he received, Hay wrote out the organizing principles that night, a document he referred to as "The Call". However, the men who had been interested at the party were less than enthused the following morning. Over the next two years, Hay refined his idea, finally conceiving of an "international...fraternal order" to serve as "a service and welfare organization devoted to the protection and improvement of Society's Androgynous Minority". He planned to call this organization "Bachelors Anonymous" and envisioned it serving a similar function and purpose as Alcoholics Anonymous. Hay met Rudi Gernreich in July 1950. The two became lovers, and Hay showed Gernreich The Call. Gernreich, declaring the document "the most dangerous thing [he had] ever read", became an enthusiastic financial supporter of the venture, although he did not lend his name to it (going instead by the initial "R"). Finally on November 11, 1950, Hay, along with Gernreich and friends Dale Jennings and lovers Bob Hull and Chuck Rowland, held the first meeting of the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles, under the name "Society of Fools". The group changed its name to "Mattachine Society" in April 1951, a name chosen by Hay at the suggestion of fellow Mattachine member James Gruber, based on Medieval French secret societies of masked men who, through their anonymity, were empowered to criticize ruling monarchs with impunity.
John Burnside (November 2, 1916 – September 14, 2008) was the inventor of the teleidoscope, the darkfield kaleidoscope and the Symmetricon, and, because he rediscovered the math behind kaleidoscope optics, for decades, every maker of optically correct kaleidoscopes sold in the US paid him royalties. He was the partner of Harry Hay for 40 years, from 1962 until Hay's death in 2002. He lived in San Francisco, California, until his death from complications of brain cancer on September 14, 2008.
Following the end of his involvement with Mattachine, Hay became largely disillusioned with the homosexual political scene and withdrew. Hay had become involved with a young Danish immigrant named Jorn Kamgren in 1952, several months before severing ties with Mattachine. Kamgren was a milliner. Hay helped him establish a hat shop, attempting to use his contacts within the fashion and entertainment industries to get exposure for Kamgren's work and meeting with moderate success. Hay's time with Kamgren was not particularly happy, although Hay's mother Margaret liked Kamgren and encouraged Hay to remain with him (even going so far as to invest some $25,000 into the hat business). Hay spent much of his time studying Native American society and culture, in particular the Two-Spirit or berdache and their roles in native societies. Hay's studies in this area led him into further areas of historical research, in which he searched for any evidence or indication of homosexuals and the societal and cultural roles that they played.
In 1955, Hay was called to testify before a subcommittee of the House Un-American Activities Committee that was investigating Communist activity in Southern California. Hay had been identified before the subcommittee as a Communist, which was particularly interested in Marxist teachers like Hay. Hay struggled to find legal representation, feared losing his job and worried that his sexuality would be used to smear the Party. Ultimately his appearance, on July 2 of that year, was brief; he was asked if he was currently a member of the Party, to which he could truthfully answer "no". A committee member angrily asked when he had quit the Party to which Hay replied that he did not "confide in stool pigeons or their buddies on this committee". Amid gales of laughter from the audience, Hay was dismissed.
Hay maintained some contact with activists, including Jim Kepner of ONE, Inc., and continued his social contacts in the homophile community through ONE events. After 11 years with Kamgren, Hay moved out of their house and ended the relationship. Hay and Kepner had a brief affair in 1963, then Hay met inventor John Burnside through a ONE event, who became his life partner. Together the two created a group called the Circle of Loving Friends (although Hay and Burnside were frequently the only members of the circle). As the Circle they participated in early homophile demonstrations throughout the 1960s and helped establish the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO) in 1966. Following the Stonewall riots, the couple helped organize a Gay Liberation Front chapter in Los Angeles and Hay was elected its first chair.
Hay's involvement in the gay movement became more informal after that, although he did co-found the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969. Following a move to New Mexico with his longtime companion John Burnside in 1970, Hay's ongoing interest in Native American spirituality led the couple to co-found the Radical Faeries.
Hay's belief in the cultural minority status of homosexuals led him to take a stand against assimilationism. This stance led him to offer public support to controversial groups like the North American Man Boy Love Association and to criticize both the mainstream gay rights movement and some of the movement's radical components, including the AIDS activist group ACT UP.
Hay died on October 24, 2002, following a series of illnesses.
Hay, along with Gernreich, is one of the main characters of the play The Temperamentals by Jon Marans with Thomas Jay Ryan playing Hay and Michael Urie as Gernreich; after workshop performances in 2009 the play opened off Broadway in 2010.
John Lyon Burnside III (November 2, 1916 – September 14, 2008) was the inventor of the teleidoscope, the darkfield kaleidoscope and the Symmetricon, and, because he rediscovered the math behind kaleidoscope optics, for decades, every maker of optically correct kaleidoscopes sold in the US paid him royalties. He was the partner of Harry Hay for 40 years, from 1962 until Hay's death in 2002. He lived in San Francisco, California, until his death from complications of brain cancer on September 14, 2008.
An only child born in Seattle, he was raised by his mother after his father left the family; being poor, she periodically placed her son in the care of orphanages.
He served briefly in the Navy, and settled in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
Burnside and his partner Hay formed a group in the early 1960s called the Circle of Loving Companions that promoted gay rights and gay love. In 1966 they were major planners of one of the first gay parades, a protest against exclusion of homosexuals from the military, held in Los Angeles. In 1967, they appeared as a gay couple on the Joe Pyne television show.
In the late 1970s, they founded, along with Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker, the Radical Faeries.
Burnside married Edith Sinclair in Los Angeles, the pair had no children. Burnside later met Harry Hay in 1962 at ONE Incorporated; the two fell in love and became life partners. Burnside died Sunday, September 14, 2008 at the age of 91.
Harry Hay and John Brunside, 1989, by Robert Giard
Harry Hay, 1989, by Robert Giard
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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