Oral Histories

Interview of Harry Hay

Founder of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization and Radical Faeries, a gay spiritual movement.
We Are a Separate People
Z: Orphan Interviews pre 1999
Social Movements
LGBT Movement
Biographical Note:
Founder of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization and Radical Faeries, a gay spiritual movement.
Tuchman, Mitch
Hay, Harry
Persons Present:
Hay and Tuchman. John Burnside, Hay's life-partner, occasionally passed through the kitchen where the sessions were recorded. Ron Grele, director, Oral History Program, helped set up the video equipment and was present briefly during that session.
Place Conducted:
Tapes I to IX, XI to XII: Hay's home in Los Angeles, California, Tape X: 136 Powell Library, UCLA.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Mitch Tuchman, Principal Editor, Oral History Program, UCLA; B.A., sociology, Occidental College; M.Ph., Ph.D., sociology, Yale University.Tuchman prepared for the interview by relying principally on John D'Emilio's series of articles, "Dreams Deferred," which appeared in Body Politic, November 1979 through February 1980, and secondarily on Gay American History, by Jonathan Katz, and Word Is Out, the book based on Peter Adair's documentary film of the same title.
Processing of Interview:
Tuchman edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.Hay reviewed and approved the edited transcript. He made a number of changes. Additions to the original text are bracketed and indicated in the transcript as having been added by Hay during his review of the interview. He worked on the review slowly, returning the edited transcript to Tuchman tape by tape over a period of two and a half years. Tuchman review edited the transcript. Front matter and index were prepared by program staff.
17.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Hay's previous interview experiences--Factions within the gay movement--Hay's radical position--­On conventional histories of the gay movement and their efforts to downplay the role of the left-- The desire to make the gay movement respectable-- Hetero imitation--Family background--The Hay clan of Scotland.
Hay's parents marry in South Africa--Hay is born in England--Edwardian life--Childhood memories of Chile--Hay's relations with his father--The family moves to Southern California in 1916.
More on the Hays' move to Southern California-- Further discussion of restrained relations with parents—Early attraction to masturbation--­Archaic medical practices used to curtail the habit--On his father's efforts to instill manly discipline--Defying his father's authority--Hay's work in father's nursery and Nevada hay fields--­Hay's great--grandmother travels in Mexico and the West during and after the Civil War.
Hay's great-grandmother settles in Virginia City-- Aunt Kate's work as a teacher.Great-grandfather James Alan Hardie's service in the Civil War--Great-uncle Frank Hardie's participation in the Battle of Wounded Knee--More on working in Nevada--Recollections of visit to the Washoe rancheria.
More on the visit to the Washoe rancheria--Wovoka--Hopi pilgrimages to the Pacific--Setting up the Committee for Traditional Indian Land and Life--Ghost Dance religion--0n influences derived from exposure to divergent cultures--Exposed to the Wobblies--Childhood memories of growing up in Los Angeles--Further disputes with father--More on Aunt Kate--Hay's father as a "negative identity"--Raised as a Catholic--Schooling--More recollections of growing up in Los Angeles—Dance classes.
Rituals of dance lessons--Sports interests--Early inclinations to homosexuality--Sexual initiations--The Bimini Bath Club--Boxing "lessons"--Crushes on schoolgirls--Masturbation fantasies--Discovering Edward Carpenter--Early homosexual encounters--Opening up of "subterranean rivers of feelings and sensations."
More on Los Angeles High School--Interests in mathematics, history, and literature-- Difficulties in choosing a career--Varied activities in high school--Involvement in ROTC and a citizens' military training camp in Northern California--Matt--Options faced after high school graduation--Assumes a job in legal firm with intent of studying law.
Recollections of Spring Street during the Wall Street Crash--Continued work in the law firm--­Determined to explore new sexual horizons--Pershing Square--Rites of passage--Champ-—On Stanford's admission process—More on summer work in Nevada--Sustains serious back and stomach injuries.
Fields of study pursued at Stanford--Leaves Stanford in 1931 due to medical complications--­Background to interest in dramatic arts--Hay finds his "calling" in the theater--On "coming out" at Stanford--Friendships developed while at Stanford--James Broughton--Recollections of San Francisco in the thirties--Finocchio' s--Roy.
An embarrassing and humiliating experience.On beginning an acting career--The Hollywood Repertory Theater--Lands the part of Citizen Defarge in Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities--Serves as understudy in the Hollywood Theater Company--Melodrama--The Mountainview Hotel in Hollywood--Will Geer--Exposure to radical politics--Camp and the gay ethos--Bert Savoy and the origin of camp.
Vaudeville as main line of communication for gay people--The underground "gayspeak" of the Savoy show--Julian Eltinge--Camp as healing force-­Involvement in the Communist Party during the thirties--The political tutelage of Will Geer--Free speech zones in Los Angeles--Film work in Hollywood--Pressures against being openly gay-- Joining the Communist Party--Combining radical politics and dance performance--The emergence of "progressive" theater--The Hollywood Theater Guild--The Hollywood Film and Photo League--More on progressive theater.
Staging the works of Clifford Odets.Involvement with the foreign colony in Hollywood--Afternoon garden parties--The campaign to recall Mayor Frank Shaw--The disparate political groups around the anti-Shaw campaign.
More on the links between Hollywood performers and the campaign to recall Shaw--The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League--Paul Mooney and gay history--- On the reluctance of large segments of the Jewish population to become politically engaged during the thirties--American Jews' anticommunist sentiments and their resulting passivity toward the fate of European Jews--Spends time researching local folk songs at grandfather1s ranch in Northern California--Rattlesnake bite.
The beginnings of Hay's folk song collection--His father's gradual decline and death--Halting rapprochement--Hay's recognition of his love for his father--Participation in a Hollywood writers' political discussion class--Following a psychiatrist's recommendation, Hay engages in a heterosexual relationship--Marriage in 1938-- Adopts two daughters.
John Cage--Performing Poulenc, Hindemith, and Cage at the Santa Monica Woman's Club--Teaches courses in Marxist political economy--Promoted within the Communist Party after the Duclos letter--Postwar protest demonstrations--People's Songs--Work with the New Theater League--"Jimmy Crack Corn"--Sing Out!
Regional folk music and the People's Songs movement--The People's Educational Center--Works at Leahy Manufacturing Company--Approached to write a history of American music--The development of the Southern California Labor School--People's Chorus--The demise of the Labor School--Performs at fund raisers for Henry Wallace--The political basis of music history--Reading between the lines.
On the need to redress distorted histories of the gay movement--The neglect of developments prior to Stonewall--The history of the fifties, public and private levels—Challenging entrapment--The Mattachine Society and One, Inc.--Mattachine splits--"Gay consciousness"--Jorn Kamgren-- Scandinavian homosexual values--The gay movement in Europe--The Chicago Society for Human Rights-­Gradual shift of the gay movement towards a vision of collective self-discovery--Subject-subject consciousness.
Delving into gay history--The berdache--Jorn's hat business--More on the Mattachine Society and its relation to One, Inc.--Testifies before the House Committee on Un-American Activities--­Dropped from One, Inc., as a security risk--­Blackballed by the Communist Party--Difficulties in securing employment--The fifties as a period of introspection.
More on the absence of a political dimension in published histories of the gay movement--Stonewall--The Advocate--More on the Black Cat raids--Gay activism merges with the countercultural movement of the sixties--The Dow Action Committee--The Mike Hannon campaign--John Burnside--On helping others cast off homophobic tendencies--The "gay window."
More on the gay window--The Great Mother--The Committee for Traditional Indian Land and Life-- Berdache--The climate of fear and repression confronting gays--The police as self-appointed moral crusaders--Mattachine's fight against entrapment--Herbert Selwyn--Consenting adults legislation--Stonewall--The significance of the Southern California Gay Liberation Front.
Picketing Barney's Beanery--The acceptance of the gay movement by the Peace and Freedom Party--The concept of the gay window and the emergence of gay consciousness--Gay rage--Faggot consciousness--Faerie consciousness--Homosexuals who are not gay--Efforts to promote gay awareness in New Mexico's Indian culture--1970 Griffith Park gay-in--On being singled out by historians as the elder statesman of the gay movement-- Defining subject-subject consciousness.
More on the principles of subject-subject consciousness--The Radical Faeries group--The necessity to resist accommodation to the hetero world--The spiritual dimensions of gay consciousness--Maximize the differences between gay and hetero outlooks--Adding a Faerie presence to American political life.