Honoring Gay Activist Harry Hay on His 100th Birthday

By: Rick Andreoli

Harry Hay, one of the forefathers of the modern gay rights movement, was born April 7, 1912 in England. Hay died in 2002 at age 90; today would have been his 100th birthday.

Hay moved to Los Angeles as a child, joined the Communist Party in 1934 and became a "homophile" activist in the 1940s. Living in the Silver Lake / Echo Park area of Los Angeles— which locals at the time called "Red Hill" for all the liberals, artists and communists living there—Hay helped form one of the first gay rights organizations, the Mattachine Society, on November 11, 1950. Although he broke with the group several years later, Hay was involved in U.S. gay and human rights activism for years. Together with his longtime companion, John Burnside, Hay launched the Radical Faerie counterculture movement in 1979, which celebrated the uniqueness of the gay and lesbian spirit.

In honor of Hay's 100th birthday, the Cove Avenue steps in Silver Lake will be renamed "The Mattachine Steps." While a sign has already been placed at the location, an official ceremony will take place this morning, with mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti and state senator Mike Gatto hosting.

According to Karen Ocamb of Frontiers IN LA / LGBT POV, these steps lead up to the house where Hay founded the Mattachine Society. Following today's ceremony there will be a Radical Faerie-hosted picnic in an adjoining park overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir. Later at 2:30 there will be a book signing and reading of Stuart Timmon’s newly updated biography The Trouble with Harry Hay at nearby Stories bookstore (1716 Sunset Blvd.) in Echo Park.

Here's a quote from Hay, which encompasses both his activism and love of gay culture: "We pulled ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that's how we got through school with a full set of teeth. We know how to live through their eyes. We can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you're going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you."

Happy birthday, Harry.

Happy 100th Birthday Harry Hay

(Quote source: Advocate.com)