“Children and Fools:” Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society, 1930-1953. A talk by Ben Miller

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“Children and Fools:” Harry Hay and the Mattachine Society, 1930-1953. A talk by Ben Miller
April 23, 2014 7:00 PM
April 23, 2014 9:00 PM
646 457 0859
April 7, 2014
Bureau of General Services–Queer Division
646 457 0859
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83A Hester St., New York, NY, 10002, United States
It wasn’t until the 1980s that John D’Emilio, Jonathan Ned Katz, and other scholars (many working independently) began to exhume and bring to life the vital history of American homosexual and homophile movements before the Stonewall rebellion. All serious considerations of that history feature as a central player Harry Hay: activist, troublemaker, theorist, founder of the Mattachine Society and “father” of the American gay rights movements. This talk retells the story of the founding of the Mattachine Society – America’s first gay rights organization, which activist Harry Hay founded in Los Angeles – with an eye towards that history’s relevance to the ideological development of Gay, and by extension LGBTQ, rights in America. Original research conducted using Hay’s personal papers and the papers of the Mattachine Society shows that Hay used Marxist cultural theory to fuse elements of folk music, medieval fooling, and Native American religious and gender traditions into a gay identity that could serve as the basis for political activism, radically challenging existing gender and sexual norms in ways that are too often forgotten in the mainstream literature of LGBTQ history.

Ben Miller will present a second talk on Harry Hay on the following Wednesday, April 30th:

“Children of the Brain:” Harry Hay’s Life, Theory, and Activism, 1953-1964


Ben Miller is a New York-based writer and student of history. Current projects include thesis research on early gay activist Harry Hay that has taken him to archives in California and conferences from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, an adaptation of an early Mozart libretto for performance at Carnegie Hall, and new short fiction influenced by his historical research. He is the 2014 winner of New York University’s Bessie and Louis Levy Prize for Excellence in American History, and the recipient of the Steffi Berne Research Scholarship in the Humanities from the same institution. His teachers in history and writing have included Linda Gordon, K. Kevyne Baar, Marcelle Clements, and Jonathan Safran Foer. His academic writing has appeared in HistorianCollege Film and Media Studies, and the Chicago Journal of History; and his short fiction has appeared in BrioStudio on the Square, and West 10th. He is editor or co-editor of several publications, co-founder of Squid Ink Magazine (launching soon), and serves on the communications committee of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. He tweets @benwritesthings.


Photo: Reunion of living Mattachine founders, 1980s. From left: Jim Gruber, Dale Jennings, Konrad Stevens, Harry Hay. (San Francisco Public Library, Gay and Lesbian Center.)