“Children of the Brain:” Harry Hay’s Life, Theory, and Activism, 1953-1964. A talk by Ben Miller

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“Children of the Brain:” Harry Hay’s Life, Theory, and Activism, 1953-1964. A talk by Ben Miller
April 30, 2014 7:00 PM
April 30, 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
Harry Hay’s life is typically presented in two chunks: the first covers his founding of the Mattachine Society, from approximately 1948 to his exit in 1953; the second, his involvement with and co-founding of the Radical Faeries in the 1970s and 1980s. Very little has been written about the time in between. While Hay’s biography spends only twenty-odd pages discussing the middle period of his life, new research demonstrates the importance of this period in his theory and activism, and the uniqueness of his ideas about identity and politics. Between 1953 and 1955, Hay fell into a deep political, emotional, and theoretical paralysis, as demonstrated by his withdrawal from homophile activism, unstable and dependent relationship with hat designer Jørn Kamgren, and often difficult-to-decipher and circular research notes. This paralysis was unlocked by developments in his research and theory. Fueled by research and an until-now unknown affair with a Tewa Native American man, Hay proposed a new social role for homophiles based on Native American traditions, in which they were responsible for producing intellectual and cultural capital and contributing to social development.

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: Harry Hay in Carmel, 1958. San Francisco Public Library Gay and Lesbian Center.