Harry Hay Timeline by Will Roscoe and Joey Cain

1912. Born in Worthing, England, Easter Sunday, April 7.

1914. Family leaves England for Chuquicamata, Chile where father manages an Anaconda Copper Company mine.

1916. After father is injured in a mining accident, the family relocates to Southern California.

1919. Family moves to Los Angeles.

1922. Joins Harry James’s Western Rangers boys’ organization. Spends summers of 1922, 1923, and 1924 at grandfather’s ranch in Hernandez, learning to ride horseback and herd cattle.

1923. Sees the word “homo-sexual” in a locked case copy of Edward Carpenter’s Intermediate Type.

1925. Starts high school. In spring, observes Hopis perform ceremonies at a local beach and then dance for his Western Rangers group. Sent to work on relative’s ranch in Smith Valley, Nevada for the summer (returns seven times). Is taken to a gathering of local Indians and blessed by an elder known as Jack Wilson (i.e., Wovoka).

1926. Family moves to 940 S. Windsor Boulevard. After working during the summer in Nevada, returns to Los Angeles via coastal streamer and has his first adult sexual experience with a sailor named Matt.

1929. Graduates from Los Angeles High School excelling in music, poetry, oratory, and scholastic studies, and as president of the Forum Society, ROTC captain, and graduation speaker. His father arranges a job at a downtown law firm. Discovers cruising in Pershing Square and meets Champ Simmons, who tells him about the abortive Society for Human Rights in Chicago.

1930. Enters Stanford University. On New Year’s Eve, visits Los Angeles’s first “Gay” speakeasy and makes contacts that lead to his introduction to San Francisco Gay networks.

1931. At Stanford, has affair with Smith Dawless and discovers acting talent. In the fall, begins telling Stanford classmates that he is “tempermental” (i.e., homosexual). Has affair with James Broughton.

1932. Leaves Stanford in February to recover from a sinus infection in Nevada. Is unable to return for financial reasons. In the fall and renews acquaintance with composer John Cage, singing three of his compositions for the Santa Monica Women’s Club in November. Becomes the male understudy for eight actors in George K. Arthur’s Hollywood Playhouse Repertory Theatre and appears as a stunt rider in “B” films.

1933. Sings Cage’s songs for California Composers’ Circle. Becomes bass soloist in a Latvian choir. In October, attends first Communist Party meeting.

1934. In February is cast by the Tony Pastor Theatre as comedy lead and in character roles. Begins affair with leading man Will Geer. Participates in the Milk Strike demonstration and meets Clarabelle, queen of Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill. In July, travels with Geer to perform agit-prop in San Francisco General Strike; witnesses police firing upon strikers.

1935. In spring, travels with Will Geer to organize migratory workers in the San Joaquin Valley. Forms the Hollywood Theatre Guild with Geer and others to produce Clifford Odets’s Waiting for Lefty and Till the Day I Die. Becomes active in the Hollywood Film and Photo League. Father defends him against attempted blackmail. Performs percussion for the Lester Horton Dance Theater. In November, appears in Clean Beds at the Holly Town Theater with Anthony Quinn.

1936. Has affair with Stanley Haggart. In January is introduced to writer Reginald LeBorg and collaborates on several projects, including Heavenly Music, which later receives an Oscar for best short subject. In March, father suffers a major stroke. With LeRoy Robbins and Roger Barlow writes, produces, and acts in Even—As You and I, a short surrealist film. Carries petitions on behalf of Hopis. Between 1936 and 1938, active in EPIC (Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California campaign in 1936), the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, the League Against War and Fascism, Mobilization for Democracy, Workers’ Alliance of America, the Hollywood Writers’ Mobilization, and Labor’s Non-Partisan League.

1937. In February, helps Woody Guthrie sing on KEVD radio. In March, attends funeral of his uncle, which inspires story “Flight of Quail.” Spends summer working at Hernandez ranch where he survives a rattlesnake bite and helps organize a dance for locals. Father suffers a second stroke. In the fall, is invited to attend a Marxist-oriented discussion group of writers and artists.

1938. Referred to a Jungian therapist, who advises him to “turn the page” and form a heterosexual relationship. Re-registers in Communist Party in May. Marries fellow party member Anita Platky on September 9; honeymoon is cut short by his father’s death. Begins Works Progress Administration job in November and becomes active in Workers’ Alliance union.

1939. With Anita, documents poor housing conditions in Los Angeles slums for People’s World. In November, moves to New York City and works at various short-term jobs. Active in Artists’ and Writers’ division of the New York Community Party and the Theater Arts Committee for Peace and Democracy. Takes advanced courses in Marxist theory from Bernard Paul.

1940. In May, drives to Chicago to participate in America First Committee conference and meets Pete Seeger.

1941. Interviewed by Alfred Kinsey. Sees Parsifal at the Metropolitan. Serves as interim head of the New Theater League. In May, begins seven-month affair with architect William Alexander. Works for Russian War Relief.

1942. Following Pearl Harbor, returns to Los Angeles, arriving in late February. Works briefly for Russian War Relief, then gets a job at a brass foundry. When foundry closes, is employed as a materials planner at Interstate Aircraft but then fired for union organizing. Reduces Party work due to long work hours but remains active in Arts, Sciences and Professions Committee.

1943. Gets job at Avion Aircraft and discovers talent for what becomes the field of systems engineering. In September, adopts Hannah Margaret Hay. With other progressive couples, establishes nursery school facilities at Barnsdall Park. Begins teaching political economy classes.

1944. Active in Echo Park Political Association (former Communist Party chapter) and teaches Marxist theory courses and current events classes. In April, collapses at work from exhaustion and hypoglycemia.

1945. In October, appointed temporary County Educational Director at Southern California CP Congress. Serves on Communist Party’s Women’s Commission. In November, attends early “hootenanny” and hosts Pete Seeger. In December adopts second daughter, Kate Neill Hay.

1946. With Earl Robinson, Mario Cassetta, and others founds Los Angeles People’s Songs. In spring, invited to teach Party’s course on Lenin’s theory of imperialism. In the fall, develops a class on folk music for the People’s Education Center. Works at Alfred Leonard’s Gateway to Music.

1947. In the fall, following closure of People’s Education Center, offers ten-session course, “Music . . . Barometer of the Class Struggle,” through the Southern California Labor School.

1948. Employed as production engineer at Leahy Manufacturing. In summer, learns about homosexual purges at the State Department. On August 10, after signing a petition to place Henry Wallace on the California presidential ballot, attends a Gay party and conceives idea of “Bachelors for Wallace.” Begins seeking supporters to help launch a Gay organization. Redesigns course on imperialism into popular six-session format.

1949. In fall, offers expanded, twenty-session version of music course at Labor School.

1950. Meets Rudy Gernreich on July 8. From July to September, visits Gay beaches with Gernreich circulating Stockholm Peace Pledge petitions and testing interest in discussion groups on the Kinsey report. In fall, begins two twenty-week sessions of music course, continuing until spring 1952. In November, gives “Preliminary Concepts” to student Bob Hull, who shows it to Chuck Rowland and Dale Jennings. The five meet on November 11 and 13; the first semi-public discussion group is held on December 11.

1951. In April, Konrad Stevens and James Gruber join the steering committee. “Missions and Purposes” statement adopted in July and first community dance held. Celebrates first anniversary of relationship with Gernreich. Divorce from Anita granted on September 23. Resigns from Communist Party. In October, all-day Mattachine conference is held at Rowland’s home with nine steering committee members and delegates from five discussion groups.

1952. In February, five steering committee members attend Los Angeles City Council meeting to protest police brutality against Chicanos and other groups. In March, Mattachine decides to organize defense of Dale Jennings entrapment case. Gernreich initiates end of relationship. Jennings trial begins June 23. Teaches music history class in summer. Meets Jorn Kamgren. All-day, area-wide Mattachine conference held in October.

1953. ONE magazine begins publication in January. In February, in response to a newspaper reference to Hay as a Marxist teacher, Mattachine Foundation issues “Official Statement of Policy on Political Questions and Related Matters.” On March 12, Los Angeles Daily Mirror columnist Paul Coates notes Mattachine’s surveys of and letters to local political candidates; the steering committee reprints and distribute copies of the column to Mattachine members. In April, Mattachine convention held at Universalist Church. On the last day of the meetings, the founders decide to resign. On May 1, a second convention adopts a new structure and goals.

1954. Helps Kamgren open a hat business in West Hollywood.

1955. In May, summoned to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Testifies on July 2. In fall, begins teaching music course at home of lawyer Frank Pestana.

1956. In January, presents talk at ONE Midwinter Institute. Travels with Jorn to Mexico on summer vacation, returning by way of New Mexico where he meets Enki, traditional sacred clown of San Ildefonso Pueblo.

1957. In January, presents “The Homophile in Search of an Historical Context and Cultural Contiguity” at ONE Midwinter Institute. In August, spends two weeks in New Mexico, observing dances with Enki at Jemez and Picuris.

1960. During two-week trip to New Mexico, Enki shows him site at Tsankawi ruins where “your” people lived. Exchanges letters with Robert Graves.

1962. In January, speaks at ONE Institute. In June, Bob Hull commits suicide. Spends Christmas in New Mexico and observes dances in the church at Sandia and Mattachine dances at Santa Clara and San Juan Pueblos. Decides to end relationship with Jorn.

1963. Begins affair relationship with James Kepner, moving in with him in May. In September, meets John Burnside while attending a talk by Gerald Heard and again at ONE. They begin living together in December and vacation at year’s end in Baja California.

1964. In July, leaves Leahy to work as office and production manager for Burnside’s California Kaleidescopes. Travels to New Mexico at Christmas and meets Antonio Garcia of San Juan.

1965. With Burnside helps form the Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile. Margaret Hay honored at ONE.

1966. California Kaleidoscopes begins to employ members of Los Angeles’ burgeoning counterculture. With Slater, organizes a fifteen car Gay motorcade on May 21 to protest the military exclusion of homosexuals. Appears with Burnside on local television shows. In June, helps organize a Sexual Liberation Booth at the Renaissance Pleasure Fair in Southern California. In August, attends meetings in San Francisco forming the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations and a three-day “theological conference” sponsored by Council on Religion and the Homosexual and the Glide Urban Center. Visits Harry James at Lake Fillmore for Trailfinders reunion.

1967. In March, Hay and Burnside join Committee for Traditional Indian Land and Life (CTILL). In May, CTILL begins to hold meetings at the kaleidoscope factory and mounts a national campaign against the Indian Omnibus Bill. In August, travels to first North American Traditional Indian conference at Tonawonda, New York.

1968. Organizes logistical support for the Six Nations’ White Roots of Peace caravan and coordinates lobbying against Indian Omnibus Bill, which is defeated in July. Helps organize aid for drought-stricken Papagos.

1969. In March, helps organize third colloquium of Native American Traditional Leaders. With Burnside participates in four-day workshop on Gay draft resisters with San Francisco religious leaders. In May, joins Don Slater, Troy Perry, Mike Steele, and Jim Kepner to protest appearance of a homophobic councilman running for reelection at ONE, Inc. In September, helps Morris Kight and Leo Lawrence organize meetings that lead to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) of Southern California in December and is elected first chair. GLF begins meeting at kaleidoscope factory.

1970. In February, helps organize pickets at Barney’s Beanery and leads GLF delegation to Peace and Freedom Party state convention in Long Beach. Addresses Western Homophile Conference in mid-February. In May, moves to Kent compound at San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico and participates in managing the San Juan Mercantile. Works on El Grito newspaper. In the summer, meets anthropologist Sue-Ellen Jacobs.

1971. Hosts Immaculate Heart College art students in summer.

1972. Attends Niman dance at Hopi with Sue-Ellen Jacob and two Tewa friends; after coughing for an entire night, decides to quit smoking.

1973. Don Kilhefner visits in April. In July, fire destroys the Mercantile and kaleidoscope factory. Survives serious bout of pneumonia in September.

1974. Hosts weekend retreats for University of New Mexico Gay Student Union in spring and fall. Interviewed by Jonathan Ned Katz. Helps establish food co-op in Santa Fe. Joins weekly picket lines in support of United Farm Workers grape boycott. Networks with local Lesbian collectives and attempts to start a Gay discussion group in Santa Fe in October.

1975. Mother dies in May. Creates “National Friends of the Rio Grande” and successfully blocks plans for dam construction on the upper Rio Grande. In July, travels with Burnside to Seattle to do a ten-day workshop, returning through Oregon to meet Carl Wittman.

1976. Completes “Gay Liberation: Chapter Two” in April. Helps organize Lambdas de Santa Fe. In June and July, travels with Burnside to Wolf Creek, Oregon. Meets Mitch Walker in San Francisco and begins correspondence. Interviewed by John D’Emilio in October.

1977. Participates in march against Anita Bryant in Los Angeles on June 13; speaks at New Mexico’s first Gay pride march in Albuquerque. In September, travels to Los Angeles to appear at screening of Even—As You and I at the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art.

1978. Walker spends a month in New Mexico. In April, Hay and Burnside attend premiere of Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives in Los Angeles. Renews friendship with Kilhefner at Lama retreat. In June, speaks at Gay Pride march in Albuquerque. In November, participates in a workshop with Kilhefner at the Gay Academic Union in Los Angeles.

1979. Travels with Burnside to Los Angeles to participate in Kilhefner’s “Gay Voices and Visions” course and search for a house. In June, Hay addresses Denver Gay Pride march. Moves from New Mexico in July to La Cresta Court and establishes collective with Kilhefner. With Kilhefner, Burnside, and Walker, organizes first “Spiritual Conference for Radical Fairies” on Labor Day weekend where he meets Will Roscoe.

1980. Becomes active in anti-draft activities. At second Radical Faerie gathering in Colorado in August introduces faerie sanctuary project of the Gay Vision Circle. Begins corresponding with Will Roscoe and his partner Bradley Rose, who visit in the fall. In December travels to Oregon to view possible sanctuary sites.

1981. Roscoe, Rose, and Advocate editor Mark Thompson join the Gay Vision Circle collective, which meets at Bear Lake in April and in San Francisco in June, when Kilhefner and Walker withdraw from the project. In July, Hay and Burnside backpack with Roscoe and Rose into Desolation Wilderness Area.

1982. Roscoe and Rose live at La Cresta Court from April to September. Gay Vision Circle incorporation papers filed. Injures ankle at a Halloween party. In December undergoes exploratory surgery for prostate cancer—results are negative.

1983. Anita Hay dies In January. In February, travels with Burnside to New York City. In June, travels with Roscoe and Rose to Hoopa Valley in northern California to look for sanctuary site. In late June, addresses Cincinnati Gay Pride event and then San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. In August, travels with Roscoe, Rose, Pat Gourley, David Woodyard, and Joey Cain to New Mexico, staying in the Kent Compound for two weeks. Attends gathering in Napa, California in October, where he has a dream about his father and, following a healing circle, his ankle finally begins to heal. John D’Emilio’s Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities is published documenting Hay’s role in early original Mattachine movement.

1984. In San Francisco, Roscoe, Rose, and others start holding meetings leading to the formation of Nomenus as the successor to the Gay Vision Circle. In June, speaks at Boston Gay Pride Day and visits Walden Pond with Charlie Shively. Active in Lavendar Caucus of the Rainbow Coalition. Attends second Napa gathering.

1985. In April, Rudy Gernreich dies. In May, speaks during Gay Awareness Week at UC/Santa Cruz. Suffers serious hearing loss and is no longer able to enjoy music.

1986. Visits San Francisco in February, May, and September on Nomenus business staying with Roscoe and Rose. In May, serves as grand marshal of Long Beach Gay Pride Parade. In June, causes controversy at Christopher Street West parade with sign supporting Valerie Terrigno and protesting the exclusion of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. Marches in San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade. Attends Napa gathering in October.

1987. Speaks at Georgia State University in Atlanta. In June, participates in question-and-answer session at San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Historical Society. Nomenus purchases Wolf Creek, Oregon site. Marches in SF Gay Freedom Day. Participates in March on Washington.

1989. In March, speaks at University of Southern California. In April, West Hollywood city council issues a proclamation honoring his activism. Speaks at 20th Stonewall anniversary in New York in June.

1990. Participates in Leadership Training Conference in San Francisco and marches in Gay Freedom Day parade. In July, holds first Sex Magic workshop at Wolf Creek. In September, addresses Colorado Gay and Lesbian Congress. In November, speaks at University of North Carolina and delivers keynote address at Celebrating Gay Spirit Visions Conference. Publication of biography, The Trouble with Harry Hay, by Stuart Timmons. Chuck Rowland dies in late December.

1991. In May, receives Black and White Men Together Achievement Award and speaks at ONE Institute. In June, participates in Crossroads forum in San Francisco. Travels to Soviet Union as a member of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission delegation. Attends faerie gathering in Malibu in November.

1992. Organizes a panel on homophobia for Los Angeles Progressive Unity Council. In July, speaks at national conference of Committees of Correspondence in Berkeley. In November, presents third-gender workshop at Malibu gathering.

1993. In May, fire severely damages the “faerie sanctuary” at La Cresta Court and forces move to West Hollywood. In August, delivers paper at Western Historians’ Association. Presents workshop at Malibu gathering.

1994. In March, speaks at UCLA and receives lifetime achievement award from the Southern California Labor History Library. In June, participates in twenty-fifth anniversary “Spirit of Stonewall March” in New York and joins protest against the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s expulsion of the NAMBLA. Helps organize Radical Faerie retreat in November.

1996. Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder, collection of writings by Hay edited by Roscoe released. In June, Rose dies due to complications from HIV/AIDS. Hay and Burnside travel for book signing and publicity events.

1997. Interviewed by Joan Jett Black at San Francisco fundraiser for Eric Slade documentary, Hope Along the Wind: The Life of Harry Hay. In March, featured speaker at Second Annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair. Speaks at memorial for Don Slater, co-founder of ONE Magazine, in Los Angeles.

1998. Appears in Pride Divide documentary by Paris Poirier commenting on differences between Gay men and Lesbians. Interviewed in The Progressive magazine. In October, reunites with surviving Mattachine founders Konrad Stevens, John Gruber, and Dale Jennings in Los Angeles for filming of Hope Along the Wind. In July speaks at the memorial for Jim Kepner, founder of the National Gay Archives: Edward Carpenter/ Natalie Barney Library (now housed at ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives). Speaks at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Conference.

1999. Gives keynote lecture at Queer Revolution conference at San Jose State University. In June, travels with Burnside to San Francisco to participate in the Pride Parade as Grand Marshall. Ill on arrival, his condition worsens, and he remains in San Francisco. A circle of Radical Faeries forms to raise funds and provide Hay and Burnside ongoing care. Papers accessioned by the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. Medical marijuana activist Dennis Peron rents a flat to Hay and Burnside in his “Castro Castle” house.

2000. Undergoes surgery for colon cancer in October.

2001. Gives interview for the Bay Area Reporter warning gays of the George W. Bush administration’s homophobic policies. In May, receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. Regularly attends weekly Faerie Coffee Circles. Makes last public comments at Hope Along the Wind premiere on June 22 at the Castro Theatre.

2002. Two hundred well-wishers celebrate Hay’s ninetieth birthday at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. Registers as a domestic partner with Burnside. Following diagnosis of lung cancer, dies on October 24 at the age of 90.

2004. Hay paid tribute in Queer as Folk episode. Hope Along the Wind broadcast on PBS.

2008. Stuart Timmons disabled by a stroke in January; dies of heart failure in 2017. Radical Faerie Care Circle continues to support John Burnside until his death on September 14 at age 91.

2012. Cain curates “Radically Gay: The Life of Harry Hay” exhibit at San Francisco Public Library and co-organizes “Radically Gay: The Life & Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay,” a four-day, multi-venue conference sponsored by Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Harry Hay Centennial Committee in New York.

Reprinted with permission from Harry Hay, Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder, ed. Will Roscoe (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996). Revised and updated by Will Roscoe and Joey Cain. Copyright 2023.