Henry Hay: Founding The Mattachine Society, "A call to me . . . more important than life"
FEATURE UNDER CONSTRUCTION
First published in Jonathan [Ned] Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (T. Y. Crowell, 1976), pp. 406-420.
The man who conceived and was a principal figure in the founding of the first Maltachine Society, Henry Hay, here for the first time details the early history of that homosexual emancipation organization. Because of Hay's eighteen-year Communist party membership and activity, his role as a founding father of the Ameri- can homosexual liberation movement has not before been told. In an interview recorded by the present author on March 31, 1974, and in a long correspondence referring to original documents of the period, Henry Hay recounted his version of the conception and founding of the Los Angeles Mattachine.
Hay was born on April 7, 1912, at Worthing, in Sussex, England. His father managed gold mines in West Africa, then worked for the Anaconda Copper Company in Chile. His parents returned with their children to their native America in 1917; Hay grew up in Los Angeles, graduating with honors from Los Angeles High School in the summer of 1929. He studied in a Los Angeles lawyer's office for a year, witnessing the stock market crash of October, which wiped out his father and many others.
In February 1930, at age seventeen, Hay reports
I enticed an "older" gentleman (he must have been at least 33) to "bring me out" by finagling his picking me up in Los Angeles's notorious Pershing Square. Poor guy—he was appalled to discover, subsequently, that I was both a virgin and jail-bait! Champ Simmons didn't really turn me on, but he was a very decent human being; he was gentle and kind and taught me a great deal.
A link of a kind perhaps peculiar to Gay male history connects the abortive Chicago Society for Human Rights (1924—25) and Henry Hay, the founder of the Mattachine Society. Hay says that
Champ, the guy I seduced into picking me up and bringing me out into the Gay world, had himself been brought out by a guy who was a member of that Chicago group. So I first heard about that group only a few years after its sad end. 117 My impression was that the society was primarily a social thing. But just the idea of Gay people getting together at all, in more than a daisy chain, was an eye-opener of an idea. Champ passed it on to me as if it were too dangerous; the failure of the Chicago group should be a direct warning to anybody trying to do anything like that again.
J.K. Do you think your knowledge of that 1920s' organizing attempt played any role in your later conceiving and starting a Gay organization?
H.H. Only indirectly. It was one of the things that sank intomy memory.In my own life, in the following year, in the fall of 1930, I went to Stanford University. In the fall of 1931, I decided, on the basis of not a great deal of information and not too much experience, that I didn't want to live the life of a lie, so I declared myself on campus to all the people that I knew: to the eating club I belonged to, to the fraternities who were rushing me.
J.K. You declared yourself as Gay?
H.H.: Yes. I said I would understand perfectly if they all felt they had to stay away for their own security and position—and most of the people I knew did stay away, but the people I loved best said, "Okay, what else is new?"
I first conceived of a Gay group in August 1948, in Los Angeles. What happened was this: I went to a beer bust at the University of Southern Cal- California, run by some Gay guys I knew. Half the people there were students—one or two were theology students, some legal students—and we got to talking about the Henry Wallace presidential campaign. Wallace was running on the Progressive party ticket. I came up with the idea that we should start a group called "Bachelors for Wallace." With the help of a couple of quarts of beer, we worked up quite a case for what the Bachelors for Wallace would do, what we would ask for—constitutional amendments, etc. It sounded like a great idea.
J.K.: This was to be an openly Gay group?
Yes. We didn't have the words in those years, but that was what we were going to be. I went home and was all excited and sat up all night, writing out the original prospectus for the group. The next day I called up the guy who had given the party and asked for the addresses and telephone numbers of all the people there. I called up all these guys and said, "Look, we can get this whole thing going." They said, "What thing?" I found out that the only one who remembered anything except his hangover was me. Well, I thought it was too good an idea to drop, so I started putting it in some kind of order. I said, "Let's see, to get started I'll get in touch with all the other homosexuals I can." They said, "You're mad! You're out of your mind! We can't do anything like this!" Then I said, "Wait a minute. Supposing we got some really influential people, like ministers and sympathetic sociologists, and psychologists to condone it, to sponsor it. Then what?" "Well," they said, "well—yes, it's possible. Get 'em, and we'll think about it."
So I went around to a couple of ministers I knew -- Unitarians--and some sociologists from UCLA, and a couple of psychologists who were around the progressive movement who were sort of open-minded. One minister, one sociologist, and one psychologist said, "That's not bad; that might be a very useful new idea. You get one of these groups started, and we'll come and visit it. If it's going in the right direction, we'll consider offering our names." This went on for quite a while.
J.K.: Can you say why you conceived of a Gay organization at the time you did?
H.H.: The anti-Communist witch-hunts were very much in operation; the House Un-American Activities Committee had investigated Communist "subversion" in Hollywood. The purge of homosexuals from the State Department took place. The country, it seemed to me, was beginning to move toward fascism and McCarthyism; the Jews wouldn't be used as a scapegoat this time—the painful example of Germany was still too clear to us. The Black organizations were already pretty successfully looking out for their interests. It was obvious McCarthy was setting up the pattern for a new scapegoat, and it was going to be us—Gays. We had to organize, we had to move, we had to get started.
I was going back and forth, back and forth. trying to get homosexuals interested and to get the sponsors to lend their names—I was caught in the middle because one group wouldn't move without the other what I needed was some other person's point of view, and I wasn't getting that. Then, in July 1950, I met "X." He was on the fringe of the old left, but he wasn't a practicing member of anything. He was a refugee from Auschwitz; he and his family had come through some horrible experiences, and he was rather badly hurt as a child. He thought the group was a great idea, but he had a number of other people he wanted to go to. That's why I rewrote the prospectus.
Hay's original prospectus for a Gay organization was written in August 1948; he prepared a second version in 1949; a third version was written in July 1950, soon after Hay met "X," his first "recruit."
Hay's third prospectus is a six-page, dittoed document headed: "Preliminary Concepts . . . copyrighted by Eann MacDonald July 7th, 1950." Eann MacDonald was Hay's pseudonym.
The group's name follows, underlined in red: "International Bachelors Fraternal Orders for Peace and Social Dignity sometimes referred to as Bachelors Anonymous."118
The group is described as "a service and welfare organization devoted to the protection and improvement of Society's Androgynous Minority." The reasons for the group's formation are listed as follows:
encroaching American Fascism . . . seeks to bend unorganized and unpopular minor- ities into isolated fragments. . . .
... the Androgynous Minority was . . . stampeded into serving as hoodlums, stool pigeons . . . hangmen, before it was ruthlessly exterminated [a reference to the Nazi extermination of homosexuals];
. . . government indictment of Androgynous Civil Servants . . . [legally establishes] GUILT BY ASSOCIATION;
. . . under the Government's announced plans for eventual 100% war production all commerce . . . would be conducted under government contract . . . making it impossible for Androgynes to secure employment;
. . Guilt of Androgynity BY ASSOCIATION, equally with Guilt of Communist sympathy, . . . can be employed as a threat against . . . every man and woman in our country ... to insure thought control and political regimentation;
. . . in order to earn for ourselves any place in the sun, we must . . . work collectively on the side of peace, ... in the spirit ... of the United Nations Charter, for the full-class citizenship participation of Minorities everywhere, including ourselves; WE, THE ANDROGYNES OF THE WORLD, HAVE FORMED THIS RESPONSIBLE CORPORATE BODY TO DEMONSTRATE BY OUR EFFORTS THAT OUR PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL HANDICAPS NEED BE NO DETERRENT IN INTEGRATING 10% OF THE WORLDS POPULATION TOWARDS THE CONSTRUCTIVE SOCIAL PROGRESS OF MANKIND.
The group's service function is compared to Alcoholics Anonymous; among its aims are adjustment of members to the "enlightened . . . ethics of the standard community"; "to understand ourselves and then demonstrate this knowledge to the community"; "to regulate the social conduct of our minority" (promiscuity, "violation of public decency," etc.); "to dispel the fears and antagonisms of the community . . ."; "to present to the community a . . . social analysis upon which . . . progressive sexual legislation" can be based; to make "common cause with other minorities in contributing to the reform of judicial, police, and penal practices . . ."; and to provide "a collective outlet for political, cultural, and social expression to some 10% of the world's population."
The prospectus goes on for four more pages to detail the group's proposed work for law reform, against "police brutality" and blackmail, for "self-determination of nations and national minorities," and to provide legal services and bail money, study groups, forums, cultural and recreational activities, group discussions, therapeutic groups, and first-aid squads. Participants are to remain anonymous; membership is to be nondiscriminatory as to race and political affiliation, and a complex membership classification system is outlined. Groups are to be "mainly geographical." "Supplementary subsidiaries" are envisioned, such as "International Spinsters' Orders," and "Well-Wishers Auxiliaries." The group's decision-making process was not spelled out; a small governing committee would make policy and run the organization.
J.K.: How did your original 1948 prospectus differ from that 1950 version?
H.H.: At first I had not been so concerned with planting the organization underground. The goals and ideology never changed particularly; I felt that what we had to do was to find out who we were, and that what we were for would follow. I realized that we had been very contributive in various ways over the millennia, and I felt we could return to being contributive again. Then we could be respected for our differences not for our samenesses to heterosexuals. Our organization would renegotiate the place of our minority into the majority. To a large extent, that's what the whole movement was about. I was thinking of an amendment to the United States Constitution.
What kind of actions and tactics were envisioned?
J.K.: What kind of actions and tactics were envisioned?
H.H.: I didn't know at that time. We would have to move with what the times would allow. The 1948 prospectus outlined the basic idea. The 1949 version described how we would set up the guilds, how we would keep them underground and separated so that no one group could ever know who all the other members were and their anonymity would be secured. The 1950 prospectus is basically like the 1949 one.
J.K.: Where did your idea of this type of secret organization originate?
H.H.: In July 1950, I was still a well-sought-after teacher of Marxist principles both in the Communist Party and the California Labor School I was teaching a course in music history at the Labor School, and was dealing with the Guild System and the Freemasonry movement, particularly at the time of Maria Theresa, when to be a member of the Freemasonry was to court the death sentence. Both Mozart and Haydn had been Freemasons, courting punishment. This is also the way the Communist party had moved as a political organization in 1930-37 when it had been truly underground. I thought of the Freemason movement and the type of Communist underground organization that had existed in the 1930s, which I had known and been part of. So I began to work up the structure specified in the prospectus of 1950. The whole organizational setup was based on what I had learned from the old left and, interestingly, was not too different from that structure employed by Algeria in its successful liberation struggle with France in the sixties. At this time, incidentally, I was married and had two children, but I felt I had to move back into my own Gay part of the world again. I felt I should bring the best from the heterosexual side to contribute to my side of the fence—to bring all I had learned in terms of organizational principles in moving back to my own.
The Korean War had broken out just ten days before my meeting "X," in July 1950. At that time, all over the country there was a movement, sponsored by progressives to get as many signatures as possible for the Stock- holm Peace Petition against the war. From August through October 1950, "X" and I undertook to get five hundred of these petitions signed on the Gay beach in Los Angeles, in Santa Monica. And we got them, too, by God! We went down to the Gay beach and got them filled*. And the Korean War was going full blast! We also used this petition activity as a way of talking about our prospectus. We'd go up to them on the beach—of course, this is an entirely different period, you understand, so when people went to the Gay beach then they'd talk about everything else except being Gay. We would tell them what we knew about the war, about the story of North Korea attacking South Korea being a fake. Then we'd get into the Gay purges in U.S. government agencies of the year before and what a fraud that was. Then we'd ask, "Isn't it high time we all got together to do some- thing about it?" Everybody agreed, but nobody could think of anything to do without committing themselves. But at least they signed the petition, and some of the guys gave us their names and addresses—in case we ever got a Gay organization going. They were some of the people we eventually contacted for our discussion groups.
Despite the success of this initial action, "X" and I worked from August to October 1950, but basically we were getting nowhere. Finally, in Novem- ber 1950 I said, "There's a guy in my Labor School class, Bob Hull, and he has a friend; I think they might be interested." I didn't know for sure if they were Gay or not. I thought these guys were Gay, but whether they would want to reveal themselves to me I didn't know. So I swallow hard, and clench my fists, and on Thursday night at the class I hand out a prospectus in an envelope to Hull. On the following Saturday afternoon he calls up and asks whether he could come over. He sounds kind of distant. Well, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, and Dale Jennings come flying into my yard waving the prospectus, saying, "We could have written this ourselves when do we begin?" So we sat down and we began.
The first thing we did was set up a semipublic-type discussion group, so you didn't have to reveal yourself if you didn't want to. Only certain per- sons would be invited at first, but later they'd be invited to ask some friends.
J.K.: These were to be discussions of Gayness?
Three surviving discussion group reports from a slightly later date (September-October 1951) describe the group's consensus, as recorded by the chairman. The subject of two discussions is "Sense of Value," the third is "Social Directions of the Homosexual."11 The chairman for this last group is Henry Hay, and his report contains a variety of conclusions, among them:
INDENT START Sexual energy not used by homosexuals for procreation, as it is by heterosexuals, "should be channelized elsewhere where its end can be creativity."
"Homosexuals are 'lone wolves' through fear" of heterosexual society; they "understandably retreat more within themselves."
"A homosexual has no one to whom he must account, and in the end ... he must decide everything for himself."
'Those in greatest need are sometimes the most reluctant to help each other or themselves, tending to think of personal experiences as things apart from the mutual effort towards betterment."
"Some glad day there shall be a body of knowledge which would . . . show that homosexuals . . . have much in common."
Society's attack on homosexuals would lessen if society realized homosexuals' "potential ability to offer a worth-while contribution."
In April 1951, the "Missions and Purposes" of the Mattachine Society, a California corporation, were written,- they were ratified on July 20. The first stated purpose is "TO UNIFY" those homosexuals "isolated from their own kind," to provide a principle from which "all of our people can . . . derive a feeling of 'belonging.' " The second principle is "TO EDUCATE" homosexuals and heterosexuals. In reference to education, the society is said to be developing an "ethical homosexual culture . . . paralleling the emerging cultures of our fellow-minorities— the Negro, Mexican, and Jewish Peoples." The third purpose is 'TO LEAD"; the "more . . . socially conscious homosexuals [are to] provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviates." An additional "imperative" need is for "political action" against "discriminatory and oppressive legislation." The society is said to assist "our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression," and who constitute "one of the largest minorities in America today."120
H.H.: We didn't start calling ourselves the Mattachine Society until the spring of I95I.
J.K.: What was the origin of the name "Mattachine"
H.H.: One of the cultural developments I had discussed and illustrated in my Labor School class on "Historical Materialist Development of Music" was the function of the medieval-Renaissance French Sociitis Joyeux. One was known as the Societe Mattachine. These societies, lifelong secret fraternities of unmarried townsmen who never performed in public unmasked, were dedicated to going out into the countryside and conducting dances and
rituals during the Feast of Fools, at the Vernal Equinox. Sometimes these dance rituals, or masques, were peasant protests against oppression—with the maskers, in the people's name, receiving the brunt of a given lord's vicious retaliation. So we took the name Mattachine because we felt that we 1950s Gays were also a masked people, unknown and anonymous, who might become engaged in morale building and helping ourselves and others, through struggle, to move toward total redress and change.
About the fall of 1951 I decided that organizing the Mattachine was a call to me deeper than the innermost reaches of spirit, a vision-quest more important than life. I went to the Communist party and discussed this "total call" upon me, recommending to them my expulsion. They rejected "expulsion," and, in honor of my eighteen years as a member and ten years as a teacher and cultural innovator dropped me as "a security risk but as a life-long friend of the people."
At the start of our organizing, "X" and others felt that if we made bad mistakes and ruined the thing it might be many, many years before the attempt to organize Gay people would be tried again. So we had to do it right, if possible. That's why we operated by unanimity and were very slow-moving. We talked about the prospectus of the foundation, made our contacts with a fighting lawyer, who had defended one of us in court on a Gay charge, applied for a preliminary charter for a nonprofit corporation, and began (as of late November 1950) to have our discussion groups.
J.K.: Did any women come to the early meetings?
H.H.: The meetings were mostly male. A few women came and protested that they were not included, and after that more women came.
J.K.: What about the "two mothers" and a "sister" I've read were involved in the original Mattachine?
H.H.: When my wife decided that we had to go through a divorce because of my activity in the new society—which she felt was inimical as far as the children were concerned—I told my mother about it. About then we were beginning to think in terms of a foundation, and I asked my mother, "Would you act as one of the directors?" She said, "Yes."
J.K.: What kind of a woman was your mother that in the early 1950s she would be that positive about Gays?
H.H.: She wasn't. That isn't the point at all. She was a very well-developed Edwardian lady, and anything that her older son did was bound to be good. I don't think the sexual part of it ever crossed her mind. Homosexuality meant that I was in love with men, not with women. She had nothing more than an understanding of "homophile"—don't you see? The sex part of it never occurred to her. When she met the men and women of our original organizing committee, they were all very sweet, nice people; as far as she was concerned, that was it.
J.K.: Who was the Romayne Cox reportedly associated with the original Matta- chine?
H.H.: "X" was number two. Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland, and Dale Jennings were three, four, and five. Then came Konrad Stevens and James Gruber, a couple. Stevens's sister was named Romayne Cox. And Stevens's mother was named Mrs. D. T. Campbell, Helen Campbell—they're the women you asked about. Stevens's mother knew he was Gay, and knew about his pair- relationship with Jim. Stevens's sister thought they were both fine people, and he had a good relationship with her children. So their support was natural.
J.K.: What kind of role did these women play in the organization?
H.H.: I think both Helen Campbell and Romayne attended a couple of discussion groups; one discussion was held at their house. It was kind of constrained as far as the fellows were concerned, but it passed off OK. The address of the foundation was my mother's home. She was at all the foundation meetings, but she never attended a discussion group. All the guys loved her; she was a sweet, warm sort of lady of the manor; she had that presence, which made the Mattachine people feel that they were something fine, special.
In the spring of 1952, Dale Jennings, one of the original Mattachine members, was arrested by the Los Angeles vice squad on the charge of soliciting an officer to commit a homosexual act. Jennings denied the charge, but, as he later said: "Even if I had done all the things which the prosecution claimed ... I would have been guilty of no unusual act, only an illegal one in this society."
The Mattachine Foundation took over Jennings's defense; Jennings publicly admit- ted his homosexuality but claimed himself innocent of the specific charges. The Mattachine Society of Los Angeles Citizens' Committee to Outlaw Entrapment issued leaflets, one headed "Now Is the Time to Fight," and another "Anonymous Call to Arms," proclaiming:
Now Is the Time to Reveal ... the Full Threat to the Entire Community of the Special Police Brutality Against the Homosexual Minority.123
"THE ISSUE," said the committee, "IS CIVIL RIGHTS." The public was invited to be present when the case of Los Angeles versus William Dale Jennings was called to trial on May 19, 1952. A 2%-page, single-spaced letter to media representatives invited their attendance. 1 - 4 Hay recalls that not one of them came.
In ONE Magazine, soon after the event, Jennings described his hearing: "
The trial was a surprise. The attorney, engaged by the Mattachine Foundation, made a brilliant opening statement to the jury. . . ."
His client was admittedly homosexual, the lawyer said, but
the only true pervert in the court room was the arresting officer. He asked . . . that the jury feel no prejudice merely because I'd been arrested; these two officers weren't necessarily guilty of the charges of beating another prisoner merely because they were so accused; it would take a trial to do that and theirs was coming the next day. The jury deliberated for forty hours and asked to be dismissed when one of their number said he'd hold out for guilty till hell froze over. The rest voted straight acquittal. Later the city moved for dismissal of the case and it was granted. . . .
Actually I have had very little to do with this victory. Yes, I gave my name and publicly declared myself to be a homosexual, but the moment I was arrested my name was no longer "good" and this incident will stand on record for all to see for the rest of my life. In a situation where to be accused is to be guilty, a person's good name is worthless and meaningless. Further, without the interest of the Citizens' Committee to Outlaw Entrapment and their support which gathered funds from all over the country, I would have been forced to resort to the mild enthusiasm of the Public Defender. Chances are I'd have been found guilty and now be either still gathering funds to pay the fine or writing this in jail.
Yet I am not abjectly grateful. All of the hundreds who helped push this case to a successful conclusion, were not interested in me personally. They were being intelligently practical and helping establish a precedent that will perhaps help themselves if the time comes. In this sense, a bond of brotherhood is not mere blind generosity. It is unification for self-protection. Were all homosexuals and bisexuals to unite militantly, unjust laws and corruption would crumble in short order and we, as a nation, could go on to meet the really important problems which face us. Were heterosexuals to realize that these violations of our rights threaten theirs equally, a vast reform might even come within our lifetime. This is no more a dream than trying to win a case after admitting homosexuality.125
In July 1 952, the Citizens' Committee to Outlaw Entrapment issued a leafllet headed: "Victory!"
"You didn't see it in the papers, but it . . . did happen in L.A." For the "first time in California history an admitted homosexual was freed on a vag-lewd [vagrancy-lewdness] charge." The victory was "the result of organized work," the contributions of time, effort, and money by "people who believe in justice for . . . the homosexual." The victory publicized and brought new recruits into the Mattachine Society.
Rumors of "subversive" Communist influence among the Mattachine leadership were already circulating. George Shibley, the lawyer who had won Dale Jennings's case, was said to have left-wing connections (he was later called before the House Un-American Activities Committee). Henry Hay reports that he himself was "fingered and quoted as a prominent Marxist teacher" when a Congressional committee investigated Communist activity in Los Angeles in March 1952. In February 1952, a Mattachine "Official Statement of Policy on Political Questions . . ." emphasized that the organization took no stand on political matters, except those related to "sexual deviation." The group "has never been, is not now and must never be identified with any 'ism'."127
In the fall of 1952, Mattachine questionnaires were sent to candidates in the upcoming Los Angeles City election. Board of Education candidates were asked if they supported "a non-partisan psycho-medical presentation of homosexuality" in required senior high school hygiene courses. They were also asked if they favored a guidance program for young people beginning "to manifest subconscious aspects of social variance." Finally, candidates were asked if they favored high-school counselors being trained to guide "young people manifesting such problems." The questionnaire sent to city council candidates asked their positions on Los Angeles vice squad behavior and on entrapment.128
On March 12, 1953, Paul Coates, a columnist for the Los Angeles Mirror, reported that "a strange new pressure group" claiming "to represent the homosexual voters of Los Angeles is vigorously shopping for campaign promises." Coates mentioned that the Mattachine articles of incorporation
were drawn up by an attorney named Fred M. Snider, who was an unfriendly wit- ness at the Un-American Activities Committee hearings. Snider is the legal adviser for Mattachine, Inc.
Coates's column ends: "It is not inconceivable" that homosexuals, "scorned" by the community,
might band together for their own protection. Eventually they might swing tremendous political power.
A well-trained subversive could move in and forge that power into a dangerous political weapon.
To damn this organization, before its aims and directions are more clearly established, would be vicious and irresponsible.
Maybe the people who founded it are sincere. It will be interesting to see.129
Henry Hay reports the Mattachine reaction to the Coates column.
H.H.: We all thought it was pretty good, and so we ran off twenty thousand copies to send out to our mailing list and to be distributed city- and statewide. Wow! Whammo! We'd forgotten what the detail about Fred Snider's being unfriendly to the House Un-American Activities Committee would do to the middle-class Gays in Mattachine. We had been getting in this status-quo crowd; the discussion groups had been growing by leaps and bounds. When Paul Coates's article appeared, all the status-quo types in the discussion groups were up in arms; they had to get control of that damn Mattachine Foundation, which was tarnishing their image, giving them a bad name. This is when the real dissension began between the founders and the middle- class crowd.
J.K.: Can you describe the history of the 1953 split between the Mattachine founders and their opponents?130
H.H.: What the opposition wanted was an open, democratic organization. In order to be such an organization, all the idealism that we held while we were a private organization would have to go. In 1953, Joe McCarthy was still around, and we would have to become respectable. "All we want to do is to have a little law changed, and otherwise we are exactly the same as everybody else, except in bed." That position—"we're exactly the same" characterized the whole Mattachine Society from 1953 to 1969.
In 1953 we had a convention. It was to meet at the little First Universalist Church at Ninth and Crenshaw in Los Angeles. The minister, Wallace Maxey, was on the foundation's board. On the second weekend in April
1953, on April 11, the convention was called—and five hundred people showed up. Now, mind you, this was 1953, and five hundred Gay people show up in one place, as representatives of Gay organizations each delegate presumably representing up to ten people. 131 Can you imagine what that was like? This is the first time it's ever happened in the history of the United States. There we were, and you looked up and all of a sudden the room became vast—well, you know, was there anybody in Los Angeles who wasn't Gay? We'd never seen so many people. And in each other's presence, you can't shut 'em up. This isn't the period when you hugged much yet—but nevertheless there was an awful lot of hugging going on during those two days.
That Saturday, April 11, 1953, Hay addressed the convention. His speech was published the following month in ONE Magazine, anonymously, under the title, "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been a Homosexual?" It was designed to answer charges of Communist influence over the Mattachine Society. In this long, wide-ranging talk Hay reiterates that the Mattachine Foundation "chooses to consider itself strictly non-partisan and non-political in its objective and in its operations." Its goal is to stir up debate about the place of homosexuals in American society:
But in the very raising of the need for such debate, The Mattachine Foundation
deliberately put itself squarely in opposition to a dominant section of the status quo,
and elects to become a victim of the myriad implications and slanders derivative of the opposition.132
Hay recalls the then recent homosexual purges of United States government agencies, based on the principle that the susceptibility of homosexuals to blackmail by a foreign power makes them security risks. "It is notable," says Hay,
that not one single political or pressure group among the liberals, let alone the left-wing, lifted either voice or finger to protest the monstrous social and civil injustice and sweeping slander of this dictum. The complete hostility with which the [homo- sexual] Minority was surrounded by this indictment was a clear barometer of the outright antipathy unitedly maintained by every color of political opinion. It is significant to note that no alarm was raised then ... or since . . . and no purge directed, at married [male] heterosexuals with a weakness for bulging busts, blonde secretaries, or National Hop-Week Queens.133
The government purges, and later those of state and private employers, had included not only those who were themselves allegedly homosexual, but also their friends, says Hay. As he points out, any group that
sets itself up as a vehicle by [which] the articulate homosexual minority can at least be heard ... in effect sets itself up in opposition to a majority opinion held equally by the right-wing, the liberals, and the left. The Foundation has known from the beginning that it could expect support only from those non-prejudiced people who could recognize the enormous potential of the Minority even in the face of the social struggle that would be required. It should be stated here that the Left was the first political grouping to deny any social potential to the Minority by going on public record with the opinion that the perverts (note the term) were socially degenerate and to be avoided as one avoids the scum of the earth. The Foundation idea was conceived only when the Right, in the substance of the State Department actions, followed suit some ten years later. 134
Hay defends the refusal of the Mattachine's lawyer, Fred M. Snider, to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, based on his Fifth Amendment right not to be forced to testify against himself. Hay continues:
The Foundation, in a modest way, constitutes itself a guardian of the homosexual minority's right to keep its own counsel and social conscience. To do this, the Foundation must deliberately oppose the present status quo policy of our National Administration concerning homosexuals. ... In order to guarantee that it will be able to do this, the Foundation must keep itself clear as a body to be able to invoke the safeguards of the ??? ist, 5th, 9th, and 10th amendments. . . .
In taking such a stand as a body, and by simultaneously re-affirming its basic principle of aligning itself with, and participating in, no partisan political action whatsoever at any time, the Foundation is declaring that it hereby reserves the right to advance suggestions, to criticize, and to evaluate at any and at all times the status quo between the begrudging community majority and the contending coalition of the homosexual minority. . . . The Foundation is acutely aware that such a declared role invalidates it completely as a fountain-head of leadership. But. in truth, it must be recorded that the Foundation never conceived of its contribution as more than,! that of a modest fountain-head of inspiration and encouragement.135
Hay closes by affirming the Mattachine leaders' determination to protect the anonymity of members by refusing to testify before governmental investigating agencies—even if this refusal should lose the Mattachine the support of prominent professional people. "It would be pleasant," Hay continues,
if the social and legal recommendations of the Foundation could be found impeccable both to the tastes of the most conservative community as well as to the best interests of the homosexual minority. But since there must be a choice . . . the securities and protections of the homosexual minorities must come first. 138
On Sunday, the second day of the Mattachine convention, Hay recalls,
about ten o'clock in the morning, the other members of the original board showed up at my house. Bob Hull reported that a congressional investigating committee was coming out West to look into nonprofit foundations which were feeding the left, part of the whole Red-baiting campaign. We realized that we couldn't bear investigation. We original Mattachine founders and our lawyer would all show up as either having been "fellow travelers" or actual Communist party members. None of us were party members any longer, but some had been. We couldn't answer that "Have you ever been?" question without taking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. Bob Hull said to me, "Look, we can't hold this thing. That speech you made yesterday, that was a disaster." The middle-class groups were all for pulling out, the whole society seemed to be falling apart—it looked like the Titanic going down.
At that moment I suddenly realized for the first time that we weren't unanimous any more. Our original dream was gone. I thought, "We'll have to dissolve anyway, because of this investigating committee. What we'll do is I'll make an announcement to the convention that the original board has decided to dissolve itself—and we will give the convention the Mattachine name." They were already having committee meetings to find new names. So at the convention that afternoon I made the announcement that the foundation, for reasons important to itself, had decided to dissolve.
J.K.: You decided to pull out because of the Red-baiting, because of the investi- gation coming up?
H.H.: That was one reason. Also, several of the guys on the steering committee were saying, "The convention's running in this direction, and we have to run with it." They were being opportunistic. It was more important to them to run with the crowd than oppose it.
J.K.: Do you think you may have withdrawn at the wrong time, that you should have stayed and fought?
H.H.: I didn't feel I had the forces to withstand the investigation, the Red-baiting. I was pretty sure we couldn't—that we would go under.
J.K. What were the basic ideological differences between the original Mattachine and the group after 1953?
H.H. The original society was based upon this feeling of idealism, a great transcendent dream of what being Gay was all about. I had proposed from the very beginning that it would be Mattachine's job to find out who we Gays were (and had been over the millennia) and what we were for, and, on such bases, to find ways to make our contributions to our parent hetero society. It would be upon such contributions that we would renegotiate the relationships of Gays to the hetero majority. But such bargaining was always to be between Gays and straights as groups, never as individual Gays making deals behind the scenes. The Mattachine after 1953 was primarily concerned with legal change, with being seen as respectable—rather than self-respecting. They wanted to be dignified by professional "authorities" and prestigious people, rather than by the more compelling dignity of group worth.
The meeting that ended Henry Hay's principal involvement in the emancipation organization he had conceived and founded was a major event at the start of Jim Kepner's long activity in the homosexual movement. Although just one of those involved in homosexual emancipation, Kepner is mentioned here to emphasize the continuity within this movement—that an ending for one man was a beginning for another. Kepner's account, in a letter to the present author, of the 1953 Mattachine convention differs somewhat from Hay's; the exact details and implications of this historic turning point in the American Gay liberation movement will no doubt be modified and amplified by others who were present, and by future researchers. Jim
Kepner sums up his recollections of the Mattachine convention of 1953:
Starting with boundless optimism, we bogged down hopelessly in organizational details. The antagonisms between the conservatives and the founders were bubbling to the fore. Still, I don't think the optimism was quite shattered. In spite of the loss of a good many people, the needless and endless fights on constitutional amend- ments, the whole thing remained an exhilarating experience. At least those of us who knew that new organizations are not easy to build from the ground up retained the feeling that we at last had a viable homophile movement that was organized, however badly, and that we were on our way. That was really big news, setbacks notwithstanding, and we were determined to make good on the setbacks.137