1950 November 11

Mattachine Society Founded; First National Gay Men’s Rights Group


The Mattachine Society, the first gay men’s activist organization in the U.S., was founded in Los Angeles by gay rights pioneer Harry Hay on this day. The name is reportedly derived from secret societies in medieval France. The Mattachine Society was a gay men’s group; the first lesbian group was the Daughters of Bilitis, founded on September 21, 1955. English-born, Hay was also a member of the Communist Party. Worried that his homosexuality would embarrass the Party in the Cold War, he asked it to expel him as a homosexual. The Party decided instead to expel him as a “security risk.”

Other events involving the Mattachine Society include a Gay Rights Convention in Los Angeles that drew 500 people on April 11, 1953; a picket of the White House demanding gay rights on April 17, 1965; and a Mattachine Society  “sip-in” at the Julius Bar in New York City on April 21, 1966.

The first lesbian and gay rights movement in the world originated in Berlin, Germany, in the 1860s. This included the invention of the word “homosexuality.” Read Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity (2014).

Read: Harry Hay, with Will Roscoe, Radically Gay (1996)

Watch “Harry Hay: Radical Activist”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWddMmLOgHw

Learn more: Stuart Timmons, The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement (1990)

Read: James T. Sears, Behind the Mask of the Mattachine: The Hal Call Chronicles and the Early Movement for Homosexual Emancipation (2006)

Read about the history of the GLBT revolution: Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (2015)

Visit the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco: http://www.glbthistory.org/museum/

Learn more at a valuable documentary history: Jonathan Katz, ed., Gay American History: Lesbian and Gay Men in American History, A Documentary (1976)

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