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|Title||:||The Trouble With Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement|
|Number of Pages||:||317 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Trouble With Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement Reviews
A new updated biography of Harry Hay, a colorful character, and landmark veteran of the homophile movement, a founder of The Mattachine Society in 1950, extending through the origins of the Radical Faeries. The book helps to affirm Hay's place in the modern Gay movement, and rightly so.
A very dense book that gives great prespective about the life of a very complex person within Gay history. Simmon's overall focuses heavily on the the chronoligical history of Hay's life, meanwhile, I feel, not focusing as much on his philosphy. Nevertheless, builds up some ideas of Hay's motivations, struggles and history in context of the Mattachine Society, Radical Faeries and Harry's other involvement in social movement. Further, does not censor Hay's Marxist roots in activism and his membership within the communist party, which I find many other modern work about Hay, stay away from.
A thorough investigation of a fascinating character living through fascinating times. The book is marred only by the peculiar decision to spend as much time on the dull and irrelevant ups and downs of Hay's youthful romances as his historic work in the founding of the Mattachine Society and the Radical Faeries.
It's one of my most heavily recommended books on West Coast queer history, not because of writing quality but because it is so information-rich and, due to the Timmons' aforementioned lack of writing quality, it's accidentally extremely unfiltered. Here's what I wrote when I first read it:in the early mattachine days, after recieving minor newspaper publicity, some members voiced fear:"They'll think we're activists! We'll all get into trouble."---from stuart timmons' the trouble with harry haythroughout the book you can almost hear timmons drooling over hay. it's a frustrating read, as hay alternately shows himself pushing radical ideas as well as being complicit with the mainstream (such as when sue-ellen jacobs and he met in new mexico—they connected when he kept calling sue and her companion 'you girls', sue called him on it, and he realized she was a feminist). it's particularly frustrating to see the formation of the radical faeries built so heavily around uniting men around goddesses specifically. i understand that this is based heavily on the old idea that gay men were women in men's bodies (this is the world where transwomen were generally considered simply gay men with a shiny new toy, an extension of the bachelors' world) but even though nowadays that's generally considered archaic thought it's still performed: consider the gay men who refer to each other as 'she' yet ignore females, or give them only passing acknowledgement (aaron, we've talked about this).an interesting point for me, though, was how hay is constantly looking for the existence of gay men in history, particularly after taking the french term for a specific indigenous-north-american-mtf-shaman, and applying it to all men in any society who took on women's roles: According to Will Roscoe…"Harry attempted to make a historical materialist study of the emergence and development of gay roles. He saw, for example, that these men who did women's work were the first craft-specialists." To these specially trained homosexuals, Harry applied the general term "berdache." as pointed out already, hay was aware of feminism but it could hardly be said that he had a feminist mindset; therefore his apparent missing entirely the far more likely reason it was men and not women who became craft specialists is hardly surprising.the issue, in the end, is that hay was desperately trying to create a unified theory of homosexuality. by doing what he could to define a group of people who existed as a group simply to define those who were not them, he isolated other queers who did not fit his idea of The Homophile and turned his interpretation of homosexuality into a religion, one that prayed to goddesses and praised phalluses.mmm, appropriation rampant.that said, i still have plenty of respect for his willingness to criticize queer activism that he saw as too assimilationist, despite that often really meaning too heteronormative—criticizing non-flamboyant gay men for not being flamboyant, that sort of thing.
The trouble with Harry Hay is the trouble of history itself. Hay was, as are we all, a product of his time and place. When he was starting Mattachine in the early '50s, there was less of a sense of all "isms" being interconnected. The struggles of gays and those of racial minorities were not seen as linked, and the struggles of gay men were not seen as being the same as those of lesbians. Similiarly, the Radical Faeries were born at a time when we were less aware of the damage caused by cultural appropriation. So faulting Hay because Mattachine was made mostly of white gay men and because the Faeries because they borrowed so heavily from American Indian traditions makes an unfair assertion that he should have approached organizing in his time with the consciousness of our time. At the same time, neither would it be prudent of us to use Hay's model as the ultimate blueprint for gay organizing, which some still seem to want to do. Hay's quest for a unified theory of homosexuals both excluded many in the community and promoted the conformity he'd so long fought against in straight society. To paraphrase Isaac Newton, if we have seen farther than others, it is because we were standing on the shoulders of giants. In The Trouble with Harry Hay, Stuart Timmons does a very good job of showing us what a giant Hay was, and how broad were his shoulders; however, once we're standing on them, we can clearly see how much farther there is to go.
I don't recall thinking this was a particularly well-written book, but it was nonetheless an interesting biography about Harry Hay, a man who took lessons learned from unionism, and used them to organize gay men and women during the Mattachine movement of the 1950s. This was also the book that launched my Will Geer obsession (which is now, thankfully, in remission).
Detailed, intriguing, satisfying.
A great life, with many great stories that shine through despite the lousy editing.