Margaret and Harry Hay Residence | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Laura Dominguez/L.A. Conservancy

Margaret and Harry Hay Residence

Born on April 7, 1912 in Worthing, England, Harry Hay is often regarded as the father of the LGBTQ rights movement. He achieved national prominence in 1950 when he co-founded the Mattachine Society, one of the first homophile (gay rights) organizations in the country.

The Mattachine Society held its early meetings in the Hollywood Hills home that Harry had commissioned for his mother, Margaret Hay, in 1939. The International Style house was designed by modernist Gregory Ain, whom Hay selected due to both men's ties to the Communist Party. Because of the political nature of the group, the FBI kept the property under surveillance.

In 1969, Hay co-founded the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), shortly after the Stonewall uprising in New York. While with the GLF, he helped to organize the "Gay-ins" at the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.

As a loosely structured organization, the GLF espoused a counterculture framework that contrasted the more conservative and hierarchical underpinnings of the Mattachine Society.

Later in life, Hay remained an activist and was involved in causes ranging from ending Apartheid in South Africa to Reverend Jesse Jackson's National Rainbow Coalition. Hay died in 2002.

In 1919, Harry Hay and his family moved to Los Angeles after his father was involved in an industrial accident.

After graduating from school in 1929 and working for the legal firm Haas and Dunnigan, Hay became involved with the cruising scene at Pershing Square. Through the men he met in the park, Hay learned about the underground nature of LGBTQ life, culture, and society.

Despite his connections to the local gay community, Hay succumbed to social pressures and married Anita Platky in 1938, whom he had met through his involvement with the Communist Party. The couple moved to New York the same year.

In 1940, Hay and Platky moved back to Los Angeles and settled in Silver Lake. Within a few years, their marriage ended, and Hay began exploring the idea of forming a homosexual activist organization.

In 1950, Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Chuck Rowland, Dale Jennings, and Bob Hull came together to form the Mattachine Society. The name was derived from medieval French secret societies, who, under the protection of masks, were free to criticize the monarchy.

Structurally, the organization was modeled after the Communist Party and fraternal brotherhoods such as the Free Masons. At first, membership in the Mattachine Society grew slowly, but things changed in 1952 with the arrest of co-founder Dale Jennings at MacArthur Park.

Jennings was famously arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer. His trial brought national attention to the Mattachine Society, and membership to the society grew rapidly following his acquittal.

Despite the organization's newfound prominence, Hay left the society in 1953 but remained involved in LGBTQ advocacy efforts.

Harry Hay left a tremendous legacy within the gay rights movement in Los Angeles, which can be seen throughout contemporary LGBTQ history.

As America's first homophile organization, the Mattachine Society laid the ground work for other advocacy organizations, such as the Gay Liberation Front, the Daughters of Bilitis, and publications such as The Advocate.

The Mattachine Society was also responsible for supporting influential medical professionals such as Dr. Evelyn Hooker, whose research was responsible for invalidating the commonly held theory that homosexuality was a severe mental and emotional disorder that resulted from adult maladjustment. 

Hay's career as an activist was far reaching, from his role in ending the ban on non-heterosexuals serving in the military to advocating to end homophobic violence in northern New Mexico.  

He was also a vocal critic of key aspects of the modern LGBTQ rights movement, including ACT UP's tactics for LGBTQ acceptance and AIDS fundraising and research.

Photo by Flora Chou/L.A. Conservancy

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