The Daily Agenda for Thursday, September 27
September 27th, 2012
Radically Gay: Centenary of Harry Hay: New York, NY. This year is the centenary of Harry Hay (see Apr 7), founder of the Mattachine Society, which became the first successful organization for gay men (and, sometimes, women). A former member of the Communist Party in the late 1930s, he became involved with union organizing and promoting civil rights for African-Americans. In 1948, he conceived of the idea of creating a gay activist group, and while his first effort failed to attract a following, his second attempt, in 1950, bore fruit when the Mattachine Society was birthed on November 11, 1950 in his home in Silver Lake, California. The new group’s success however exceeded his grasp; newer members were more conservative than him, and they feared that his past ties with the Communist party (which he had left because it didn’t allow gay members) would bring the government’s hammer down on the organization. In 1953, Hay was forced out of the Mattachines, and after a period of exile and study, he re-emerged in the early 1960s to devote the rest of his life to developing, promoting and personifying a radical gay identity.
In observance of Hay’s centenary, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studys at the City University of New York today kicks off a four-day conference called “Radically Gay: The Life and Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay” exploring Hay’s controversial life and ideas, and his impact on the LGBT movement that he pioneered. The conference is organized around four major themes — the arts, political activism, spirituality and sexual identities — and includes panels, lectures, films, and live performances from scholars, activists, and artists, exploring the growth and development of LGBT life in the 60-some years since Hay founded the modern LGBT movement. The conference begins this evening at 7:00 p.m. at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave in Manhattan.
Other Events This Weekend: Get Wet, Willemstad, Curaçao; Everybody’s Perfect LGBTIQ Film Festival, Geneva Switzerland; Queer Lisboa Film Festival, Lisbon, Portugal; Queer Fest 2012, St. Petersburg, Russia.
TODAY IN HISTORY:
Six men pilloried in London for Homosexuality: 1810. In early 19th century Britain, the penalty for homosexuality was death. If a judge felt lenient, he might instead sentence the accused to stand time at the pillory. The September 27, 1810 entry in the Annual Register describes the pillorying of six members of what we might describe today as a gay hangout known as the Vere Street Club. That description goes like this:
Such was the degree of popular indignation excited against these wretches, and such the general eagerness to witness their punishment, that, by ten in the morning, the chief avenues from Clerkenwell Prison and Newgate to the place of punishment were crowded with people; and the multitude assembled in the Haymarket, and all its immediate vicinity, was so great as to render the streets impassible. All the windows and even the very roofs of the houses were crowded with persons of both sexes; and every coach, waggon, hay-cart, dray, and other vehicles which blocked up great part of the street, were crowded with spectators.
The Sheriffs, attended by two City Marshals, with an immense number of constables, accompanied the procession of the Prisoners from Newgate, whence they set out in the transport caravan, and proceeded through Fleet-street and the Strand; and the Prisoners were hooted and pelted the whole way by the populace. At one o- clock four of the culprits were fixed in the pillory, erected for and accommodated to the occasion, with two additional wings, one being allotted for each criminal; and immediately a new torrent of popular vengeance poured upon them from all sides. The day being fine, the streets were dry and free from mud, but the dfect was speedily and amply supplied by the butchers of St. James’s-market. Numerous escorts of whom constantly supplied the party of attack, chiefly consisting of women, with tubs of blood, garbage, and ordure from their slaughter-houses, and with this ammunition, plentifully diversified with dead cats, turnips, potatoes, addled eggs, and other missiles, the criminals were incessantly pelted to the last moment. They walked perpetually round during their hour [the pillory swivelled on a fixed axis]; and although from the four wings of the machine they had some shelter, they were completely encrusted with filth.
Two wings of the Pillory were then taken off to place Cooke and Amos in the two remaining ones, and although they came in only for the second course, they had no reason to complain of short allowance, for they received even a more severe discipline than their predecessors. On their being taken down and replaced in the caravan, they lay flat in the vehicle; but the vengeance of the crowd still pursued them back to Newgate, and the caravan was so filled with mud and ordure as completely to cover them.
No interference from the Sheriffs and Police officers could refrain the popular rage; but notwithstanding the immensity of the multitude, no accident of any note occurred.
The six men were relatively lucky. Depending on the ferocity of the crowd, death at the pillory wasn’t out of the question. The pillory was formally abolished in England in 1837.
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