Harry Hay: Pioneering Gay Communist, Former Catholic

As a gleeful gaggle of the nature-redefining left celebrates the one-year anniversary of the horrific Obergefell decision, which magically discovered—nay, invented—a “constitutional right” to same-sex “marriage” in all 50 states, there is a name that likewise deserves recognition. It is a name that will not be mentioned but merits some credit in the secular left’s ongoing grand attempt to redefine marriage, family, sexuality, gender, and, in essence, human nature. That name is Harry Hay.

Most readers here (or elsewhere) have not heard of Harry Hay. One among many disturbing figures in my book, Takedown, I cannot here summarize everything about the man, but I would like to share some things of fundamental importance and special interest to Catholics particularly (and orthodox Christians generally), many of whom will be scandalized by what they read.

I would rarely cite Wikipedia, but here it’s worth quoting because it usually goes easy on leftists like Harry Hay, but this time has Hay exactly right. The Wikipedia entry states accurately: “Hay was a prominent American gay rights activist, communist, pro-pedophilia activist (NAMBLA), and … founder of the Mattachine Society, the first sustained gay rights group in the United States, as well as the Radical Faeries, a loosely-affiliated gay spiritual movement.” Among these, NAMBLA is the infamous North American Man/Boy Love Association.

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That’s one radical resume.

To quote from the subtitle of the definitive biography by author Stuart Timmons, Hay was no less than the “founder of the modern gay movement.”

Hay was extremely active in the homosexual lifestyle from an early age. His biographer writes of Hay’s “sexual flurry” in his early twenties. Hay himself said that he had “two or three affairs a day between 1932 and 1936.” This is a rather incredible physical feat, though not unprecedented among homosexual men. It would equate to nearly a thousand sexual encounters per year by Hay, and at a time when homosexuals were hiding in the closet. The closet apparently did little to contain Harry’s ability to act proficiently on his urges.

Hay was a homosexual before he was a communist. He was brought into the communist movement by one of his dearest lovers, actor Will Geer, who readers will know as “Grandpa Walton” from the hit 1970s TV show, “The Waltons.” “I was madly in love with Bill,” said Hay of Geer. Geer was a sexual-political mentor to Hay. Will Geer actually mentored Harry into the Communist Party. He brought Harry Hay from the homosexual orbit into the communist orbit.

This eventually carried Harry into the bosom of Communist Party USA, which was not a hospitable place for homosexuals for a number of reasons, primarily because of their susceptibility to blackmail.

Thus, Harry left CPUSA and in 1950 joined a group of homosexual communists in forming the so-called Mattachine Society, the pioneering organization of gay communists. From there, Hay did remarkable work in spreading both gay-rights propaganda and communist propaganda and forging the two under a mighty left-wing rainbow umbrella that would revolutionize what we now called the wider “LGBTQ” movement. (Actually, writers at People’s World, flagship publication of Communist Party USA, have now started using the term “LGBTQIA.”) The likes of Hay have been extremely influential in (among other things) changing the culture in a way that has allowed for such fundamental transformations as the redefinition of marriage in America as well as sexuality.

For example, Hay had an intriguing influence on Barack Obama’s controversial Safe Schools Czar Kevin Brett Jennings (remember him?). In October 1997, at a Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) conference, Jennings pointed to Harry Hay as a literal inspiration. “One of the people that’s always inspired me is Harry Hay,” said Jennings.

Obama-like, Kevin Jennings sees Harry Hay as an inspiring model for “change.” All of them—Obama, Jennings, Hay—styled themselves as (to borrow from a favorite term of Weather Underground bomber and Obama pal Bill Ayers) “change agents.”

In a March 2000 speech on “tolerance,” delivered at a church, Jennings made a cutting but shrewd and prophetic observation: “Twenty percent of people are hard-core, fair-minded [pro-homosexual] people. Twenty percent are hard-core [anti-homosexual] bigots. We need to ignore the hard-core bigots, get more of the hard-core, fair-minded people to speak up, and we’ll pull that 60 percent [in the middle] over to our side.”

Painful as that statement is, Jennings is exactly right. And right now, gay activists are winning that 60 percent in the middle. It explains their ongoing gay-marriage triumph among the masses. In fact, their success and confidence is such that right now they are not ignoring the 20 percent who oppose them but, instead, taking them to court, bullying and boycotting them, dehumanizing and demonizing them, and seeking to ruin and destroy them.

In short, this was the individual that Barack Obama, our first Gay-Marriage President, our President of Fundamental Transformation who literally illuminated the White House in rainbow colors in celebrating the Supreme Court’s marriage-redefinition mandate, appointed as his Safe Schools Czar and as a deputy at the U.S. Department of Education. And he points to Harry Hay as an inspiration.

That’s Harry Hay in a nutshell. I could say much more, but that’s the essence.

Alas, of special interest to this audience, one thing you will not hear in many discussions of Hay is that he was a disaffected Catholic. He was raised Catholic, attending St. Gregory Catholic Church on Ninth and Norton Streets in Los Angeles.

His biographer writes of Easter Sunday 1927, when Harry attended his twice-yearly confession with other parishioners. Like his father, Harry wasn’t “particularly religious to begin with,” though he did attend Mass every Sunday. On this day, Harry sat for confession with the priest, Father Follen (whose first name is not provided by Timmons). The priest apparently knew from another boy in the church, who Harry had been kissing, that the two had been doing something not permitted. Harry finished his confession with no mention of this transgression. The priest pressed Harry to confess. He asked Harry, “Have you finished?” When Harry assured Father Follen that he had finished, the priest snapped at him, “You have not!”

The priest demanded that Harry admit his guilt and repent. Harry refused. “I wasn’t sorry, and there was nothing for me to confess,” he explained later. The priest reached around the confessional, grabbed Harry by the collar and the belt, marched him to the front of the cathedral, and then pushed him out of the church, kicking open the door. “Don’t you come back until you are ready to say you’re sorry,” he allegedly barked.

Harry never did. At age 15, he left the church for good. He had enough.

Harry would, however, return to the parish occasionally as a musician in college during the Great Depression, but only to play an occasional Mass. This would give the priest another crack at Harry, but in a different way. “From the pulpit, Father Fallon would thank me for the music, and then invite me to the sacristy,” said Hay, “where we would finish off the sacramental wine. Then the old hypocrite would chase me around the table. But I never let him catch me.”

If this account is accurate, then it speaks volumes and gives Catholics much to think about.

I do not know for certain where Harry Hay stood on the Church at the end of his life, but I sense it wasn’t very positive. His earlier experiences disgusted him, and by adulthood, he was gone.

Either way, today’s America is Harry Hay’s America. The homosexual lifestyle is not only openly accepted but wildly celebrated, and those who stand in the way of the Gay Juggernaut in our fundamentally transformed nation are steamrolled for their “intolerance” and “hatred.” From the redefinition of marriage and gender to the demonization and destruction of those who dare to oppose the “LGBTQ” lifestyle, Harry Hay and his pioneering gay communists would be smiling proudly.


  • Paul Kengor

    Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of the Center for Vision and Values. He is the author, most recently, of The Devil and Karl Marx (TAN Books, 2020). He is also the editor of The American Spectator.

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