Harry Hay, one of the forefathers of the modern gay rights movement, died early Thursday morning in San Francisco. He was 90 years old. There was no immediate information available about cause of death, but he is reported to have been diagnosed with inoperable cancer last month.
Hay, who was born April 7, 1912, in England, moved to Los Angeles when he was a child. He joined the Communist Party in 1934 and became a "homophile" activist in the 1940s. He helped form one of the first gay rights organizations, the Mattachine Society, on November 11, 1950. Although he broke with the group several years later, Hay was involved in U.S. gay and human rights activism for years. Together with his longtime companion, John Burnside, in 1979 Hay launched the Radical Faerie counterculture movement, which celebrated the uniqueness of the gay and lesbian spirit.
"We pulled ugly green frog skin of heterosexual conformity over us, and that's how we got through school with a full set of teeth," Hay once explained. "We know how to live through their eyes. We can always play their games, but are we denying ourselves by doing this? If you're going to carry the skin of conformity over you, you are going to suppress the beautiful prince or princess within you."