In the 1950s, the Mattachine Society was formed by a small group of homosexual men. This was the start of the gay liberation movement.
The very first “gay meeting” happened in an apartment, behind closed curtains and locked doors, with a lookout, because they believed that they could be arrested for talking about gay issues.
In 1948, Harry Hay thought up the idea of a gay activist group. He took it upon himself to sign a petition for a Progressive Party after speaking with a group of gay men at a party about starting a gay support group called the “Bachelors for Wallace”. This was the start to a long effort to form the society. The men he spoke with were less enthusiastic the following morning so Hay took it upon himself for the next two years to create his dream. He planned an organization much like Alcoholics Anonymous called “Bachelors Anonymous”. After partnering with Rudi Gernreich in an effort to start and hold meetings for the “Society of Fools” which is now known as the Mattachine Society. Mattachine’s membership grew slowly over the years and gained financial support and volunteers due to publicity of police entrapment of homosexual men.
Goals and Achievements
This society was formed as a group of male friends in LA. Its goal was to improve as well as protect the rights of gay men everywhere. It sure lived up to its name. Branches of the society began to form in other cities and soon it became 1961 when the Mattachine Society became a regional occurrence with groups forming all over the world. The party was formed in efforts to 'unify homosexuals isolated from their own kind', 'Educate homosexuals and heterosexuals toward an ethical homosexual culture paralleling the cultures of the Negro, Mexican and Jewish peoples', 'Lead the more socially conscious homosexual to provide leadership to the whole mass of social variants', and to 'Assist gays who are victimized daily as a result of oppression'.
This society was the first opportunity that many gay men had to meet other gay men in a social setting. There even were two magazines published for gay people, called "Mattachine Review" and "One."
Each issue that was published by the Mattachine Society included a series of original essays on homosexual experience, scientific studies related to homosexuality, and more "true facts of the Mattachine Society and the place of the sex varient in the life of the community"
Some of the influential people who were members of the Mattachine society include Harry Hay, Frank Kameny, Dale Jennings, Dick Leitsch, Hal Call (President and magazine editor), Madeline Davis, Jack Nichols, and Devlyn Camp.
- Harry Hay - American gay rights activist, communist, and labor advocate. He was a co-founder of the Mattachine Society.
- Frank Kameny - American gay rights activist who has been referred to as "one of the most significant figures" in the American gay rights movement.
- Dale Jennings - American LGBT rights activist, playwright and author.
- Dick Leitsch - American LGBT rights activist. He was the president of the Mattachine Society in the 1960s.
- Hal Call - another President and a magazine editor as well.
- Madeline Davis - American LGBT activist and historian. In 1970, she was a founding member of the Mattachine Society.
- Jack Nichols - American gay rights activist. He co-founded the Washington, D.C., branch of the Mattachine Society in 1961.
- Devlyn Camp - host and producer of the 10-episode "Mattachine" podcast, which charts gay history.
- Rudi Gernreich - a fashion designer who, “used fashion design as a social statement to advance sexual freedom, producing clothes that followed the natural form of the female body, freeing them from the constraints of high fashion”
Harry Hay’s drive and confidence in the group/society formation as a whole was a main reason that the Mattachine Society became what it is today.