60 years ago today, in Los Angeles, California, Harry Hay held the very first meeting of the Mattachine Society. In 1948, Hay had written a very shocking letter declaring homosexuals an oppressed minority. At the time, this concept of homosexuals as a minority was unheard of, but it has become the basis of the present-day LGBT movement.
On November 11, 1950, Hay, his lover Rudi Gernreich, and friends Dale Jennings and lovers Bob Hull and Chuck Rowland got together for the first meeting of what would become known as one of the country’s first gay rights organizations. The men used aliases at the time to protect their lives and their livelihood.
The organization was fairly quiet and all its members anonymous until Jennings was arrested in 1952 for lewd behavior in a Los Angeles park. Usually when this happened, men would plead guilty and try to piece their lives back together after all was said and done. The organization publicized the event as an opportunity to fight police entrapment. Jennings admitted he was gay during the trial and the jury was deadlocked, and the arresting officers were caught in a lie by the judge, leaving Jennings a free man.
The Mattachine Society grew into a national movement, and in conjunction with a lesbian organization, the Daughters of Bilitis, became the above ground civil rights organizations for gays and lesbians until the Stonewall riot in 1969. The final Mattachine Society office closed in the 1980s.
Thanks to HarryHay.com for the source information and photo.