Call for Proposals: Radically Gay: The Life & Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay

September 27-30, 2012, New York City

In celebration of the centennial of the birth of LGBT pioneer Harry Hay, CLAGS (the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at CUNY) and the Harry Hay Centennial Committee invite proposals for a broad-reaching conference exploring key facets of LGBT life and their evolution over the last six decades.

Harry Hay’s life and his impact on LGBT history and culture were extraordinary, and the range of his activities was terrifically diverse. In the 1930s and ’40s, his involvement in progressive politics, avant-garde art, and the Communist Party all shaped and influenced his formulation of the idea that LGBT people were a distinct “cultural minority” who needed to become conscious of themselves as a people and organize for their own liberation. With that insight, he co-founded the Mattachine Society in the 1950s and helped launch the modern LGBT liberation movement. He was an organizer of the first Radical Faerie gathering in 1979 and remained an active participant and inspirational figure in LGBT movements until his death in 2002. In addition, as a gay activist Hay committed himself to a larger progressive agenda, working in the anti-war movement, on behalf of Native Peoples, and within Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. As an intellectual, Hay devoted himself to anthropological and historical research about the origins and meaning of LGBT lives, social roles and consciousness. His research focused particular energy on two-spirit people among Native Americans and matrilineal cultures.

Given this rich array of interests, the conference organizers seek to gather scholars, public intellectuals, activists, students, and artists who will take inspiration from Hay’s life and ideas in order to think together about several strands of LGBT living. In particular, the conference will explore four central themes inspired by and reflective of Hay’s life and times: LGBT arts, political activism, spirituality and sexual identities.

We welcome proposals for full panels, individual research papers, artistic presentations, and “state of the debate” discussions. While some of the conference presentations can focus on Hay himself, we very much encourage proposals that explore and debate how the questions raised and confronted by Hay have continued to evolve. To that end, papers may be historical, theoretical, contemporary or future-oriented and may address, but need not be limited to, any of the following thematic topics:


  • Significance of Mattachine and homophile political groups, their evolution, and relation to gay liberation activism
  • Importance (or not) of homophile and other LGBT political leaders
  • Sexuality on the Left
  • LGBT radicalism and separatism vs mainstream politics and assimilation
  • Coalition-building vs single-issue politics
  • Youth as a political constituency
  • Assessing LGBT organizing strategies and utopian goals
  • Mapping an LGBT agenda for the 21st-century


  • Historical, cultural, and religious aspects of the Radical Faerie movement
  • LGBT perspectives on religion, theology, and spirituality
  • LGBT influence on, and conflicts with, mainstream and alternative religions
  • Linking the spiritual and the sexual
  • Politics of spirituality
  • Connections to the natural world
  • Queer mysticism, shamanism and spiritual practice
  • Ancient roots of queer spirituality
  • Native Peoples’ spiritualities


  • Harry Hay’s artistic world: John Cage, Will Geer, Lester Horton, Leftist theater, etc.
  • Past/present fears of LGBT artistic power (e.g. 1950s “homintern”)
  • Representations of LGBT lives in contemporary/historical popular culture
  • Past/present uses of art as tool of LGBT political activism (e.g. Gran Fury)
  • Role of folk & popular music for political organizing (e.g. People’s Song)
  • LGBT contributions to 20th-century avant-garde and popular arts
  • Defining a queer aesthetic sensibility
  • Studies of specific significant queer artists


  • The evolving identities of LGBT/Queer/Questioning/Hetero-flexible/Trans People and others
  • The meaning of gender in the LGBT world
  • Homophile ¬≠Gay Queer: differences, overlaps, and relations
  • Lesbians & Gay men: past/present/future alliances and cleavages
  • Class and socioeconomic issues within LGBT organizing
  • Transgender inclusions/exclusions
  • Queer archetypes
  • Meaning of “gay consciousness”
  • Identity as “natural,” “historical,” or “learned”
  • Two-spirit tradition and alternative gender roles in non-Western cultures
  • The future of sexual identities

For each paper proposed, please submit a 300-word abstract and a 2-page CV for the presenter. If you wish to propose a 3 or 4 person panel, please submit a separate abstract & CV for each paper, and an additional abstract of the panel. All proposals should be sent to Daniel Hurewitz at daniel.hurewitz(at) by January 31, 2012, with “Hay Centennial” in the subject line. You can also visit the conference webpage to submit proposals at:

We may have space to display/screen some artworks and present some performances along the thematic lines above: if that interests you, please email Daniel Hurewitz at the address above and submit a handful of images or performance selections either as a zip file, downloadable file, or DVD by January 31, 2012. If the latter, please send to Daniel Hurewitz, c/o CLAGS, 365 Fifth Avenue, Room 7115, New York NY 10016