In 1979 the Radical Faerie movement was sprang into existence as the brainchild of long time gay rights activist Harry Hay who was instrumental in the formation of the Mattachine Society. Over the course of around three weeks, Hay, his partner, and a small group of a handful of other men canvassed the areas they lived and worked in handing out simple fliers printed on a mimeograph which stated “Spiritual Conference of Radical Faeries” with an assortment of following messages aimed at piquing enough interest to get people curious enough to attend their spiritual healing and self discovery meeting. While it was slow going and the initial attendance was low, about 200 men, word spread and a movement was born.
It is undeniable that throughout history in certain societies, at least briefly, certain segments of the LGBT community were once held in high esteem manning the positions of healers, shaman, priests, and those known as the “wizened ones.” Even in early African tribal culture those we would identify as gay or tansgender had recognized roles in society. In general men that would be considered gender queer today were often called “Auntie Uncles” and functioned much as women did tending the village and children rather than men that participated in the hunt. Some gat women proved their value taking on a masculine role. What they understood that we often forget today is that the spirit of a person defined them far better than the sum of their body parts.
The Radical Faerie movement was a call to reawakening the public consciousness to this seemingly simple concept. It was as much about healing society as whole and creating a harmonious unit as it was serving some perceived gay agenda. As Stuart Timmons a member of the Radical Faeries who penned the book The Trouble with Harry Hay, the Radical Faeries are “a networking of gentle men devoted to the principles of ecology, spiritual truth, and, in New Age terms, gay-centeredness.'”
The Radical Faeries operate in a manner which is most often associated to 60’s style hippie beliefs, Native American and Pagan religious ritual based on the celebration of the equinoxes, seasons, and the celebration of Mother Earth. As such the word faerie which symbolizes those ideas was chosen as a self descriptive term rather than fairy which held negative societal implications at that time. with these ideals in mind Hay preached it was time for gays and transgenders to transform society rather than simply accept it as is and assimilate at the cost of their self identity.
Since Hay’s passing in 2002 the movement has slowed and it is felt by some may be passing as well. As secular “tribes” practice in so many different ways and no strong figurehead has ever truly replaced Hay their is no longer the cohesion that once existed. This is in large part to the founding mantra that the only rule was that there are no rules as well as changing attitudes among the younger generation of today. As founding and senior members pass away or simply fade away fewer people are there to take their place. While a new tribe does still form on occasion, the only connection to their predecessors is often found in name alone. Sadly at a mere thirty years old the movement has slowed and may be passing itself.