MASQUERADE (Mattachine Society)
White line woodcut and toner transfer
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Edition: 3 (variable)
This woodcut is part of a series of prints based on the shape of a triangle celebrating various organizations that helped move gay rights forward in the U.S. during the later 20th century.
The first 'homophile' group in the United States was the Mattachine Society, founded in 1950 in Los Angeles by Marxist political activist Harry Hay and a small group of his friends. Given the anti-homosexual and anti-communist climate in the U.S. in the 1950s, anonymity was integral to the group during its formative years. (You can see the FBI's files on Mattachine here.) The name, Mattachine, came from a French masque group called the "Société Mattachine." As Hay related to Jonathan Katz in the book Gay American History,
These societies, lifelong secret fraternities of unmarried townsmen who never performed in public unmasked, were dedicated to going out into the countryside and conducting dances and rituals during the Feast of Fools, at the Vernal Equinox. Sometimes these dance rituals, or masques, were peasant protests against oppression—with the maskers, in the people’s name, receiving the brunt of a given lord’s vicious retaliation. So we took the name Mattachine because we felt that we 1950s Gays were also a masked people, unknown and anonymous, who might become engaged in morale building and helping ourselves and others, through struggle, to move toward total redress and change.The Society's stated goals were to bring together homosexuals isolated from their own kind; to educate society toward an ethical homosexual culture paralleling other minorities; and to assist victimized gays. Like its sister group, Daughters of Bilitis, Mattachine Society chapters were loosely affiliated under a national umbrella, but functionally autonomous, and chapters cropped up across the country. The Society struggled, as the LGBTQ community still does, with the sometimes conflicting goals of celebrating gay sexuality vs. seeking acceptance and respectability. The Society lasted in one form or another into the 1990s, but in the late 1960s they began to be seen as too traditional and not willing enough to be confrontational.
Although contemporary LGBTQ people mark Stonewall as the beginning of gay liberation, the Mattachine Society, and to a lesser degree the Daughters of Bilitis, had already been engaged for two decades in a struggle against police raids, entrapment, censorship, criminalization of sexuality, and labeling by psychiatric organizations.
I used the same matrix for this print as I used for the previous Daughters of Bilitis print.