He Said, He Said: Confusion Behind the Radical Faeries

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Carter, Rowan
Rains, Hailee
Phares, Morgan
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Scholarship Sewanee 2024 , University of the South , Radical Faeries , queer religion , queer studies , religious studies , cults , alternative religions
The Radical Faeries is a group founded in San Francisco, California in 1979 to cultivate gay consciousness, queer spirituality, and sexual practices. They derive many of their rituals from Neopagan and Native American traditions, potentially appropriating them as many members were white. After their initial meeting, they began to focus on living in communion in rural spaces liberating gay men from urban centers, and forming new communities focused on collective processes of self-discovery and ties to settled land. The Radical Faeries borrowed ideas from feminism, Marxism, and anarchism. The group originally only allowed members who were gay men but has shifted to include other genders and sexual identities. Founded by Harry Hay, Don Kilhefner, and Mitch Walker, there was a divide in the group about determining what the purpose or message of the movement would be. Part of the group wanted it to be more political while the others wanted it to be more spiritual. After being unable to determine their focus, the founders split with Mitch Walker leaving early on. They also could not agree on whether or not to use queer psychoanalysis in the development of their ideology. We look to clarify the history of the Radical Faeries using different perspectives, including interviews and writings from some of the group’s founders. We will also examine secondary sources from insiders and outsiders of the group that delve more deeply into the Radical Faeries’ practices, dynamics, and beliefs to comprehend the ambiguity behind the movement. We find differing understandings from each founder regarding the function of the group from its beginnings. We find that it stemmed from the different understandings of its initial goals. We find that the group’s beliefs and practices changed after the death of Harry Hay and as more gender and sexual identities were included in the Radical Faeries. This research is important because the study of queer religiosities is limited and we want to acknowledge that there is diversity in religious practices and spiritual beliefs. This is also important because one of the major queer religions has such a complex history.