100 Heroes: James Gruber

The gay man who helped establish the LGBTQ equality movement.

100 Heroes: James Gruber

James Gruber was a teacher and prominent gay rights activist.

Early life

Gruber was born in 1928 in Iowa.

In 1946, when he turned 18, Gruber enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He was honourably discharged in 1949.

Following his time in the Marines, Gruber studied English Literature at college in Los Angeles.


In Los Angeles, Gruber began a relationship with Konrad Stevens.

Gruber and Stevens attended a meeting of an early homophile organisation – then called the Society of Fools. Gruber and Stevens joined the group in April 1951 and became part of the Fifth Order – the group’s central leadership.

Following a conversation with co-founder Harry Hay about Medieval masque troops known as mattachines, Gruber suggested changing the group’s name from Society of Fools to Mattachine Society.

In 1960, Gruber moved to Palo Alto where he pursued a teaching career.


Gruber died in 2011, at his home in Santa Clara.

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