Today is Harvey Milk Day! In tribute to this wonderful leader, I thought I would repost one of my earliest blog entries. Here is my post from January 10, 2009. If you have time, I encourage you to watch the Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk on hulu.
My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.
I just took in my second screening of Milk, and I thought I would take some time to talk about why, for me, Harvey Milk is very much a hero.
If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward – and I don’t want to walk backward.
Harvey Milk was one of the first individuals to stand up on behalf of the gay rights movement and demand equal rights and protection. He didn’t ask straight people in power to get equality for him, he wasn’t willing to wait for equality to be handed to him, and he didn’t try to hide who he was to make it easier to get them. He was Harvey Milk, he was gay, and he wanted equality, and he wanted it now.
I fully realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes the target or the potential target for a person who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed with themselves.
He knew what risks he was taking. He knew his life was on the line. But he believed in something extremely important: that not only is being gay normal, but it demands equal respect. We only get that respect when we make our non-heterosexual identities known and demand that our difference be understood and appreciated.
If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.
It’s been 30 years since Harvey was assassinated, and the same ignorant myths about same-sex orientations plague our society. Just like they were promoted by Anita Bryant, John Briggs, and “Christians” across this country then, Rick Warren and his fellow evangelical Christians, the pope and his Catholics, and the Mormons continue to spread lies, fear, hate, and ignorance about gay people, all in the name of God.
The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that my friends, is true perversion.
Sure, it is easy to say that things are better for gay people now then they were then. But in the grand scheme of things, nothing’s changed. The same arguments that won Prop 8 in 2008 were used to support Prop 6 in 1978. Gays recruit, our children are in danger, gays destroy the sanctity and morality, homosexuality is a choice, hate the sin and try to save the sinner. Anita Bryant said she loved us too.
It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.
The reality is… those beliefs about homosexuality hurt our society. They cause misunderstanding, which causes fear, which causes hate. Some people apply their hate to others, some apply it to themselves. By continuing to promote inequity based on something like sexual orientation, society only suffers, and there is over a century of persecution to prove it.
For Mr Briggs and Mrs. Bryant and Mr. Starr and all the bigots out there: That’s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration of Independence. No matter how hard you try, you cannot chip those words from off the base of the Statue of Liberty. And no matter how hard you try, you cannot sing the “Star Spangled Banner” without those words.
That’s what America is.
Love it or leave it.
We need to move forward. We need to get past the point in this country where religious bias determines public policy or public morality. Beliefs have too much power over our society, and they keep us from understanding and appreciating the magnificent diversity around us. We get nowhere by including the exclusive. We get nowhere by promoting the exclusive, catering to the exclusive, or being bullied by the exclusive. We need toeducate the exclusive, and no longer tolerate one’s beliefs as an excuse for ignorance.
And that’s all I ask. That’s all. I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow because last week, I got the phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all it’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power–it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvania’s hope. You gotta give them hope.”
Harvey Milk wasn’t perfect, but he was selfless. He showed us that we need to stand up for ourselves. We need to move forward. How could we have let 30 years pass and get nowhere? I cry when I see Milk not just because his death is sad, but because of the fact that I look around and wonder what he died for. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to stand up the way Harvey Milk did. I am tired of waiting for respect, waiting for rights, tolerating ignorance, pitying these poor “victims” of “religious intolerance.” It’s time we take a stand. Somebody needs to make sure the next 30 years are not as superficially progressive as the last. You can either help the cause or hurt it. Which path are you going to pick to define your life?
Hope is never silent.