Tag Archives: Harvey Milk

Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day.

17 Mar

Few words capture the mind’s attention quite like “I’m gay.” And for many, these words are the product of years of soul-searching that culminate with two, indisputably significant words.

Coming out. It’s a sure-fire conversation-starter and, depending on the situation, guaranteed to be an emotional heart-to-heart. This moment in a gay person’s life can be a hugely defining point, and with such weight and emphasis placed on those two transformative words, can also be a validation of one’s uniqueness and help usher in a new, more transparent (and hopefully a happier) stage in life.

No two coming out stories are the same. Some are planned, others are accidental. It may be the inevitable conversation you’ve been putting off for years, searching your brain for the right time and the right place, only to discover there is no right time and there is no right place. Coming out may be wrought with tears of joy or sadness, and a loving embrace can sometimes speak louder than any words ever will.

You may even inspire someone you’ll never know.

We’re told being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. Sometimes the bravest things we do are also the scariest. We spend so much time trying to control the uncontrollable, when the best solution may be letting go of the unknown and embracing your truth.

Your story is unique to you. It is who you are. Your path, your experiences, they’re all strokes of a brush that make up a beautifully complex painting. And that’s something worthy of being proud about.

You coming out is the single most powerful tool you have to change a heart and a mind. Imagine the world we could live in if we didn’t feel the need to conceal who we are. Imagine you finally getting the chance to be you.

We all have a voice. And, yeah. I’m gay.

I strongly encourage you all to read this article, too: I dreaded coming out to my parents

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Keeping Sight

9 Mar

One week ago, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Westboro Baptist’s funeral protests. It was a landmark ruling in defense of the First Amendment, and it was also the right decision. “The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like,” Justice Kennedy wrote in a concurring opinion for 1989’s Texas v. Johnson flag-burning case. “We make them because they are right.”

With signs that read “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, you’d be hard pressed to find even the coldest of hearts who would defend the utterly deplorable cesspool that is Fred Phelps and his Westboro thugs. But as much as we hate to admit it to ourselves, there remains a fundamental right to free speech that must be protected even in the most distasteful of occurrences. “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment,” Justice Brennan wrote in Texas v. Johnson’s majority opinion, “it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Brennan goes on to write that to “punish those who feel differently about these matters” is not right. “It is to persuade them that they are wrong.”

Today, 86 openly gay state legislators are doing just that. These brave and courageous men and women have stepped out of the closet and into the public spotlight to give voice to an underrepresented and sometimes invisible population. They do not seek to attack those whose beliefs differ from their own, their battle wages on day-to-day as they work to change the hearts and minds of their co-workers and constituents.

Fortunately, these legislators are not alone in their struggle as countless other LGBT-friendly lawmakers work tirelessly in this war over civil rights. But the existence of openly gay legislators impacts the lawmaking process in profound ways, as evidenced in Illinois and Hawaii where LGBT representatives led the way in making civil unions a reality. Similar efforts are taking place in Maryland, Rhode Island, and New York to legalize same-sex marriage. “For my colleagues, knowing that I am not allowed to marry the person that I love and want to marry, that’s very powerful,” said Tom Duane, a senator from New York who will soon sponsor a marriage equality bill. “It’s more difficult for them to take for granted the right they have to marry when I don’t have it.”

A mere five African American representatives served in Congress to see the passage of 1964’s transformational Civil Rights Act. A total of 131 African Americans have served in Congressional history, 71% of those coming after 1970. The increased presence of African Americans in elected office helped further the momentum of the civil rights era, and in 1977 Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. Speaking in regards to gay youth across the country, Milk said, “the only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.”

In this transitionary period of gay rights that we live in, it is vital that we elect more openly gay or LGBT friendly leaders into office. It’s time to be honest with our legislators: If you wish to stand in the way of progress, so be it. But our voices will be heard resoundingly through the ballot box, and those who impede change will soon be replaced with voices of reason and understanding.

“If a bullet should enter my brain,” Milk once said in the event of his assassination, “let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.” More than three decades after Milk uttered these tragically fateful words, it’s time we live up to his legacy. This country needs another Harvey Milk. Many more.

It’s time for closeted legislators to come out and join the side of history.

It’s time we send a message to businesses who don’t think twice before donating to anti-gay candidates: enough is enough.

It’s time we shed those squeamish feelings of unease about what others may think.

It’s time to persuade them that they are wrong.

The ruling in favor of Westboro Baptist may be a discouraging development. Sometimes, the right decision isn’t always the morally justifiable decision. Detours that threaten to derail progress will come and go, but we mustn’t lose sight as to what this battle is really and truly all about: Love.

Sources:
Gay Legislators Having Impact In Marriage Debates
Black Americans in Congress

YouTube Sunday: Oscar Night

27 Feb

Harvey Milk

1 Feb

The debate over gay rights has long been a fixture of heated, highly emotional debates. The very title of this blog pays homage to The Castro, a San Francisco neighborhood widely seen as the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement. And during the 1960s, a closeted insurance salesman living in New York City left his job and drove cross nation to San Francisco. Figuratively and literally leaving behind his previous life, Harvey Milk was about to embark on a new journey whose impact still exists today.

Harvey Milk, who would come to be affectionately known as ‘The Mayor of Castro Street’, rose to prominence as an openly gay man venturing into politics in a stand for equal rights. Having successfully organized a boycott against beer distributors in gay bars across The Castro over demands that the distributors hire more gay truck drivers, Harvey was giving voice to an increasingly discriminated against minority population. Harvey brought to a boil all the unrest and frustration that had long existed but up until then lacked organization and a persuasive call to action.

Harvey’s foray into politics became as much about the issue of homosexuality as it was a historic rise for an openly gay man. Early on, his campaigns and debates with opponents often revolved around dispelling prejudicial stereotypes that had long been perpetuated. Harvey’s mission to get all gay persons, young and old, to come out of the closet struck a national chord. It was the idea that if more people came out to their friends and family, it would create an environment where denying the community equal rights would become increasingly personal and harder to do. Harvey said, “It’s too good an opportunity. For once we can show that gays do heroic things, not just all that ca-ca about molesting children and hanging out in bathrooms.”

Running for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors and representing the Castro District, Harvey Milk in 1977 became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. After living in the closet for most of his life, Harvey’s revolutionary stand for equality sparked a nationwide stir and paved the way for a modern day activist movement that would alter the path of this country’s history.

Harvey died fighting for what he believed in, and his legacy lives on today. Incremental steps of progress have taken place at a judicial and legislative level, but change has yet to come from the ballot box, and more must be done. The movement that Harvey brought to national attention remains controversial and a source of genuine debate and argument. But there still remain those who use fear-mongering and seek to exploit this wedge issue in a ploy for more votes. It arguably aided George W. Bush win re-election in 2004, and social issues such as gay rights remain a rallying call for the conservative base. We must not let those individuals hijack the conversation and use their crusade against minority rights a cause for personal gain. It deteriorates the quality of conversation we could be having and serves as an insult to the memory of Harvey Milk.