Hats off to Harvey!

harvey milk

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”
-Harvey Milk

The ticket price is worth seeing Milk. For me, it was personally moving to see a serious film treatment of the struggle for gay rights. Though the movie was not completely historically accurate, the narrative is inspiring, the acting good, and Harvey’s personality just leaps off the screen.

Kudos Sean Penn, Gus Van Sant, James Franco, Emile Hirsch and the rest.

Harvey Milk was of course an imperfect man, but there is much to admire in his life. The way he pushed people to stand up and fight for their own rights, the decision to be an openly gay politician, his collaboration with other communities, the dedication of his life to improving his gay community and winning equal rights.

For me, I admire his decision to be out and to never hide the fact that the rights he was championing were gay rights. In the film there is a scene where some politicians and community leaders are examining a campaign flyer against Prop 6, which if passed would ban gays from teaching. Nowhere on the flyer are gays mentioned. The established gay leadership feels it is best to stay in the closet, both personally, and regarding who is actually affected by Prop 6. Harvey adamantly disagrees with this approach. He wants gays to have equal rights as gays, not because politicians can convince the straight majority that the law would be bad on other merits. He insists that discrimination against gays be named as such.

The parallels to Prop 8, which seems like the equal and opposite reaction to Prop 6, are overwhelmingly obvious.

In the film, Harvey repeats over and over “If they know just one of us, they vote with us 2 to 1.”

Quite true. Harvey campaigned amongst gays that it was important they come out and be counted as such. In the 60s and 70s this was a matter wholly different from coming out in the 90s and 00s. While I appreciate the ideal and the pragmatism behind this strategy, it is not one that I whole-heartedly support. There are plenty of instances where people have suffered immense harm because the timing or audience of their coming out was bad. I am of the belief that an individual’s personal safety should be considered before they can decide whether it is best to come out for political visibility.

That said, I agree that anyone who thinks they can survive with their life and their livelihood should be as out as they can. When gays can be visible as average people, as professionals, and as politicians with power, then we have won something. That day isn’t here yet, but it’s on its way.

“A homosexual with power… that’s scary.”

“You Gotta Give ‘Em Hope” speech from 1978

The film trailer

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