Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Harvey Milk 1930 - 1978

"Every gay person must come out.  As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family.  You must tell your relatives.  You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends.  You must tell the people you work with.  You must tell the people in the stores you shop in.  Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all.  And once you do, you will feel so much better."

Harvey Milk died thirty-five years ago today.  

Harvey Milk is one of my heroes.  He was an ordinary person who did an extraordinary thing, he fought and died for the freedom of gay people.

Harvey Milk with President Carter

The words he uttered at the beginning of this post was and has been my mantra since I came out of my personal closet in April of 1963.  I made a decision then not to live my life as a gay man according to others' terms but on my own terms.  Of course there was a price to pay, sometimes a high price for demanding my freedom but it was worth it.  Harvey Milk fought on a much larger stage than I did and he paid the ultimate price, his life.  

On this day before our national Thanksgiving holiday, I pause not to remember the false myth of the Pilgrims who shared bread with the native Indians of this America but one of the true heroes and martyrs for freedom in this country, Harvey Milk.  A man who gave his life for the right of all gay people to choose who they want to love without fear of social ostracization or bodily harm. A man who gave hope, as the first elected gay official, for gay people to live their lives in freedom equal to their fellow Americans.  On this Thanksgiving, I thank Harvey Milk.


  1. Ron, we talked recently about where we were when Kennedy died, a true watershed moment for many of us. Now I'm utterly ashamed to admit (and I've said this before) that I remember absolutely nothing about Harvey's tragedy being reported at the time although It MUST have been on our newscasts on the day. I can't recall a thing about it impacting on me, even though it was around this time that I was getting heavily involved in gay rights, going on demonstrations, attending meetings, even being part of our Trade Union gay group. Can't account for it, but there it is. I only caught up with what had happened some years after the seminal event.
    But when it eventually did come to my lazy consciousness, from then on he has, as for you, remained one of my biggest heroes. You were obviously wise enough to appreciate him and his accomplishments while he was still with us, so I don't have to imagine very hard to realise what a blow it must have been to you when you heard the news. We owe him an awful lot, more than many still acknowledge - and if he had only known how his memory is still revered, as well as his international influence and reputation, it would have given him much satisfaction, I'm sure. With profound respect, R.I.P. Harvey.

    1. Ray,

      I don't remember exactly where I was or what I was doing when I heard that Harvey was murdered but I do remember hearing it and not being surprised. It was just a matter of time because he dared to come out unapologetically as a gay man. I knew he would be killed. I've always felt a special connection to Harvey because of his mantra that all, every one, gay people should come out at once. That is the only way to end homophobia and it will end if all gay people come out. As it is now, more and more gay people are coming out but there are still those who are afraid of being social outcasts or fear for their physical health (as I did during our visit to the hillbilly mountain birthplace of my father during this past summer when I was threatened with bodily harm because I did not disavow that I was gay).
      It is ironic that I remember exactly where I was when I heard Marilyn Monroe died (on a hot summer August morning in 1962 in my former bedroom at my parent's house with an Army buddy of mine who stayed overnight who I had the hots for). Interesting isn't it what we remember and what is a fog?
      Thanks for your comment.


    2. Yes, I too recall where I was when I heard of the death of Marilyn Monroe - but also Elvis, Lennon, Churchill, Diana, Benjamin Britten, our Queen Mother - and I'm sure several more if I put my mind to it. Yet it just has to be one like Harvey, someone who is TRULY deserving, where we can't recall our our circumstances so easily.

      Btw: A bit alarmed to read that it was only as recently as a few months ago that you were nearly a victim of harm because of your sexuality, even though it apparently wasn't stated explicitly. Still shows we've got an awful long way yet to go, despite Harvey's heroic and life-sacrificing efforts. But glad that you came out of that nasty situation unscathed.

    3. Ray,

      Yep, up the in hillbilly country I was threatened with bodily harm if I "set foot" on my cousin's property. Some "good" religious folks up there in them hills.


  2. I lived in California during the time when Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were murdered. It was a huge news story and I remember it well. I also remember the intense (and completely justified) anger of the gay community and the monumental White Night riots.
    Dan White, the bastard who killed Milk and Moscone, got off with an extremely light sentence. Instead of being charged with First Degree Murder, he was charged with Voluntary Manslaughter. It was merely a slap on the wrist. Also - incredibly - his defense attorney was trying to use the infamous "Twinkie defense". It was claimed that Dan White's brain had been negatively affected by sugar from eating too many Twinkies!!!! I kid you not. The entire trial was an outrage and a travesty to the memory of Harvey Milk.

  3. Jon,

    I remember the "Twinkie defense" well and I too was outraged when the murderer Dan White got off with on,y five years in prison. Didn't he also produce another two kids while he was in '"prison?" His ending was appropriate though, suicide.


    1. I had no idea that White commited suicide, thanks for telling me. I hate to be cruel and say that he deserved it, but - - hell, he deserved it!!!

  4. Anonymous12:38 AM

    Ron, I have the "Milk" DVD. Senn Penn does a wonderful job. Harvey was a true pioneer in gay rights. So sad that another man
    possibly a homosexual himself killed Harvey and the mayor, hence, his own suicide. At the time it all went down sadly I don't remember
    the news headlines. But after watching the movie several times I truly feel his mantra was right. Pick up the phone and tell them( family,
    parents, coworkers whoever...yes, I'm gay ) and then "it" gayness has touched them. But, I find many younger people are much more
    open and accepting. It's just not an issue. They don't want to be "judged" and they too don't judge. It's the old bigots that have to die off
    and the new younger more accepting society will take over. The States gay marriage acceptance is gaining ground in 30 years it will be
    a norm. We just won't be here to see it. Of course that does depend on how much influence the Koch Bros. and Alec have on the state
    legislatures. Sorry , I think younger folks have much more open minds than to fall for political bribery.
    Personally, I only have two cousins left in my family. One has accepted me the other has not. Oh well, one is better than none. Many of
    my friends from college knew it back then even when I didn't and have no problem with it now. Friends as usual. 40years running.
    My worries today are not for my own acceptance but for those young teens that are struggling to figure out where they are in or out. Jay
    works with the Rosmy group and that is so important to help the young teens get through the questioning period. What am I? Who am I?
    Why am I like this? Why do I have these feelings and thoughts? I personally have had deep discussions with many youth on these
    questions. I know that many still deal with them even today as parents. One in particular has a 14 yr old and the differences in acceptance
    is perhaps splitting the family apart. ( Mom can't deal with it; Dad says it is what it is...Dad is a former lover of mine and he had a serious male
    relationship when his wife got pregnant and they married ). They are in counseling to try to keep it together and support their son. He is one
    one handsome heartbreaker as was his father.
    When growing up it turned out that not only myself but a neighbor my age across the street was gay but the older boy next door to him
    our "sitter" was too. Our parents were all friends. My guess that friendship was based a lot on the fact they knew they had gay boys.
    Tragically, the boy my age died of aids early in the eighties. He was so handsome.
    I love your posts Ron. They bring past thoughts and feelings right to the forefront. You do good work. Wish you were in the US Senate.
    Think you wasted much time in banking. Politics should have been your game.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all! God Bless you each and everyone!

    1. Anonymous,

      Believe it or not I wanted to be a politician but I ruled out that career choice because I was gay. I was ahead of my time. Now you can be gay and a politician.

      Thank you for your comment.


  5. Ron

    I am only aware of Milk as a result of the movie - which I haven't seen. But will. Penn is a pretty intense character and probably threw himself into the role with gusto. It's a tragedy when we lose good people. And it's hurtful when they are lost senselessly. Of course, I too remember the time and place for me when famous people died. I sometimes well up thinking about them in certain moments. I will check out Milk to be sure.


    1. Pat,

      "milk is an excellent movie and Sean Penn did a great job. I wasn't a fan of his until I saw him in this movie. I think you would like this movie.



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