As I escaped to my TV the day after the election, looking for anything but CNN or MSNBC, I found MILK, the film that chronicles the life of LGBTQ activist Harvey Milk. This amazing movie won Academy Awards for both Sean Penn and writer-activist Dustin Lance Black. It’s based on Harvey Milk, the iconic gay martyr, who was the first OUT person to ever hold a political office. In 1977 I visited my aunt in San Francisco regularly. She lived on Seacliff, far from the Castro. I was in the closet then. I wore my flop hat, leather fringe vest, and striped bellbottoms. Gay people were called homosexuals, and queer was not yet a word of empowerment. Proposition 6, The Briggs Initiative, was being fought valiantly by Milk and the San Francisco gay community. Prop 6 proposed that no gay or lesbian person was fit to work in public education. Anita Bryant, the ex-Miss America singer who was the poster girl for Florida oranges, led the homophobic brigade.
Remembering Harvey Milk now is more important than ever. Today, as religion is weaponized and the liberties of the LGBTQ community (and many more) are threatened, it is time once again to stand up for our rights. For some of the younger generation, this is the first time they will have to do so. Those of us who remember Stonewall, the great poet Audre Lorde, Leslie Feinberg, and hundreds of others who have fought fierce battles for our justice, know what a revolution looks like and what it costs.
As we now face an army of Anitas, I am ready and willing to stand up again alongside my community. Freedom has never been given. And as much of the country justifies xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia, I think it is more important than ever to be out and outspoken. And as I watch the tragic end of MILK and remember the day that he and Mayor Moscone were assassinated, I am reminded that there are risks, but that’s never stopped us before. So get a bull horn, and learn how to use it. There is no better time to be brave than right now. And there’s no point in going back into the closet. We’ve come too far.