Today is Harvey Milk’s Birthday. He would have been 83 years old.
Harvey Bernard Milk was born May 22, 1930 in Woodmere, NY. Harvey was an openly gay Civil Rights leader, known, informally, as the “Mayor of Castro Street.” He was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California in 1977 and served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for almost 11 months, until he was assassinated, along with Mayor George Mascone, by Dan White on November 27, 1978.
White was acquitted of first degree murder charges and had his sentence was reduced to voluntary manslaughter, thanks to what was dubbed the “Twinkie Defense” – that a junkfood binge the night before contributed to Dan’s “diminished capacity.” This verdict handed down on May 21, 1979, (the day before what would have been Harvey’s 49th Birthday) resulted in the “White Night Riots.”
Harvey was a proponent of gay visibility and coming out, stating:
“And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant in television and her story. 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.”
Milk emphasized that gay people should be more visible to help to end the discrimination and violence against them. In a taped statement, which seemed to eerily predict his own death, he urged others to come out :
“I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they’ll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects … I hope that every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help…
…and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
Happy Birthday, Harvey.
And Thank You!