Brad Smith (jesus_h_biscuit) wrote,
Brad Smith

"If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country."

On Harvey Milk, Coming Out, Pride, and the Love of My Friends & Family

Yesterday, I watched the majority of the film The Times Of Harvey Milk with D sitting by my side. It was extremely difficult to contain my emotions, but the children had friends over and all of them were in the kitchen having lunch - so I kept it to myself knowing this post would result. I'm still astonished that more people - especially those in the GLBT community - don't know more about him. Rest assured, it is largely due to him that we have earned any of the rights we now have. He kicked in the door in a time when such things were unheard of. He lived and he died for what he believed in, and is a personal hero of mine. Please take a few minutes to learn more about him.

Harvey Milk, (May 22, 1930 - November 27, 1978) an American politician and gay rights activist, was the first openly gay city supervisor of San Francisco, California. He and the mayor were assassinated in 1978.

Of Lithuanian ancestry, Harvey Milk was born Glimpy Milch in Long Island, New York. He graduated from Albany State College in 1951 and joined the United States Navy; he was dishonorably discharged for homosexuality.

Like many gay people of the time, Milk later moved to San Francisco in 1972, where he settled with his lover Scott Smith and opened a camera store in the Castro gay village. He emerged as a community leader, founding the Castro Valley Association of local merchants, and represented the neighborhood businesses in dealing with the city government.

Despite a national climate of hostility against gay people, he ran for office several times. He emerged as a figurehead for San Francisco's large gay community, and was called the "Mayor of Castro Street." He was elected city supervisor in 1977, the first openly gay elected official of any large city in the US.

He was assassinated on November 27, 1978 at City Hall, together with mayor George Moscone, by former city supervisor Dan White. White had resigned previously following the enactment of a gay rights bill which he had opposed.

A huge throng turned out for Milk's and Moscone's funeral cortège, along a route decorated with rainbow flags.

White was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and sentenced to seven years and eight months, a sentence widely denounced as lenient and motivated by homophobia. Lawyers had prevented anyone pro-gay from serving on the jury, and had brought in a psychologist to show evidence of the depression - namely that the consumption of junk food was out of character for the normally health-conscious White (leading to a common misunderstanding that junk food was blamed — see Twinkie defense). White later committed suicide while on parole.

Milk had foreseen his risk of assassination and had recorded several audio tapes to be played in that event. On one of the tapes, he made his famous quotation, "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country."

After the sentence, the gay community erupted into the White Night Riots; more than 160 people ended up in hospital.

Harvey Milk is widely regarded as a martyr for the gay community and the gay rights movement. Many Queer community institutions are named for Milk, including the Harvey Milk Institute and the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Democratic Club in San Francisco, as well as a number of Queer-positive alternative schools in the United States, including Harvey Milk School in New York

A number of pieces of music have taken Harvey Milk as their subject. Blue Gene Tyranny's Harvey Milk (Portrait) (1978) is a piece for magnetic tape which manipulates a recording of a speech Milk gave in 1978. In 1995 the opera Harvey Milk by composer Stewart Wallace and librettist Michael Korie was premiered.

The life of this politician is depicted in the Academy Award winning documentary film, The Times of Harvey Milk.

See List of famous gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and list of assassinated persons.


  • Randy Shilts. The Mayor of Castro Street. 1982.

  • Wallace Turner. "San Francisco Mayor is Slain; City Supervisor Also Killed; Ex-Official Gives Up to Police." The New York
    . November 28, 1978. A1.

External links

I want to have the largest ever group of my family and friends walking with D and I this summer at Pride. I want all of my friends, gay, straight, transgendered, all of you with us. The theme for Pride this year is UNITE AND ACT. The Parade will step off from the MARTA Civic Center Station on Sunday June 26, at 1:00pm. We generally meet there an hour early and organize our group. If you've never attended Pride before, you really should consider it. I want everyone to experience the sense of freedom, liberation, and joy that come along with marching in a parade with people you love, honor, and respect as a declaration of embracing diversity. And I am thrilled the most when straight people come along!!

National Coming Out Day is October 11th. Please, if you are living this lie - please consider making that your goal, your new birthday, so that you make actually live - really live - instead of pretending to be alive. No one deserves to have to live in secret. Anyday is a good day to come out, but NCOD is a symbol of solidarity in knowing that people all across the country and in fact the world are taking the same brave steps that you are. If you're straight, whether you have openly gay friends or not and whether or not you suspect a friend or family member is gay, have these discussions with people randomly. Let people know that you support coming out, and that you wished everyone who lived in the closet knew how you felt about it.

I make this post in memory of Harvey Milk, and in honor of my friends Aura and Laurel, who recently made the brave choice to live freely and honestly - as they were born to.

Please spread this around by linking to this post in your own journals!
Tags: activism, harvey milk, heroes
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