There are just a few people I think of as heroes.
I know some people feel policemen, firemen, nurses, are heroes, but that’s their job, their chosen career; I appreciate what they do, but it was their chose. For me a hero is just an ordinary person who does the extraordinary and I can think of two that I would call heroes:
Rosa Parks, who was tired of standing, and
Harvey Milk who was tired of being less than.
Harvey Milk died thirty-five years ago today. Far too soon, I think. I often think, with every stride the LGBT community makes, how Harvey would feel about it, what Harvey might say.
DOMA and Prop 8 are gone; Harvey would have loved that.
Marriage equality on the move, more and more every day; Harvey would have loved that.
Thirty-five years and his words still echo........
“My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.”
“Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.”
“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”
“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you...And you...And you...Gotta give em hope. Hope will never be silent.”
“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.”
“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
“If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward – and I don’t want to walk backward.”
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights...it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”
“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that my friends, that is true perversion!”
“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
He was the first gay person that, for me, wasn't a caricature, and wasn't a victim. He was the first gay person, for me, that made me see that I wasn't a stereotype, that I wasn't less than; that I mattered.
I remember, as a young queerling, hearing the news that he'd been shot and, not being out quite yet, feeling numb and feeling scared. I remember mourning silently that Harvey was gone and wondering what might happen to 'us'.
I think Harvey would be beaming, today, knowing how far we've come, and then he'd tell us to keep working, we still have a ways to go.
The march goes on ….