How could the events detailed in this film have occured 30 years ago?
That's what I was thinking by the end of the biopic "Milk," which we screened this weekend, one of the most moving and inspiring movies I have seen in a long time. But then, of course, this was my life: Harvey Milk was first elected as the nation's first "out" gay official (after several failed attempts)in 1977, the year I came out at age 16. The protests he lead against Anita Bryant's national attempts to deny gay people our civil rights; and against the infamous Prop 6, or Briggs Amendment, in California which threatened to have all gay school teachers fired (!)-- these were the initial events of my own activism. This was a time when gay culture was very much a bar culture; gay life was very much about sex; this was very much pre-AIDS. Gay pride marches were not solely celebrations of our unique lives, but rather angry protests against our oppression.
It's a different world now, although having come of age in that one I sometimes have difficulty believing how different it is. With gay people on TV and in movies; on the covers of national magazines; and also increasingly part of our public political life--such as Christine Quinn, a lesbian who is the chair of the New York City Council--our fight has moved toward achieving the right to marry. Yet as we suffer the responses to that fight, we see how much homophobia is still alive in parts of our culture. Where are the out gay federal legislators? Judges? Mayors? Governors? We're not there yet, Harvey: but we sure have come a long way. Thanks to you for your inspiring, fearless leadership.
And for those of you who have not yet seen "Milk," including Sean Penn's amazing, Academy Award-winning performance--get thee to your local theater.