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Harvey Milk

November 26, 2008

I bet you all know who Harvey Milk was. I bet you know that he was the first openly gay person to be elected to a public office; that he was murdered by Dan White, fellow supervisor; that White only recieved 5 years in prison; that 3000 people rioted protesting such an unfair sentence. Maybe you’ve heard what he said shortly before dying: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

Tomorrow, it will be thirty years since Harvey Milk died. But his spirit is alive among us, whether we are gay and/or trans.

What moves me most about Harvey Milk are his own words. Just listen to this from his own mouth:

Somewhere… there is a young gay person who suddenly realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if the parents find out, they’d be tossed out of the house; the classmates would torture the child; and the Anita Bryants and John Briggs are doing their bit on TV. That child has several options: staying in the closet, suicide. And then one day that child might open up the paper and it says “Homosexual voted to San Francisco” and there are two new options. Option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight.

That last part really gets to me. Because I know that, in Argentina, I don’t have too many rights as a transgender person. I know that my daily life might be easier someplace else, where people know and understand trans issues. But after listening to Harvey Milk, how could I just leave, how could I abandon all my trans brothersisters, with a clean conscience? I think I have to stay here, and fight.


Rest of the speech (sorry if I transcribed anything incorrectly):

Two days after I was elected I got a phone call; the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania and the person said: thanks. And you’ve got to elect gay people, so that that young child, and the thousands and thousands like that child, know that there’s hope for a better world; there’s hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those Blacks, and the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s, the us’s; without hope, the us’s give up. 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 them hope.

Whoa, Harvey Milk’s words are powerful. You can read some more fragments of speeches at Wikipedia. Also, check out the trailer of the Milk movie. “His life changed history. His courage changed lives.”

Thanks to LesbianDad for the video.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2008 8:12 pm

    I had never heard of Harvey Milk. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Canadian or just not in touch with activism. In any case, thank you so much for this post! Both videos are excellent. Powerful words indeed. I totally want to see this movie! There’s a good article about it up on

  2. November 28, 2008 5:23 am

    Harvey Milk kicks ass.

    So does solidarity. Fighting and hope… fighting for hope… are very powerful things and it’s always great to see that within the community. Fight on!

  3. Brandon permalink
    December 20, 2008 12:21 pm

    Margaret Cho wrote an excellent book titled, “I Have Chosen to Stay and Fight”. It’s magnificent and totally worth reading and I’m totally on a tangent.

    What I meant to say is, I really hope that you do fight, but that you know that sometimes you can take a break and not fight, too. Sometimes it’s important, for us as trans people and as activists, to know how to pick our battles. It’s important to know that sometimes fighting a losing battle can be more rewarding than fighting a battle you know you can win, but that both fights are important.

    As an activist, I’ve found it hard to know when to back down, to know when to take some time for myself. As a trannyboy, I’ve learned how to accept my losses without feeling like I have lost.

    I hope that you, too, learn valuable lessons in this fight. And I’m sure you will. If you ever need some help from a Canadian, give me a shout.

    And good luck.

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