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Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black: "Harvey Milk, 30 Years Later" - Distingué Traces [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Oscar-winner Dustin Lance Black: "Harvey Milk, 30 Years Later" [Feb. 22nd, 2009|10:55 pm]
distant gay traces
I grew up in a very conservative Mormon military household in San Antonio, Texas. I knew from the age of six what people would call me if they ever discovered my “secret.” Faggot. Deviant. Sinner. I’d heard those words ever since I can remember. I knew that I was going to Hell. I was sure God did not love me. It was clear as day that I was “less than” the other kids, and that if anyone ever found out about my little secret, beyond suffering physical harm, I would surely bring great shame to my family.

So I had two choices: to hide — to go on a Mormon mission, to get married and have a small Mormon family (eight to twelve kids) — or to do what I’d thought about many a time while daydreaming in Texas history class: take my own life. Thankfully, there weren’t enough pills (fun or otherwise) inside my Mormon mother’s medicine cabinet, so I pretended and I hid and I cried myself to sleep more Sabbath nights than I care to remember.

Then, when I was twelve years old, I had a turn of luck. My mom remarried a Catholic Army soldier who had orders to ship out to Fort Ord in Salinas, California. There I discovered a new family, the theater. . . and soon, San Francisco.

That’s when it happened. I was almost fourteen when I heard a recording of a speech. It had been delivered on June 9, 1978, the same year my biological father had moved my family out to San Antonio. It was delivered by what I was told was an “out” gay man. His name was Harvey Milk.

That moment when I heard Harvey for the first time . . . that was the first time I really knew someone loved me for me. From the grave, over a decade after his assassination, Harvey gave me life. . . he gave me hope.

"Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio, there is a young gay person who all of a sudden realizes that she or he is gay. Knows that if the parents find out they’ll be tossed out of the house. The classmates will taunt the child and the Anita Bryants and John Briggs are doing their bit on TV, and 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 elected in San Francisco,” and there are two new options. One option is to go to California. . . OR stay in San Antonio and fight.

You’ve got to elect gay people so that that young child and the thousands upon thousands like that child know that there’s hope for a better world. There’s hope for a better tomorrow."

Thirty years after Harvey Milk was assassinated, in the summer of 2008, with antigay measures on the ballot in several states, I tuned in to the Democratic National Convention to see how his message had fared.

Back in 1972, Jim Foster, an openly gay man, stood up in front of the convention and on prime-time national television said, “We do not come to you pleading your understanding or begging your tolerance, we come to you affirming our pride in our life-style, affirming the validity to seek and maintain meaningful emotional relationships and affirming our right to participate in the life of this country on an equal basis with every citizen.”

What did I hear at the DNC in 2008? Almost nothing.

And then there was the Republican National Convention: Sarah Palin, John McCain, flashy, divisive, patriotic speeches. And even there, not a mention of gay or lesbian people. . . bigoted or otherwise.

I left those conventions with a deep, sinking fear. They’ve found the surefire way to kill the gay and lesbian movement for good. They’ll make us invisible.

The entire article is up at Towleroad - it's long but it's worth it!

The pictures are from Vogue Hommes, also via Towleroad. Gus Van Sant took them.

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