“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
Those words, true to this day, were spoken by Harvey Milk decades ago. Today, May 22, we celebrate him.
In 1977, Harvey Milk became the first gay man elected to public office in California after winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This was before the AIDS epidemic, yet after the Stonewall Riots. The world had been thrust into the gay rights movement, and what Harvey did was not show the world the power of militant activism — which has its time and place. He showed the citizens of San Francisco that a leader, an inspiring leader, can be trustworthy, honorable and true, regardless of background, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of who they love.
Our news cycles are riddled with details of racism, homophobia, transphobia and intolerance, yet we are still better off today than Harvey was decades ago. Though we face, nearly daily, the murders of young men and women of color and it seems the LGBTQ+ rights movement has a new obstacle with each passing victory, we can turn to Harvey to see what it’s like to truly overcome.
In 1977, when being gay was the one of the toughest hands life could deal you, he overcame. He rose up. He stood proudly on the streets of San Francisco and showed the world that people of all creeds, colors, backgrounds and abilities are free to achieve whatever they believe.
“It’s not my victory, it’s yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope,” he’s quoted as saying. In a time where simply being a non-white citizens seems to be a death sentence, or being transgender makes you the target of unfair media scrutiny, those words, among his many others, ring true.
In the spirit of Harvey Milk Day, remember to love one another, to support one another and to remember that when one person is victimized, when one person’s access to achievement of any kind is hindered, then everyone — gay, straight, black, white and everything in between — suffers.