Posted on: May 22, 2011
I have something to admit. Before the Harvey Milk movie I didn’t know who Harvey Milk was. In the talk I gave for Be’chol Lashon I said that being gay is a “white man’s disease.” Before you go writing comments that won’t get approved, hear me out. In the black community that I grew up with there were no gay people. Gay people weren’t black, black people are not gay. It’s a fallacy, for sure. I’m gay and I’m black. Still, one of the reasons that I am very out and very proud and the reason I get frustrated when black celebrities don’t come out (ahem Queen Latifah) is this lie. Being gay wasn’t talked about in my family or in school, for that matter. The fact that Harvey Milk was an elected official and gay should’ve been in my history books, right? Wrong.
I came out at 28 after years of trying to convince myself otherwise. If I think really hard, my first girl crush was in kindergarden. There were a pair of biracial sisters who remember being very beautiful. I don’t remember how old they were or their names. What I do remember is playing with their long hair. I loved how pretty they were,I kissed them, I hugged them. I admited my attraction to women to myself when I worked a Nettys, a hot dog stand in Ohio, and caught a glimpse of my manager’s bare breast down her shirt. The feelings I felt in that moment were supposed to be the feelings I had when making out with my pimply-faced boyfriend. They weren’t though. I admitted out loud and to the world that I was gay at 28. I perfect waste of an adult life, I could lament but I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be the person I am kno; confident, loud, proud, and in-your-face if I hadn’t resented myself for so long.
Harvey Milk is most famously known as the first openly gay man to hold public office, he was also a Jew. A gay Jew who held public office. Had he not been assassinated he would be 80 years old. Would he be happy with our progress or would he insist that we had a long way to go. My answer is B.
A lot of powerful people have impacted my life this week. On Monday we listened to frum lesbians talk of bravery, commitment for acceptance, and the ability to carve out spaces within Judaism. On Friday I listened to Angela Davis, Ruthie Gilmore and Vijay Prashad speak at Riverside Church. While we were there to see Angela Davis it was Ruthie and Vijay that perked my ears and caused me to sit up. Vijay said, “We must love each other or die.” I think Harvey Milk would echo those words.