27 November 2008


Thirty years ago today, a Monday, I was driving home from work listening to the news. I think it was a special bulletin that came on with Dianne Feinstein announcing that San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk had been shot and killed. I distinctly remember a shivver running through me when I heard the gasps of people in the background. I did not know who any of these people were, but I did know one thing: they were talking about the city where I was planning to move in four short months.

A couple months after I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, the verdict came out against the killer of Milk and Moscone: manslaughter, rather than murder. That night in May, the City by the Bay saw the White Night Riots, named after the man who murdered the men and basically got away with it. I sat in my little apartment watching the riots on television. I was so new to the city that I did not know what was going on beyond the obvious. It amazed me to see so many people so upset about the verdict.

Later, after I finally realized I was gay, I walked up and down Castro Street past the store front that used to be Milk's camera store, I started getting politically active -- all the while never really understanding who was Milk and what he had achieved through just being himself.

I wish I had had a chance to meet him, to interview him, to be able to say I knew him when. I cannot; but I can be proud of the legacy left by such a man who stood tall when he told people that he was gay.

Next week, the new movie about Milk will open across the country. I hope the irony is lost on no one that it should come scarcely a month after the passage of California's Proposition 8 writing discrimination into that state's constitution.

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