Today is the birthday of slain gay rights activist and San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk. Born on May 22, 1930, Milk was elected supervisor in 1977, and was assassinated by a political rival, Dan White, on November 27, 1978, as was then-mayor (and friend to the queer community) George Mascone.
I’ve tried to imagine Milk as an elderly gay man, but, it’s like trying to imagine Martin Luther King, Jr., or Malcolm X in their dotage. It’s an incongruous exercise that is doomed to utter failure. Each man knew the costs involved with their respective forms of activism, and Milk actually recorded a tape to be played in the event of his death by assassination.
So instead, how about Milk depicted as a medieval saint? That’s also a bit incongruous given his Jewish upbringing and his own religious sensibilities at the time of his death. But, as an icon, well, Christianity has embraced all sorts of people. If you’re curious, please check out this posting on Milk. The activist in my loves the iconography. But the historian in me winces, since Christianity has this ugly history of appropriating all sorts of non-Christians for its own, oftentimes oppressive, purposes.
That said, I hope everyone has had a good, thoughtful and praxis-filled Milk day. To quite Milk, we really must “give them hope.” And for those who are curious to learn more about Milk, please check out The Times of Harvey Milk, which is far, far better than the movie, “Milk.”
I finally figured out the embed code on this one. Here are Milk’s last words.