|West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister|
There was to be the film itself followed by a "panel" discussion, followed by a small reception. I arrived just as the film was starting. I have seen it probably 10 times, but haven't seen it in a year. Keeping in mind that Harvey Milk is arguably the most famous gay icon/politician/activist ever, he deserves the respect of me once again watching the story of what he lived and died for.
|legendary gay male icon/activist/politician Harvey Milk|
He was a simple man, living a simple, if not boring life in NYC until his fortieth year. Making a change and moving to San Francisco, having an "out" gay relationship in an GLBT hostile world, calling for gay rights and acceptance, he became one of the most revered men in the GLBT movement, if not actually creating a full on movement. He opened a small neighborhood camera shop in the Castro, and eventually became known as the Mayor of Castro Street, This wasn't an easy task, as he wasn't welcome with open arms by any stretch.
Milk was a showman. He had a special ability to mobilize, create and have gay men and lesbians join together for a common cause. He wanted nothing more than equality and nothing less. He was a performer. He had a talent for getting press, and after several failed attempts at becoming an elected official, he was finally elected to a seat as a city Supervisor, as an openly gay man in San Francisco. His dramatic antics, and P.T. Barnum-like personality won him many supporters, but also detractors. His life was threatened many times by mail and ominous, anonymous letters with gruesome drawings of how his genitals would be hacked from his body. He never went to the police, as he told his then partner, the police probably sent them.
As in many political marriages, his true love left because of the stress of public life. He never fell out of love with Milk, nor Milk with him. Milks next partner hung himself in their apartment for the same reasoning, more or less. Of course there were underlying mental and substance abuse problems, but as many know, gay men are prone to suicide at an alarmingly higher rate then our hetero counterparts. Lack of acceptance and familial support and lack of laws protecting our jobs, housing etc. add to the pressures of life that heteros simply do not endure. Continually being called faggot, queer, pervert and sick, and being made to believe by foes such as Anita Bryant and John Briggs through ballot initiatives, that we are unworthy , creates fertile grounds for substance abuse and mental instability.
Milk fought these political behemoth's fearlessly. He "collected" throwaways, like Cleve Jones (founder of the names project) and others who had no direction or anywhere to go. I know Cleve. I have interviewed him several times. He is a strong proud gay man, and has become part of our amazing history.
More than 30,000 supporters and mourners walked through the Castro to city hall to show respect for the fallen hero. He was and is a legend. If not for him there would not be us. He started a movement that to this day exists, still fighting the religious right, the homophobes, the uninformed. He always said "You gotta give 'em hope." He did just that.
The panel was moderated by veteran lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb. She was the right person for the job. She was there. She covered all of this. If not for her, I would have left. The rest of the panel was made up of lesbians. I found it so inappropriate and so careless to have an entirely lesbian panel. NOT A SINGLE GAY MALE WAS ON THE PANEL.
|no gay men|
|Moderator, legendary lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb telling a panelist "There will be hard questions."|
|lesbian only panelists|
Our Mayor Lauren Meister asked why we didn't have a bigger turnout. One guess Madame Mayor is that THERE WERE NO GAY MEN INCLUDED IN THE DISCUSSION. I am not interested in excuses that there weren't any to find. I HAVE BEEN IN THIS MOVEMENT FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS. MY PHONE DIDN'T RING. Don't like my attitude? It's that attitude that has accomplished making meth/recovery/homelessness all forefront priorities. There is a little group known as Stonewall with several accomplished gay male activists to choose from. There are non profits that have activists employed and available for the asking. This was not thought out, not well done, and not outreached.
Towards the end, a lesbian from the audience started talking about Bernie and Hillary. Karen, the moderator tried to curtail it, only to hear screams of misogyny, misogyny, then and now. REALLY? We are chanting misogyny at a tribute to Harvey Milk? My heart was broken and I left. I had waited weeks for this, even posting it on Face Book. I wish I stayed home and watched MILK on pay per view. I think I might have felt more in tune to what Milk's message was.
My call to action is for the city, the city council members, staff and boards to start creating a list of available activists that are appropriate for a panel. I propose listing men and women, categorizing them and calling upon them as needed. NO PANEL IS BETTER THAN A BAD PANEL.
I am just grateful for Karen Ocamb, or I would have left way before the panel was over.