“Agent of Change”? Harvey Milk To Be Given Posthumous Medal of Freedom
I never saw Martin King in my life; but I am proud to say that I did see Harvey Milk in my life, campaigning with his ironing board for the Board of Supervisors one weekend in the late Seventies at the corner of Castro and 18th in front of the Bank of America, and at other occasions before he was elected as the supervisor for the Castro District, Noe Valley, the Duboce Triangle and the Haight, known as District 5. His death, along with that of Mayor George Moscone, at the hands of Supervisor Dan White, coming on hard on the heels of the Jonestown mass suicide in Guyana in 1978, hit many of us in the Bay Area and elsewhere who supported the positive gains–political, creative, sexual and social–of the Sixties very, very hard. Like with John Kennedy, I remember where I was when I heard that Milk and Moscone were killed.
Some blacks may ask, “Why are you so exercised over this white boy? You don’t have to.” Well, that white boy was also a civil rights worker when he was in the closet. That is, he and many other white men and women helped to work and give money for my–and your–freedom. And gay rights is not just a white thing. This is about our black gays and lesbians; and our gays and lesbians of color. Black people are going to have to confront homophobia and recreate what it means to be masculine.
So while I feel happy that Milk is being given a long overdue Medal of Freedom, there is something rather–and I hate to say it–phony about Barack Obama awarding it to him. Because Obama has been nothing less than disingenuous about LGBT rights since his election, after raising expectations about marriage equality, the rescinding of discrimination, and “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT). Many feel betrayed. Obama is openly criticized as a homophobe, especially with the ex-Clintonistas at his elbow who remember all too well how their former boss crashed and burned over these and other issues.
But Obama didn’t have to be Clinton. And 2009 is not 1992. Even Colin Powell has now expressed regrets over challenging Clinton over this issue. However, the time to do what is right is always now.
You can’t assume freedoms while denying others the same. You can’t continue to play lip-service about people’s lives. It’s nothing less than hypocrisy. A nice gesture is just that–a gesture. There are times I just say, If you’re going to go, go all the way. Don’t just stop because it’s something you wouldn’t do. Fck “how it looks.” It’s about what is right. I have my life; lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals have the right to have theirs. It was just that simple when Harvey Milk was shot;it’s just that simple now.