Content Warning: This article contains mentions of the assassination of Harvey Milk.
Harvey Milk Day, May 22nd 2023
May 22nd marks Harvey Milk Day, a day to remember the pioneering legend and what he did for the LGBTQ+ community. He was the first out gay politician in California, and today we honour his life and legacy.
In 2009, Harvey Milk Day was created as a holiday when Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, signed it into law. Although Milk tragically died, his activism is still felt to this day. His nephew Stuart Milk is continuing his work in his honour through the Milk Foundation. Time magazine included Milk on a list of ‘The 100 most Important People of the 20th Century’.
Who was Harvey Milk?
Harvey Milk was the first openly LGBTQ+ person to hold public office in California. He was also one of the leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement. Milk was a strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as all other marginalised groups. He was a big supporter of public education, affordable healthcare, and equal rights for all.
After graduating, he joined the US Navy. However, he was forced to resign because of his suspected homosexuality. In 1972, he moved to San Francisco, where he opened a camera shop. Milk’s shop became a refuge for many LGBTQ+ people.
In 1977, Harvey Milk was finally elected as city supervisor in San Francisco, after losing the race twice the years prior. While he was city supervisor, he spoke out against anti-LGBTQ+ laws that prohibited queer and trans teachers from teaching in public schools.
Sadly, after not even a year in office, Dan White, his political rival and city supervisor opponent, assassinated Milk in 1978.
At his core, Harvey Milk was a loud and proud LGBTQ+ rights activist. He was a pioneering spirit. Many recognised his work and contribution to a better, more accepting world. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom and a holiday was created in his memory.
As a gay politician, he received countless death threats. However, he did not let that stop him from fighting for equality. He anticipated his potential murder and pre-recorded a statement that should only be played in the event of his death by assassination. In the statement he declares: ‘If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country’.
All Hope is not lost
One of Milk’s main messages was that of hope. In his speech ‘Hope’, he discussed being the first openly LGBTQ+ politician in California. He truly believed that ‘hope is never silent’. Harvey Milk ended his speech by stating that ‘you have to give people hope’.
Milk’s message and hopeful outlook on the word is still important to this day. He promoted equal rights for all, which is something we are continuously fighting towards. Even with all the anti-trans bills put forward and the bans on gender affirming healthcare, we continue to fight!
As LGBTQ+ people, in particular the trans and gender diverse community, we continue to face adversity and discrimination simply for being who we are. However, we need to remain hopeful that one day we will reach equality for all.
We strive towards a world where gender does not matter, where who we love is accepted, and where trans folk can exist freely as who they are. For now, we fight for ALL, that is how we can best honour the memory of Harvey Milk!