I wrote this for an upcoming issue of HX magazine celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. It’ll be part of a section in which several people prognosticate on the future of the gay community and its culture. My thoughts on the issues involved are somewhat more complicated than shows here, and I’m leaving a lot of things out, but I only had 350 words, and this communicates the gist of what I wanted to say.
Here are Harvey Milk’s words, familiar to many of us from the movie Milk:
“Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us-es, the us-es will give up. And if you help elect, to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward.”
In the future, the LGBT community will actually live by these words rather than simply paying lip service to them. We will understand that “us” has to be not just gay people but all the disenfranchised—black people, disabled people, Asian people, the poor, the homeless—that when any of them suffer yet another indignation, it hurts us too. We’ll realize that, as we sit at our computers (which we own) in our houses (which we own) after coming back from our jobs (which we have), if we don’t turn at least some of our attention to those of us in far worse shape than we are, we’ve missed half of what Harvey Milk was trying to say.
When there’s another Proposition 8, we’ll actually take out ads in black newspapers and put up posters in black neighborhoods and show black people in our television commercials, instead of ignoring them, and this time the proposition will fail.
Our support for the transgendered will go beyond adding a T to the names of our organizations. We’ll be racially integrated not just in the ad pages of our periodicals but also at our dinner parties.
We’ll learn that those who stand against us may be more complicated than they appear: That Isaiah Washington, before he shocked us with his bigotry when he called T.R. Knight a faggot, had played one of the most memorable characters in gay film, Kyle in Spike Lee’s Get on the Bus, and written an article for Essence decrying homophobia in the black community. That Rick Warren, whose participation in President Obama’s inauguration we protested because of his horrific slanders against us, has almost singlehandedly forced evangelical Christianity to start paying attention to the environment and to world poverty.
In short, we’ll get what Harvey Milk was trying to tell us.