I went to the small art-house theater to see Milk, which had come to Atlanta in its limited release. It is a biopic about Harvey Milk, who, in the late seventies, had become the first openly-gay person to be elected to major office when he assumed the role of San Francisco city supervisor. To be honest, I wanted to hate the movie. I was harboring some bitterness over director Gus Van Sant’s blasphemous remake of Psycho (with Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates being the greatest sacrilege).
But I’m geeking out a bit here.
About two thirds of the way through Milk, I finally allowed myself to forget Psycho and like what was in front of me. Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey was honest and powerful and Van Sant’s treatment of Dan White, Milk’s murderer was non-demonzing. (I’m not giving anything way, the movie starts with the assassination.) When when the lights went up, I wasn’t the only one who was a little watery-eyed. There were even sniffles coming from around the audience.
For me, the climax of the movie was Milk’s “Hope Speech” given at the 1978 Gay Pride March in San Francisco. It was unbelievably inspiring and made me change my mind on the way I saw a few things. While I had revealed to those around me that I was gay, I felt apprehension in saying that others should do the same, but now my opinion reflects Milk’s when he said:
“We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.”
If you seriously worry about your safety if you were to come out, then don’t…yet. You should get out of your situation and surround yourself with better people, then you should come out. To the rest (the majority), it is important that we come out, especially gay Mormons. I have never really felt any negative feelings directed at me because I was gay, but I know that I am lucky. There is still prejudice out there and we need to fight it. The best way to do so as individuals is simply by people knowing that we exist. People need to know that we are here. People need to know one of us and, if by so knowing, they still hate gay people, they hate us for who we are and not for who they imagine us to be. When we come out, the straight people will see the real “us” and the gay people still living in secrecy and shame will see that they have options and that the world isn’t as dark as it seems. They will see that there is hope. “Because without [hope],” as Harvey said, “life isn’t worth living.”
I’ll let him take it from here: