I am a child of the 70's. I graduated from Lake Orion High School in 1973 and promptly moved to Detroit's gay ghetto (at the time) which was Palmer Park. The several blocks of apartment buildings that occupied the North West corner of the Woodward Ave McNichols Rd (a/k/a/ Six Mile) intersection.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1977 just before my 21st birthday. I left the Detroit area with $330 in my wallet, a suitcase, my tool box (I was a machinist) and the name of a friend of my pastor who would let me stay on his sofa for a couple of weeks.
Within those two weeks, I landed a job, met two other transplants who were looking for a roommate and found a small church family at All Saints MCC (no longer exists) in what is now West Hollywood. Over the next few months a very naive young man from Lake Orion, Michigan came into his own as an activist for gay rights and in so many way had his eyes opened wider than he had previously thought was possible.
In the movie Milk, one of the several issues that Harvey Milk was working on was the defeat of Proposition 6: The Briggs Initiative. This referendum was an attempt to ban gay/lesbian persons from teaching in public schools in California. As part of my venturing out into the world, this political issue became my personal coming of age experience in terms of the ability of ordinary people to change the political tide.
Along with most of my new friends, I got involved with working to defeat Proposition 6. I because a deputy registrar of voters in and for the county of Los Angeles and spent a lot of time registering people to vote and encouraging them to get involved. In June of 78, I attended the Christopher Street West (gay pride) celebration in Hollywood and worked the crowd registering voters and talking to people about exercising their right to vote.
There were fund raisers top attend such as a $100 per plate dinner at the Beverly Hilton that was amazing. My first experience of Hollywood and politics coming together with big money. And my hera from the Vietnam War protest days , Joan Baez, gave a concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to help raise money to defeat Prop. 6.
Seeing the movie brought that entire time of my early adult life back for a walk through my memories. It also reminded me that a price was paid for the progress we have achieved thus far. Harvey Milk paid with his life. Few of us will have to make that sacrifice, for which I am grateful. But we all have work to do. One of Harvey's basic strategies was to encourage people to come out to their families and friends, because people who know someone who is gay are much more likely to vote with us than against us.
The work is not over. In fact, the work for equality in marriage and under the law is ramping up. Let us have the courage to overturn the recent Proposition 8 in California. Let us work to restore rights that have been repealed in many places in our nation. And may we all find the courage to proudly live with the fire of our lives shining brightly on the hillside for all to see.
Thanks Harvey Milk for your courage and thanks to Sean Penn for his courage and brilliant performance which brought this beautiful story out for us to experience!
(c) 2009 by Richard L. Beattie, all rights are reserved