Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.
- “That’s What America Is,” speech given by Harvey Milk on Gay Freedom Day (6/25/1978)
In the 70’s the gay activists took the pink triangle symbol, that had been used to designate gay people in concentration camps during the Holocast,inverted it and reclaimed it.
When I came out in the 90’s the triangle was the most prominent symbol at gay right events. Silence=Death was very real for many people because of the loss of so many lives during the early years of the AIDS epidemic while those in power stayed silent.
Now when you go to a gay pride march you will more likely see a rainbow flag and a set of gay parents pushing their children in a stroller. And that is a wonderful thing. It happened because people have come out as Harvey Milk implored them to do in the 70’s. The biggest shift in LGBT rights has happened because now the majority of the country now know someone gay.
I bring this up today because, as the fight for marriage equality got so much press in the last weeks due to the Supreme Court cases, it is easy to forget the past. But as I talked to people during these last weeks as much as there was joy expressed at the shifts happening there was also pain. Just because equal rights are coming doesn’t mean the past didn’t happen. And it doesn’t mean that LGBT people are safe in this country, because many are still not. So celebrate the victories but please don’t forget the past or the people that still cannot live their lives without being discriminated against.