Harvey Milk Day: Breaking down the closet door for freedom

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door” – Harvey Milk

May 22nd marks a special day in the heart of the LGBTI+ community thanks to avid champions within our ranks, such as Daren I. Ball and the creator of When We Rise and Milk Dustin Lance Black, shedding light on official recognition and civil rights progress established by the queer movement.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay person elected to office in California and sadly he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by another elected official, Dan White, on November 27th 1978.

Their murderer getting off on a lighter sentence due to his lawyers using what has come to be known as ‘the twinkie defence’ arguing White suffered mental health issues due to a poor diet. For many, this was a scape goat for the murdering of a publicly and well-functioning out gay man.

Harvey Milk Day not only commemorates Harvey Milk though, alongside him many activists towards the freedoms of LGBTI+ people stand prevalent, for example, Cleve Jones and the AIDS Quilt, Larry Kramer and ACT UP, Sylvia Rivera of the Stonewall riots, Gilbert Baker whom created our Rainbow flag, Del Martin co-founder of the first lesbian organisation, Daughters of Bilitis, in the U.S, and many more.

These people, among many unnamed paved the way to the life we can enjoy now, and endured, or died, through a battle that has lasted decades when queer people just said enough is enough, and they took action to fight back against a system that would not allow them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is no wonder that the surviving leaders of our community urge our generations to stay informed about our history, and to continue fighting, and a day of recognition is the start of that.

In a recent interview sparked by the release of When We Rise, Cleve Jones was asked about San Francisco and the Castro District from whence many of our global LGBTI+ rights were ignited, and he feared that with gentrification pushing marginalised people out of our oasis’s and the internal diminishing of geographical places for LGBTI+ people with the rise of online communities we would lose our safe spaces when the shit hits the fan, and with the rise of Trump and Pence, and other politicians that degrade and reduce the queer experience to a mere lifestyle that is perverted we very much are in need of places where we can come together and just be us.

You may be wondering how that affects Australians in Perth, the opposite side of the world, we are united through our diversity and acceptance, but this Harvey Milk Day I would urge you all to consider how important it is to have spaces like The Freedom Centre, Connections Nightclub, The Court Hotel and our very own magazine OUTinPerth. As Harvey Milk wanted it, we have the ability to be out of the closet, and in that we are free.

“I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you…and you…and you…Gotta give them hope” – Harvey Milk

Kyle J Kash

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