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Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

The Early Life of Mr. Milk

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Harvey (right) and his brother Robert.

Harvey Milk, one of the most famous LGBT leaders in America, admired throughout the political world for his amazing style of witty self-promotion, beloved by many as "The Mayor of Castro Street"... was an all-American football player.

I know, I was shocked too. I grew up putting eyeliner on all the gay kids before they went out to dance on stage, I didn't expect Harvey Milk to be a total Karofsky! But yes, the man played football.

And he was in the U.S. Navy, too. The man was born to mess with people's heads.

Is it wrong that I think he looks hot in his uniform? Probably...

Seriously though, Harvey Milk was born on May 22nd, 1930 in Woodmere, New York. He came from a Jewish family—his grandpa actually started the very first synagogue in the city where they lived. Harvey was a nice kid, teased by the other kids for his stuck-out ears and big feet. Harvey responded by acting like a goofball a lot, basically trying to get people to like him. This pattern would continue for the rest of his life.

Like I mentioned earlier, Harvey joined up with the Navy after graduating from New York State College for Teachers (it's now the State University of New York at Albany). He served aboard a rescue submarine, then a diving instructor, and was then discharged (though probably not for being gay, despite some of his public statements). Harvey realized he was gay in his teens, but kept it a very close secret until he grew older.
After exiting the Navy, Harvey kinda floated around for a while. He was trained as a teacher, and also worked in banking. The guy was a nerd as well as an all-American boy (which just makes my head explode. Lovingly, of course). But perhaps most important to his own personal development was the hippie phase that started around the time he was 39. That was when Harvey went to San Francisco.
It was, initially, for a man. But Harvey fell in love with the city, and everything it meant for gay men in the 1970s. You think it's a gay city now? It was friggin' Oz back in the day, with gay people moving into every nook and cranny. There's nothing like being around a bunch of people just like you, isn't it? It empowers you. Heck, it helps create you. It's safe to say that Harvey was never the same again after discovering San Francisco. He would go on to defend it as a safe place for gay people, eventually spreading a gospel of equal rights from its hilly streets.

I'm not one for idealizing the dead. By the sound of it, Harvey could be an annoying-a*s man to be around at times. He was a spaz. He was loud. He was probably an attention hog. He once thought about marrying a lesbian, beard style, so he could have a cover and just go about his life. He challenged every gay person in America to come out, to show the heteros in their lives that gay people are everywhere, and he didn't even hold to that himself. But Harvey had guts. He said and did things people only imagined were possible. He knew the value of getting people to like you if you wanted to get anything done in the world. And maybe that was Harvey Milk's legacy: Getting everyone to like him. Because he was indeed the "gay candidate" in the public's mind. But he spoke about gay rights in a way that everyone could relate to. That's a miracle. That's progress.

You have to admit, the milk bottle t-shirt is just AWESOME.
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