Gus Van Sant’s moving film ‘Milk’ (2008) is about the life, death and struggles of a gay American activist to become California's first openly gay elected official.
Harvey Milk, played by the award wining Sean Penn, is a man we should all get to know. A man who did not sit back and wait expectantly for someone else to come along and fight his battles, but took it upon himself to stand up and confront the issue of bigotry and prejudice with passion and devotion.
Though unsuccessfully running for office three times, facing many obstacles and death threats, he did not loose hope and finally achieved his goal in 1977. Only at the age of 40 did he become an activist and managed to achieve all that he did in the short 8 years before his tragic assassination.
“To be successful you must decide exactly what you want to accomplish, then resolve to pay the price to get it” – Burker Hunt.
When the human rights of the gay community were being attacked by the Briggs initiative (proposition 6) which aimed to remove all openly gay school employees and their supporters from their jobs, he fought back with a message; The message was a calling to urge all homosexuals to stand up and come out so that all could see they existed, that everyone would realize they knew a homosexual, that they were amongst the sons, daughters, brothers and sisters of the nation – That they were real human beings! Harvey believed this would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine.
Throughout his career he never considered himself a candidate. He considered himself part of a movement - a candidacy whose values he stood for. He saw a distinction between those who use a movement and those who are part of a movement. Whatever your opinion of homosexuals may be, this kind of politician is one we can all greatly admire!
Unfortunately it is impossible to avoid the topic of religion when discussing homophobia. Within Harvey’s campaign he quoted the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created Equal, and you can never erase those words!” This was in response to the abuse of the Christian religion being employed by opposing politicians. It is a reminder for the importance of secularism in government to help prevent any religious prejudice being used to oppress the rights of the individual human.
A brief summary of my personal opinion is this; if there is a God then he alone knows the true heart of each individual, only he can judge with authority whether any act is “sinful”. No matter how much stock you may put the interpretation of any holy text; you do not have the authority to accurately condemn another human being of “sinning against God”. That is purely between the individual (whose “soul” is in their keeping alone) and God. And if a God does not exist then homosexuality cannot be a “sin”, nor is it wrong because it does no harm (Things like pedophilia would be different as it does harm in case anyone was thinking along that argument).
Prejudice is natural in humans; it comes as undesirable evolutionary baggage that we must educate ourselves to overcome. Homosexuality is also natural (though not as common), it can even be observed in other species. The difference is that unlike prejudice, homosexuality is not harmful, nor can it be “cured” by education. There is no reason for it to be an undesirable attribute of any individual.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking the war has been won by people like Harvey already. An infamous example of continuing bigotry is the Westboro baptist church and it’s “God Hates Fags” campaign in America. Whether supported by the abuse of religious text or not, homophobia is still in existence at it’s most horrific level around the world. Whether it be the hanging of the teenagers Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni in Iran (2005), or the torture and murder of Matthew Wayne Shepard in America (1998) - It is more than an issue; it is people’s lives we’re fighting for.
So what can you do? - Be the change you wish to see! In our everyday lives something we can all do to remove the negativity attached to the word "gay" is stop using it to describe things we see as bad! Another is to overcome any feeling of insult if being called “gay”. OK, so you may not want the person you fancy thinking you're homosexual (if they're not of the same gender anyway), but there is no need for anyone to protest his or her innocence, even when it is implied in jest.
‘Milk’ is a must see movie with great purpose, passion, humor and emotion which I would give a 4.5 star rating. The acting is convincing, the message powerful and it works to achieve what Harvey Milk called for himself; “You’ve got to give them hope.”
Written by Oliver Harris (opinions given are my own and do not necessarily reflect the collective views of the UBUAI society).Accompanying playlist (youtube.com/apostaticaloli)
Another playlist on the topic of LGBT Human Rights:
I also strongly recommend this film!
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek" - Barack Obama