The Changemakers: Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man who has won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is now regarded as the hero of the gay population. Milk, like any other gay back then, hid his real identity and experienced the discrimination the society inflicted upon them. It was not until when he moved to Castro Street in San Francisco, which was then considered to be a home to a sizeable population of gay people; did he decide to become a leader for social change. He faced civic issues and policies which he did not like.

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It was the time when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community started to dominate the entire Castro District and it was also when there occurred growing political and economic power and also when there was a growing conflict between LGBT and the straight. He was in a community where political possibilities seemed to grow, communal identity deepened, and the sexual embodiment of freedom by gay men, made change palpable. Milk said “I finally reached the point where I knew I had to become involved or shut up”; and he chose to do the former.

He took advantage of the societal condition of the Castro and decided to run for a position in the Board of Supervisors. He wanted the gay people to join him in his fight for their rights as humans and he knew that the first way to be successful in his advocacy is to make them step out of their closets or reveal themselves to the world. However, that could be quite dangerous that time since society detests their kind that time. Milk knew that he had to assure them than no harm can be done upon them once they decide to show the world who they really are; and in order to do so, he must be in authority.

He believed that to change the system and how society views his kind, he must be in position. However, on his first two attempts of being a Supervisor, he lost. He lost but he surprisingly earned a large enough amount of votes which could have stemmed from his theatrical and populist campaigns; and in 1976, newly elected Mayor George Moscone appointed him to the Board of Permit Appeals. These facts clearly show that Milk had power in his hands even before he won the supervisory seat in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

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