from The Huffington Post
Now that Harvey Milk is on a stamp, I’ll be able to ask for him by name whenever I go to the post office.
The announcement was made close to the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay official to hold public office when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
The news was broken on Twitter by Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk.
The Harvey Milk stamp is being heralded as perhaps depicting the first openly gay LGBT figure.
However, Harvey Milk is not the first openly-gay LGBT figure to be on a stamp. One notable exception is James Baldwin.
Baldwin was perhaps ambiguously out but he was the author of Giovanni’s Room, one of the first gay novels. He is known for his identity as an African American writer, as a gay writer and as a great literary figure in general. When his stamp was issued in 2004, my partner, now a retired postal worker, came home with stories about a co-worker who asked her if Baldwin was indeed “that way,” a customer who said he would take any other stamp other than the one with Baldwin’s face on it and another customer who said, “He was a great man. I had the honor of meeting him once.”
My partner’s response to hearing that Harvey Milk was going to be on stamp was one of wonder.
“Wow. That’s deep… I wonder what people will have to say about that.”
Undoubtedly some will be thrilled, others repulsed and, unfortunately, a great many will be indifferent.
The fact that the issuance of the stamp will offend the religious right is a cause for celebration in itself. But Harvey Milk is a great American hero. And although we were on opposite coasts and I was in high school when he was elected to city supervisor, he is someone who influenced my life greatly. The fact that Anita Bryant, the former Miss Oklahoma who was best known perhaps as an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, was on the national news denouncing Harvey Milk meant that there were others like me out there.
I had a ticket for the premier showing at the Roxy movie theater on Sansom Street in Philadelphia. I was 25 and had come out a few years before. Inside the small but cozy theater, the audience was comprised mainly of gay men, with a few pockets of lesbians here and there.
The Times of Harvey Milk opened with Diane Fienstein, as the first female President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, announcing that San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone had been assassinated. As the documentary progressed, with the narration of Harvey Fierstein, the delightfully husky voiced gay icon (and one of the few openly gay actors at the time), I became aware of an unusual sound coming from all around me.
I realized then, that it was the sound of men, sitting in the dark, softly crying.
In those days my activist life was divided into two camps, women’s liberation — which is where most of the lesbians were — and the gay movement, at that time still predominantly men. Often, I was the person who brought the two groups together in my activist community in Philadelphia.
Today gay men and lesbians are working together — and we are a force to be reckoned with.