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This weekend is ‘Harvey Milk Day’ (mostly celebrated in schools and such on Friday, hence this post’s timing) and a few LGBT service organizations have been asking: What is your favorite Harvey Milk quote?
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the most popular quote given in response is this one: “All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”
Certainly a great, powerful quote and probably the most timely considering what’s going on in our country regarding marriage equality & civil rights.  Now, don’t misunderstand me here — Harvey Milk is a personal hero.   He has been since I first read (and could fully comprehend & appreciate) the accounts of his incredibly brave and legacy-building activism and the tragic loss we all suffered by his murder.  But let’s be honest; to pick a ‘favorite’ quote of Harvey’s is really pointless because there are just so many great ones to choose from.  But the “All Men Are Created…” one?   It’s not bad, but…   Well, he was really just riffing on some truth Thomas Jefferson laid down YEARS before, right?*
Maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve yet to see my personal, all-time greatest, most favoritest quote from Harvey Milk mentioned anywhere?
“If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward – and I don’t want to walk backward.”
Now, obviously, as a Gay man, this quote speaks to me on a much more intimately emotional level than it would for the majority of people reading these words.  But these are the ones that I’ve held to most closely.  Not because they inspire me…but because they help keep me grounded, reminding me that to get mired in all that hatefulness and anger and resentment isn’t helpful to anyone in the grand scheme of things.  Most especially, it won’t help me in any of my efforts to make the world a better, more peaceful, and fair place to live.  And as for the “maybe-less-than universal appeal” of my favorite quote…?
Well, I guess I’d like to suggest you read it again.  But this time, substitute another word for ‘Faggot’, whichever nasty pejorative you feel most clearly speaks to you.
And there you have the brilliance of Harvey Milk, see?   His passion for equal rights for all people and his focus on their inevitability runs through most every, single one of his famous quotes, certainly in these two.  Not only did Harvey Milk teach us that you can “never erase” the words that join us in our humanity, but that the ones used to disparage, belittle, and separate us can not only be erased, but flat-out ignored.  Don’t even waste time acknowledging these insults because doing so would be “backward”.
I don’t know about you, but I’m with Harvey — “I don’t want to walk backward”.
We’re walking forward.
Always, gaily forward!



*If you have any doubt that my tongue is inserted to near painful depths in my cheek throughout these comments, please come see me for the loan of a buck.  So you might then go buy a sense of humor, m’kay?

This weekend is ‘Harvey Milk Day’ (mostly celebrated in schools and such on Friday, hence this post’s timing) and a few LGBT service organizations have been asking: What is your favorite Harvey Milk quote?

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the most popular quote given in response is this one: “All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.”

Certainly a great, powerful quote and probably the most timely considering what’s going on in our country regarding marriage equality & civil rights. Now, don’t misunderstand me here — Harvey Milk is a personal hero.  He has been since I first read (and could fully comprehend & appreciate) the accounts of his incredibly brave and legacy-building activism and the tragic loss we all suffered by his murder.  But let’s be honest; to pick a ‘favorite’ quote of Harvey’s is really pointless because there are just so many great ones to choose from.  But the “All Men Are Created…” one?  It’s not bad, but…  Well, he was really just riffing on some truth Thomas Jefferson laid down YEARS before, right?*

Maybe I’m just bitter because I’ve yet to see my personal, all-time greatest, most favoritest quote from Harvey Milk mentioned anywhere?

“If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward – and I don’t want to walk backward.”

Now, obviously, as a Gay man, this quote speaks to me on a much more intimately emotional level than it would for the majority of people reading these words. But these are the ones that I’ve held to most closely. Not because they inspire me…but because they help keep me grounded, reminding me that to get mired in all that hatefulness and anger and resentment isn’t helpful to anyone in the grand scheme of things.  Most especially, it won’t help me in any of my efforts to make the world a better, more peaceful, and fair place to live. And as for the “maybe-less-than universal appeal” of my favorite quote…?

Well, I guess I’d like to suggest you read it again. But this time, substitute another word for ‘Faggot’, whichever nasty pejorative you feel most clearly speaks to you.

And there you have the brilliance of Harvey Milk, see?  His passion for equal rights for all people and his focus on their inevitability runs through most every, single one of his famous quotes, certainly in these two. Not only did Harvey Milk teach us that you can “never erase” the words that join us in our humanity, but that the ones used to disparage, belittle, and separate us can not only be erased, but flat-out ignored. Don’t even waste time acknowledging these insults because doing so would be “backward”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m with Harvey — “I don’t want to walk backward”.

We’re walking forward.

Always, gaily forward!

*If you have any doubt that my tongue is inserted to near painful depths in my cheek throughout these comments, please come see me for the loan of a buck. So you might then go buy a sense of humor, m’kay?