Perhaps, one reason so many gay activists warmed to the recent Academy-Award winning movie Milk was that it hearkened back to a day when gay people were truly victims.Â In the 1970s, those who were open about their sexuality, endured regular ridicule and suffered significant social marginalization.Â The police did not investigate gay bashings, even when they were fatal.Â More often than not, elected officials, particularly at the local level, did not respond to our concerns.
Times have changed greatly in the thirty years since Harvey Milk’s election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in large part due to the activism he inspired by his example.
Sometimes it seems, gay activists act as if the world hasn’t changed since Milk’s day, as if we remain victims, lacking “rights.”Â As the situation improves for us, many of those activists have now become the haters.Â And the heads of the gay organizations who eagerly rush (and, in many* cases, rightfully so) to denounce anti-gay bigotry, all but ignore the hatred emerging on their side.
This is not something that is new this year, or even this decade, but something we’ve been witnessing at least since the 1990s, but it has become particularly manifest in the wake of the passage of Proposition 8.
In a piece in the most recent Weekly Standard, painter and cultural commentator Maureen Mullarkey recounts what happened when the San Francisco Chronicle “published the names and home addresses of everyone who donated money in support of California’s Proposition 8 marriage initiative.”Â She was one such donor.
She was called a “vampire,” accused of hatred and denying love, labeled as representing “the most despicable type of artist and human being. I do hope that you feel the financial pain your actions will bring.”
On gay marriage, alas, such rhetoric has more often than not replaced civil discourse.Â And all too often, the self-appointed leaders of our community remain silent as the vitriol increases, ignoring how it damages efforts to continue the social progress we have since Harvey Milk first rose to prominence.
No, the heads of the gay organizations are not responsible for this hateful rhetoric, but it is striking that they do not denounce it.Â If they did, they would make a stand for more civil discourse on the controversial issue of state recognition of same-sex marriage.Â And help continue the progress that begin when bold leaders like Harvey Milk first stepped forward to counter anti-gay attitudes.
*I say, “in many cases,” because sometimes they define as hatred something which is merely a difference of opinion.