My wife and I went to see Milk yesterday.
First of all - Sean Penn was amazing! He became Harvey Milk. When I see pictures of the real Harvey Milk now - my first reaction is "no, no, that's not what he looks like - he looks like Sean Penn"
This morning my wife asked me how the movie affected me. In truth, I have to confess that it really didn't have much of an emotional impact on me. Although, I must say I'm a bit surprised at that. Given the other reviews I read, I expected it to have a great impact on me. The only time I started to get chocked up a little was when Harvey Milk was talking on the phone with a suicidal teenager who said his parents wanted to send him away to 'fix' him.
We saw the movie in the local mega cinema. Out of 30 screens - Milk was showing on the smallest - probably because there were only about 12 people in the theater. Not really surprising given that I live in one of the reddest parts of a very red state - and in the thick of the bible belt. It was, of course, dark in the theater; so, I couldn't get a good look at the other people. But, it seemed to be mostly male/female couples. In the row behind us was a threesome - a boy and two girls - who looked to be of high school age. I suspect he was probably gay and he had his flame dames with him.
I'm rather embarrassed to admit that, although I was of voting age at the time and from California, I don't recall anything about proposition 6 nor the resulting controversy. Probably because I wasn't actually in California at the time as I was serving as a missionary for the LDS church - in other words, I was pretty much cloistered and oblivious to current events. It's a miracle I was even aware that Elvis died a year prior to Harvey Milk being assassinated - and that was only because one of our investigators was totally distrait.
So, the movie served as a good history lesson for me in the gay rights movement. I also felt it depicted the gay culture of the time fairly accurately - warts and all. And, I think, that may be why it didn't have the impact on me that I expected. I believe one of the reasons it took me so long to accept my sexuality is because of my view of gay culture - frankly, I'm not comfortable with certain aspects of gay culture; and, I think, watching this movie reminded me of that discomfort, thereby negating the expected emotional impact. Although, I understand why such a culture exists. What else can be expected when you have a group of people living in a society that tells them that they are perverts, deviants, and that God doesn't love them.
I also realize that, as a closeted heterosexually married gay man, I owe a great debt of gratitude to people like Harvey Milk - and those who came before and after him in the gay rights movement. It is because of them that we have increased societal acceptance - which led to me being able to finally admit to myself that I am, in fact, gay. It is because of them that I do not fear losing my job were someone to find out that I am a homosexual. Were it not for their sacrifices - I wouldn't even dare think about having a blog and discussing my life as a married gay Mormon man.
The 70's is when gay culture began to evolve from an underground culture to one that is more open. That evolution is ongoing - but with that evolution, others have been able to come forward to show the world - and me - that gay people are everywhere. They/we represent a cross section of society - be it rich or poor, religious or atheist, republican or democrat - and that was the epiphany I needed to accept that I too am a homosexual. It showed me that I do not have to change who I am - I can be the same as I've always been. The only difference being that now I accept my true self.
But, the fight is not over, the war has not yet been won. There is still a lot of bigoted hate that needs to be eradicated. My particular circumstances do not allow me to step out of my closet - yet; but, I do agree with Harvey Milk - that is what it's going to take. People need to realize that we're not all just a bunch of sexual deviants out marching the streets in thongs. They need to know that we are their next door neighbor, the person in the next cubicle at work. They need to have the same epiphany that I did.
In particular, Mormon's need to realize that gay Mormon's exist. They need to know that we are sitting next to them in church, we are teaching their children. We might even be sitting on the stand presiding over a meeting.
So, I look forward to the day when I too will be able to step out of my closet to show the world that even slovenly old fat married Mormon dudes can be gay too.