On October 11 Governor Schwarzenegger signed a bill designating May 22 as Harvey Milk Day—the date on which California schools will be encouraged to perform “suitable commemorative exercises” based on the late San Francisco Supervisor’s life and contributions. That word “suitable” deserves close scrutiny.
What most Californians know about Harvey Milk is based overwhelmingly on the movie for which Sean Penn won an Academy Award. As is typically the case, Hollywood and reality have little in common.
“Metrosexual” British journalist Mark Simpson puts the disconnect this way: “the famously horny middle-aged sexual libertarian in 1970s Free Love San Francisco, who combined cruising and political campaigning—and had a taste for men half his age—is presented in ‘Milk’ as a serially monogamous chap looking for The One to make house with.”
Simpson’s witty observation is based largely on the respected Milk biography by the late gay activist, Randy Shilts. “The Mayor of Castro Street” provides a detailed portrait that’s far from the “pasteurized” Hollywood hagiography. Shilts not only recounts Milk’s fondness for boys as young as 16 but also the martyr’s radically non-monogamous views about sexuality:
"As homosexuals, we can't depend on the heterosexual model. We grow up with the heterosexual model, but we don't have to follow it. We should be developing our own lifestyle. There's no reason you can't love more than one person at a time."
Those words weren’t spoken by Milk during a pre-AIDS conference on gay culture. Rather, according to Shilts, they were directed toward a San Francisco lover while explaining the existence of another boyfriend in Los Angeles.
I can’t think of a “suitable” classroom commemoration for that bit of wisdom. A third grade reading of “Heather has Four Daddies” seems a stretch even for “progressive” Californians—especially in an era when inconvenient political truths are rigorously censored.
Fortunately, no one would know, based on Sean Penn’s Milk, that the slain Supervisor’s life was decidedly more risqué than the serial debauchery celebrated on CBS’s “Two and a Half Men.” Nor would they know that Milk was (in John Podhoretz’s reading of Shilts) an “aggressive, purposely offensive, press-savvy” fellow “who believed the cause of gay rights would be advanced if there were riots in the streets of San Francisco.”
Reality has long been packaged in Hollywood and swallowed by lazy consumers without the wit or backbone to investigate matters for themselves and to stand up for principles not embraced by Oprah Winfrey.
Harvey Milk Day has come to pass based on a Tinseltown deception—just as Americans’ views of JFK’s assassination have been largely shaped by Oliver Stone’s even more egregious cinematic fabrication.
Few are inclined to study (or even to ponder) the actual facts—including those from ancient Greece that give the lie to PC propaganda about homosexuality as a “purely” genetic predisposition akin to eye color.