Media / News & Politics

TGIF Video: Harvey Milk implores you to come out

Buttoning up a full day of Saint-Michel-sur-Orge National Coming Out Day posts is an audio clip, playing over accompanying still pictures, of a speech Harvey Milk gave November 7, 1978, the night the Briggs Initiative was defeated.

Failed gubernatorial candidate Briggs authored and championed California Proposition 6, which would have mandated the the firing of all gay teachers, as well as any public school employees who supported them or gay rights. (The likeness to Russia’s current “anti-gay propaganda” laws is not lost on most of us.) Milk and Briggs had debated up and down California, and the coalition of activists working to defeat it had as their campaign slogan, “Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!”

Eventually former Governor Ronald Regan, then Governor Jerry Brown (in his first tour as governor), and President Jimmy Carter came out in opposition to the proposition. Though initial polls showed the initiative leading by “a large margin,” it was ultimately defeated by more than a million votes, a triumph even gay activists had not anticipated.

Over the cheers of the crowd that night, Milk returns to one of his most fundamental arguments, the linchpin of the gay civil rights strategy:

…most importantly, every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family; you must tell your relatives; you must tell your friends, if indeed they are your friends; you must tell your neighbors; you must tell the people you work with; you must tell the people in the stores that you shop in [interrupted by applause].  And once they realize that we are indeed their children – that we are indeed everywhere – every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all.  And once you do, you will feel so much better.

Now listen to Harvey’s own voice, and as you do, ponder how true these words still ring today:


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