Queer Activists I'm angry I didn't learn about earlier
1. Harvey Milk.
Thanks to Dustin Lance Black’s film ‘Milk’, this story has gotten some more recognition in recent years. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States in San Francisco in 1977. He was assassinated the next year.
2. Cleve Jones.
Oh boy. This man has arguably done more for the movement than any other individual (imo). He worked with Milk in the mid-70s, made the AIDS quilt in the 80s, and has worked for the gay rights movement for decades. Watch 'When We Rise’, also from Lance Black, or read Jones’ book of the same name.
3. Jamie Lee Hamilton.
Jamie Lee Hamilton is a trans woman, former sex worker, and activist from Vancouver. She provided safe spaces for other sex workers, harassed City Hall about the dozens of women that were going missing until they listened to her, and is just an overall badass. I learned about her by reading an article by Michael Harris called 'The Unrepentant Whore.’
This is an extremely small list, but these are the three that I didn’t learn about until I started to dig into the history of the LGBT+ community, and the ones that I was shocked I hadn’t heard about earlier. I’ll probably update this as I learn more. Feel free to add your own!
Longtime activist Cleve Jones has dedicated his life to working with members of the LGBTQ community, but growing up he felt like the only gay person in the world. He tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that he felt so isolated as a teenager that he considered suicide. Then he read about the gay liberation movement in Life magazine and his outlook changed.
“This magazine, in a matter of minutes, revealed to me that there were other people like me,” Jones says. “There were a lot of us. We were organizing. … There was a community, and there were places we could live safely. And one of those places was called San Francisco.”
Jones moved to San Francisco when he was in his early 20s. There, he found a mentor in Harvey Milk, one of the country’s first openly gay elected officials. He marched alongside Milk for gay rights, and when Milk was assassinated in 1978, Jones decided to dedicate his life to the cause. “Meeting Harvey, seeing his death, it fixed my course,” he says.
After the AIDS epidemic hit San Francisco, Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and started the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Jones describes his life and his involvement in the gay rights movement in his new memoir, When We Rise. He says it’s a story of hardship, but also one of triumph. “I have these memories of great struggle and great pain and great loss, but I also in my lifetime have seen extraordinary progress and amazing change.”
“If there should be an assassination, I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out. If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.. And that’s all. I ask for the movement to continue. Because it’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power.. It’s about the "us’s” out there. Not only gays, but the Blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s. Without hope, the us’s give up. I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you… You gotta give em’ hope… you gotta give em’ hope.“