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Ed Team

Whitewashing Milk

Filed By Ed Team | December 31, 2008 7:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Quote of the Day
Tags: gay history, Gus Van Sant, Harvey Milk, Nancy Goldstein

"Bitch, I've seen queers more fired up when Bed Bath & Beyond runs out of sale items. Where's the passion?

Was Van Sant afraid that audiences wouldn't be sympathetic if 70s-era gay activists were people who suffered, swore, fought back, and fucked like they meant it? If the street kids actually looked like dirty, starving, broke-ass teen hustlers?

Gay history -- unedited -- is ugly, angry, and violent. It's police dragging us out of cellar bars and down to the station to gang fuck the femmes and face-rape the butches, queens, and trannies. It's military witch hunts; suicides and "experimental therapies," from lobotomies and electro-shock to Christian boot camps. It's Stonewall, where we showered raiding police with bottles, locked them in the bar, and set it afire. It's ACT UP and chaining ourselves to pharmaceutical companies' fences to protest AIDS drugs price gouging.

Van Sant's gentrified Milk reflects gay activism's increasingly apologetic tone. We don't always need to be burning police cars to prove our cred, but we shouldn't be inviting homophobes to the table, then singing their praises if they don't spit on us. It's not about hugging Rick Warren and being satisfied that at least he's being nice about denying us our civil rights. Politeness has become homophobia's most popular mask."

--Nancy Goldstein on Milk

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Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 4, 2009 2:55 PM

Yes, it's rarely the comfortable or the privileged who start progressive change movements. It's the people who have little to lose and are fed up and have the moxie to tell the agents of oppression where to shove it combined with a few people of vision who transform short term rebellion into a pursuit of comprehensive and lasting change. Neither group tends to be much appreciated by those who come later to institutionalize and mainstream the struggle. I think this is because people too often misuse and mislabel strategic tools as ways of being in a divisive way -- labeling and pigeonholing people into narrow paths defined by the use of only one or a very few of the tools in the toolbox whereas a wise activist eschews none of them, just picks and chooses the best one or ones for each strategic situation and need.