The tidiness of Harvey Milk’s martyrdom gave the Gus van Sant movie a shape and a narrative. And within that tight frame, he let this life breathe a little with its contradictions and complexities. I remembered that Milk understood two things: that organizing a gay community from the ground up was essential if homosexuals were ever to be free of threat, persecution and violence; and that such a ghetto would never be enough – because the most vulnerable gays and lesbians and transgenders are destined to be born every day in the great heartland between the coasts. This is the paradox of gay existence that is often the source of so much misunderstanding. The outside world sometimes puts us in a box of cultural otherness – “San Francisco values” – while we are also, simultaneously, as integrated into normality as any heterosexual. Because we are your kids. We grew up in your homes. We can never be totally other when we are also totally mainstream.
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