Milk, the review. Sort of. Well, not really.

The other night, the Better Half and I spent a little bit of time with our good friends, a couple I affectionately call the Angry Lesbians. Over the course of our conversation, I asked about Ariel Levy's article in the most recent New Yorker about the Van Dykes, and the radical lesbian movement. (Turns out that one of them had actually been to the Michigan Womyn's [sic] Music Festival, her description of which was hilarious.) Though neither of them had ever heard of the Van Dykes, they were certainly aware of that kind of political movement. Our conversation about the gay rights movement led to their telling us, once again, to go see Milk, which we finally did last night.

This isn't a review, per se, since I don't have much to say by way of critique. Sean Penn's performance was fantastic, and movie does a generally good job of depicting Harvey Milk's political engagement and career. It reminded me of why us gays are none too fond of Anita Bryant. There were a few cloying tics; I rolled my eyes at the operatic allusions at the end. But, by and large, it was a compelling, well-made biopic.

For me, however, the most powerful moments came at the very beginning. The film opens with stock footage of gay men being filmed in what appears to be some kind of documentary. Some are in gay bars, some are being herded into police cars after some such bar or another was raided. And almost all of them are hiding their faces from the camera. It was horrifying.

I am so profoundly grateful to live in a world (mostly) free of stigma. Where I can live and work openly and without apology for who I am. My mother recently called to tell me about a lesbian couple in my hometown who have a kid, and have experienced hardly any discrimination at all. (This is a pretty big change from just a few years ago, when a prominent gay couple in town were harassed to the point that they sold their house and left. One of them has since moved back, with a new partner.) Nobody has had the temerity to give me a lick of trouble about being gay for years, and at this point I almost pity them if they were to try. Maine's anti-discrimination law was upheld at the polls a few years ago, and there are efforts underway to legalize gay marriage. While there are still plenty of virulently anti-gay elements in America, and there's a lot of work yet to be done, I no longer have to fear a time when a camera in a bar would make me hide my face.

I am, thus, grateful to Harvey Milk (and yes, even to thoroughly obnoxious people like the Van Dykes and their ilk) in a way that is hard to describe. Because of who they were, I can be who I am. It is incredibly humbling and more than a little stupefying to think that, within my own lifetime a person like me could go from abject fear to blase acceptance, and I am so very thankful for the people who worked so hard to make the world the way it is now.

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