“Hope will never be silent” - Last Saturday was Harvey Milk Day
Last Saturday was Harvey Milk Day, it would’ve been his 91st birthday.
"Hope will never be silent."
- Harvey Milk
On May 22 we honor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in California and an advocate for civil rights for all US citizens and queer people around the world.
43 years after his openly LGBTIQ+ political leadership in the US, what is it like for queer leaders around the world?
Milk made history in 1977 when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, therefore beating 16 other candidates at a time where queerness and politics couldn’t possibly go along.
Like most LGBTIQ+ people in his time, Milk faced blatant homophobia all through his life, including his work life.
Born in 1930, Milk grew up in New York and went on to serve in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He left the service after four years in 1955, being dishonorably discharged for his sexual orientation.
Looking for a sense of community belonging, he made his way to San Francisco in 1972, attracted by the city’s large openly gay population. He first opened a camera store in The Castro, San Francisco’s historic gay neighbourhood, and soon began running for local elections, making good use of his significant public speaking skills. Although his first three runs were unsuccessful, Milk still got very involved in the town’s daily life. His focus on people and numerous fights along with civil-rights leaders got him the logical nickname of “Mayor of Castro Street”.
Once he took office in 1978, he made considerable changes for LGBTIQ+ people, making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. By passing this historically tough bill, Milk hoped it would allow and encourage a lot of queer people to come out at work. Because, in his words, “then the images and stereotypes of who is gay wil be changed as people start to realize that gay people are in every walk of life.”
His term was filled with historic steps forwards for LGBTIQ+ rights, which he fought for and set up in a record time. Indeed, Harvey only served as supervisor for 11 months, until a jealous colleague and opponent, former supervisor Dan White, came to City Hall on November 27, 1978 and gunned down both Milk and then Mayor George Moscone. Harvey was 48.
Milk went on to inspire generations of queer rights activists, and his legacy lives on today. 43 years later, many closet doors have been opened, but there is still massive work to be done as fear still prevents LGBTIQ+ employees from bringing their full selves to work.
According to a study from the HRC Foundation, almost half (46%) of LGBTIQ+ workers in the United States are closeted in the workplace in 2020.
On the leadership side, there’s even more work to be done, with fewer than 0.3% of Fortune 500 board directors being openly LGBTIQ+ in 2020.
In 2018, Beth Ford made history by becoming the CEO of Land O’Lakes and the first openly gay woman to run a Fortune 500 company.
Openly LGBTIQ+ corporate leaders are rare, which is why it’s time for action and representation, now more than ever.
The RAHM Global LGBTIQ+ Leadership Contest 2021 will be held online in less than two months, on July 15 & 16.
Do you want to prove those stats wrong? Then APPLY and come show the world what LGBTIQ+ leadership can do!
Applications are open until June 1st.
If you want to learn more about Harvey Milk’s life, we recommend looking into his Official Biography from the Harvey Milk Foundation and watching Gus Van Sant’s “MILK”, starring Sean Penn and James Franco.
Join our RAHM Community or apply for the RAHM Contest 2021: To the application form!