Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to hold public office in a major American city. The day after his election in 1977, he said, “If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward – and I don’t want to walk backward.” What an inspirational thought! None of us want to walk backward, or live in the rear vision mirror, or kowtow to other peoples’ expectations and prejudice. Life is too short and the invitation to authenticity is too compelling to walk anything other than your own chosen path.

Milk had his own style and flair and refused to hide an important part of who he was. He felt that keeping his sexuality secret gave power to those people who denied others their basic human dignity and rights. He went public and urged others to go public so that they could manifest their own divine light. He was one of the great social snowballers, who by sheer determination and charisma, gathered freedom partners as he rolled from opportunity to opportunity.

Milk was shot dead by one of his colleagues, an anti-gay Catholic. The eulogy at Milk’s funeral was given by an openly gay Rabbi. He said in his eulogy that Milk came to synagogue to get votes, not to pray. Maybe getting votes was his way of praying as he was on a sacred mission, a la Moses, to liberate the LGBT community from the chains of oppression.

It’s especially tragic when homophobia comes from the religious community. Authenticity is a universal spiritual principle. To paraphrase a famous Jewish proverb, when you reach the next world, God will not ask you, “Why were you not like Moses?” Instead the question will be, “Why were you not more yourself?” Jesus described it as letting your light shine and not hiding this light under a bushel.

Milk is an inspiration to all of us, gay or straight, to live more authentically and passionately. Whether the issue is sexuality or some aspect of your personality that is suppressed or a vision that lies dormant, we all want to live liberated lives. We want to live the power of choice.

Coming out is a choice. Sexuality is not a choice in much the same way that people don’t choose hair color or height. However coming out is definitely a choice and it’s a powerful choice. Like all choices, there are risks and pitfalls. But the risk to remain hidden and suppressed is far greater. Coming out in your sexuality is part of fulfilling your true potential as a human being.

The way to be all that you can be is to be more yourself. When you are boldly and confidently yourself, you are not only happier but you shine a brighter light in the world. The world needs more people who are “out” in every way.

In the words of Marianne Williamson, “Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. You are meant to shine, as children do. You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within you. It’s not just in some; it’s in everyone. And as you let your own light shine, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As you are liberated from your own fear, your presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles)

What new freedom is beckoning you at this time in your life? How are you letting your light shine with greater clarity and radiance? What powerful choice is presenting itself to you? What seed of possibility are you being called to cultivate, to nurture and bring to new life at this time? Come out. Come out. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. However you need to do it. You know what you need to do and you have the courage to do it. The path may not be easy and it probably won’t be straight and narrow. But don’t look back and don’t walk backward. The rewards of facing your future head on and stepping into authenticity far outweigh any fear. In the words of Harvey Milk, “Hope will never be silent.”

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  1. Susan Vanderbilt, MSW says:

    Beautifully stated.  Thank you for spreading peace, joy, and common sense.

  2. GrantJM says:

    Ian- thank you for your voice in our community. I ‘made the choice’ to accept myself and walk it out publicly- at great cost. Coming from a conservative religious community, I’ve seen more fear in people over my decisions, rather than a personal challenge to face themselves and their own ‘closet’, whatever if might be, in a more honest way.  Perhaps others will listen to you more than they have to me.  Thank you again for speaking up on so many levels for those God bleeds for.

  3. crystal says:

    i often find myself holding my tongue…at family events, community gatherings or the like to avoid a confrontation over my difference of opinion with a more conservative viewpoint.  thank you for reminding me that not only am i doing a dis-service to myself, but also to others when i repress myself.

  4. Margaret says:

    Powerfully written Ian, and, as always, pointing to the true Light that lightens everyone born into this world. Namaste

  5. Janie Yutzy says:

    Save your face into the sunshine while you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do. (Helen Keller)