I was recently watching “Milk” in the theater and felt a familiar anger when yet another courageous woman, a Lesbian, was blatantly ignored. Who made this film anyway, a clueless straight guy? No, actually. Here in lies the problem, “Milk” is not a documentary. But a lesbian filmmaker doing research to make this movie could not help but be inspired by the lesbians involved in the real story. She would not allow Sally Miller Gearhart’s contribution to lesbian and gay rights be passed over or left on the cutting room floor. The exclusion of Gearheart’s contribution is far too important and too empowering to even consider changing this history.
The next time a young lesbian looks at me a bit puzzled when I talk about The Mazer Lesbian Archives and says, “Why do we need a lesbian archive in 2009 anyway?” I will calmly say, “Whenever you see a film like “MILK” you will never leave the theater thinking, “I wish someone like me had been as brave as Harvey Milk. You will know that indeed, someone like you, Sally Miller Gearhart, actually was as brave as Harvey Milk.”
Today we honor Sally Miller Gearhart. Her activism over these many years has been absolutely courageous. One only has to watch “The Times of Harvey Milk” to see this brave teacher who stood up and faced John Briggs head on. She worked side by side with Harvey Milk in 1978 to defeat the Briggs Initiative which would have prevented lesbians and gays or those who supported lesbian and gay rights from working in public schools in California. It is easy to see that Gearhart had far more to lose than Harvey Milk. You have to decide. In that crucial time Gearhart was not a politician, but a human being and a teacher who stood to lose her entire career, not just an election.