Harvey Milk and a Lesser Known Hero

Today is Harvey Milk Day, when we commemorate the birth of the first true gay activist, Harvey Milk, born on this date in 1930. Harvey became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. He won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, where he served for only eleven months until his death by an assassin’s bullet on November 27, 1978.

Harvey Milk has since become an icon in San Francisco and a martyr in the gay community. His campaign manager, Anne Kronenberg, said of him, “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.”

As great as Harvey Milk was, and as much as we owe to him in the continuing fight for LGBT equality, there is a lesser-known hero, to me. His name was Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado. Most people have never heard the name. He doesn’t have a day named after him, or a foundation in his honor. But Jorge, too, died because of who he was. This is what I wrote on the day of his death, November 17, 2009, when he was beaten to death by thugs in Puerto Rico for being gay.

A few hours ago, I fell into a fitful sleep with a heavy heart; heavy with grief, outrage, disappointment and disillusionment. It is inconceivable to me that in this day and age of enlightenment, of tolerance, acceptance, peace, love and understanding, somebody can still be brutally murdered simply for being gay.Jorge lived in Puerto Rico and according to reports, “He was a very well known person in the gay community of Puerto Rico, and very loved.” Yet somebody took it upon themselves to decide that because Jorge was gay, he did not deserve to live. What kind of person could have the audacity to think like this ? A monster? No. A sociopath? Probably not. It was somebody taught by society and by his parents and by his friends to HATE. To hate those who are different, those who may pose a threat to their manhood, those who are brave enough to live their lives the way they were meant to live. Is it any wonder that gay teens commit suicide at a much higher rate than straight teens? They are scared shitless to live freely and openly in this world, in a world that still hates, that still kills those who dare to be born different.

Please, we need–no, we must– we must love each other. We have to accept, tolerate, and celebrate the differences in each other. Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado is now in the loving arms of God. His struggle is over. He is at peace. When will we be at PEACE?

I hope there comes a day soon when the heroes of the LGBT equality movement can all be celebrated in life, not just honored in death.

Hope will never be silent.– Harvey Milk


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