Photos From a Footsoldier in the Battle for Equal Rights

Written by | Gay Voices

Gay Rights Activist Harvey Milk

Gay Rights Activist Harvey Milk. (photo courtesy Jerry Pritikin)

I happen to own a few footnotes in gay history as a photographer in San Francisco for 25 of the greatest years of my 82 years.

From the early ’60s to late ’80s. For starters, in the 1970s I moved between the Haight and a working class neighborhood in Eureka Valley called the Castro. I exhibited my photos in a bakery shop window there at 420 Castro, mere yards from today’s Harvey Milk Plaza. I remember someone telling me about a couple of gay guys from New York opening a camera store. I went over and introduced myself to Harvey Milk and Scott Smith. We became friends.

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Milk and Moscone

I later met and became friends with Mayor Moscone. In fact, I became a one-man army in the gay rights movement. I outed myself nationally and my image went across the United Press International Photo wire news service, when I created the Anita Bryant’s Husband is a Homo Sapien T-shirt design that was mentioned the next day on Paul Harvey’s News and radio commentary.

A couple of weeks later, I was able to convince Jane Fonda to wear one at Oil Can Harry’s Disco, a fundraiser to combat Anita’s anti-gay agenda. That too was featured on the Associated Press and local media. And on 6/7/77, “Orange Tuesday” (the moniker I gave for that day) when the news broke in San Francisco that — 2,000 miles away in Dade Country Florida — a gay rights ordinance was rescinded by voters led by Anita Bryant,nit triggered an impromptu march from the Castro to Downtown’s Union Square.

Along the way, Harvey Milk, who brought a bullhorn was yelling, “Out of the bars and into the streets!” By the time the march arrived at Union Square, more than 5,000 people were taking part in the demonstration. This scene was recreated in the movie Milk, where Harvey is shown in front of the Castro Theater.

Tinseltown Revisionism

Well, that never happened. Harvey spoke to the crowd with a warning: “If gay rights can be rescinded in Dade County, it can happen elsewhere and even in San Francisco.” I took what has become an iconic image of Harvey (visit thecastro.net). Because of the movie, there is a myth about a bullhorn. Do a Google Image search of Harvey Milk with bullhorn and 99 per cent of them are Sean Penn playing Harvey.

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Last modified: April 23, 2019