Graphic of Harvey Milk in front of rainbow flag. (Garrett Isley/ Golden Gate Xpress) (Garrett Isley)
Graphic of Harvey Milk in front of rainbow flag. (Garrett Isley/ Golden Gate Xpress)

Garrett Isley

SF State students reflect on the influence of gay rights activist

May 22 marks the celebration of Harvey Milk

May 22, 2022

As SF State’s Lavender graduation approaches, SF State students reflect on the Harvey Milk gay right activism. 

May 22 marks Harvey Milk Day, a celebration of his activism after he  was assassinated in 1978. Recognized by the state of California, the holiday was first organized by the Harvey Milk Foundation and signed into law by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009. 

SF State Student Aaron Levy-Wolins said that factors such as  gentrification play a role in Milk’s legacy dissolving. 

“A lot of people who voted for and supported Harvey Milk have lived in the Castro for a long time and have also been driven out due to gentrification and the rising prices of rent,” Wolins said. “The Castro is one of the most expensive places to live in San Francisco.”

According to Zillow, prices for homes in the Castro range from $45M to $266 K. 

Harvey Milk was an American politician during the twentieth century. Originally from the East Coast, Milk resided in the Castro, commonly known as San Francisco’s gay district. After running for office three times, he officially became one of the first openly gay men to be elected to public office in the country, serving as a member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. 

Milk facilitated efforts to cease discrimination against the LGBTQ community, such as helping pass a gay rights ordinance in San Francisco that prohibited anti-gay discrimination in housing and employment. These acts, in addition to becoming the Mayor of Castro Street, caused the many of those in the gay community to migrate to the Castro and made the neighborhood what it is today.

“Overall, Harvey Milk truly serves as a pioneer for the LGBT+ rights and representation, not only in the city of San Francisco but the whole LGBT+ movement, especially in a time in history where civil rights had become more of a focal point,” said Francis Pizarro, an SF State alumni. “His achievements solidified the future of the LGBT+ community”. 

SF State students and alumni believe that it is important to keep Milk’s memory alive.  

“He has been really important regarding LGBTQ people within society, whether it be on school campuses, or whether it be in workplaces or any other facet of society,” Wolins said. “Just being able to walk down the street holding your partner’s hand being able to or just being able to express as an openly queer person.”

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About the Contributors
Photo of Isabella Vines
Isabella Vines, Diversity Editor
Isabella Vines (she/her) is the diversity editor for Golden Gate Xpress. She's a senior at SF State, majoring in communications and journalism with a minor in race and resistance studies. Isabella is from and resides in the Bay Area. During her free time, she likes to travel, read and spend time with loved ones.
Photo of Garrett Isley
Garrett Isley
Garrett Isley is a photographer from San Diego, CA. He is a senior photojournalism major at SF State covering arts and cultural events across San Francisco. When he doesn’t have a camera in his hand, you can find him skating, at the beach or drawing in the park.

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