Watching the Oscar show last night was a quiet TV night here at my house. My enthusiasm was for shows I'd seen, which were only two that were up for Best Picture: Milk and Slumdog Millionaire. Given the fact that I have traveled to India, and that I'm an advocate for gay rights, of course I was excited for the awards won by those two movies.
I couldn't have been more pleased when I saw that the screenwriter for Milk, Dustin Lance Black, won for Best Original Screenplay. Not knowing him prior to seeing him onstage to accept his award, I was moved to tears, along with him, as he gave this acceptance speech:
…When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.
(This was about where he started to have tears in his eyes.)
I want to thank my mom who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches or by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you, thank you, and thank you God for giving us Harvey Milk.
There is more to read about Dustin Lance Black's growing-up years, his early life as a Mormon, and his first contact with the story of Harvey Milk, here.
When Sean Penn won the Best Actor Oscar, I was not surprised when he began his speech with the a wry smile and this greeting, "...You Commie, homo-lovin' sons of guns..." Acknowledging that he doesn't make it easy to be appreciated, he continued to say,
"I think it's a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren's eyes if they continue that support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone."
Because I'm sometimes criticized for speaking out for GLBT rights, I ask myself why I do it. When I see movies like, "Milk," I know why. And when I heard that speech by Dustin Lance Black, I know even more that it is the right thing to do. I speak up for that talented, inspired writer so that he brings more stories to life, so that we all learn how to be better. It is for the child who knows that she is different, but that deserves acceptance and love. I write on behalf of and to encourage the parents who are hearing condemnation for their beloved child in church, but in their hearts know that they need to show love and support. And I speak up to let all my friends know, that I'm not going to be a grandparent that my grandkids will be ashamed of because of how I looked at gay people.