An Evening With Stuart Milk

Interview with Stuart Milk following the UK Premiere of Emily Mann’s Execution of Justice: The Trial of the Man Who Killed Harvey Milk

Daniel Lee • • @RealDanielLee on Twitter

November 27th 1978: Dan White shoots and kills Harvey Milk, the first openly gay American to hold elected office and George Moscone, mayor of San Francisco.

May 21st 1979: Dan White is found not guilty of murder.
Execution of Justice is the story of how and why it happened.
A cast of 20 perform Emily Mann’s award-winning 1982 verbatim play – a panoramic view of a time of upheaval and change, told in words taken from trial transcripts, interviews, reportage and the street.
Moving in and out of the courtroom and backwards and forwards in time, Execution of Justice captures a divided city in crisis and the impact of loss.

Stuart Milk is the nephew of the late civil rights pioneer Harvey Milk, and formed the start up, not-for-profit Harvey Milk Foundation, whose mission is to fulfil Harvey’s dream of a world without discrimination and a world without hate.
On the evening of 12 January 2012 I got the chance to interview and speak with Stuart Milk about Proactive Diversity, as well as the play we just watched, and how times have changed in the gay community since his uncle’s assassination. After watching the play as a person in the courtroom in 1978, many things ran through my mind, such as how I would have perceived my place in the world as a gay activist, what I needed to do to ensure this type of thing never happened again, and of course a moment of sadness for the family.
I looked up into the eyes of a man looking into mine. He looked uncannily like the posters, newspapers clippings, campaign banners, and other items bearing the image of Harvey Milk, decorating the Southwark Theatre in London. When the world lost a great human-rights leader and role-model, this man lost a dear uncle. Now, I had the chance to find out first-hand what it was like to lose both at the same time. If you are no fan of speakers who begin with small talk, or jokes, this was an opening you would appreciate:

“My Uncle Harvey was killed when I was seventeen, and played a very important role in my life because he was the person I had some very important conversations with about my own authenticity. Whenever I see him portrayed in major motion pictures like Milk or documentaries like The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, or a play that just premiered at the Kennedy Centre called Dear Harvey, or what you and I just saw, Execution of Justice, its a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me. But more than just because in this case it was my uncle, its because killings like my uncle faced go on around the world every day.

I know that a lot of people look at the case and wonder how could a jury come back from deliberation and say that Dan White (the man who killed Harvey Milk and George Moscone) didn’t kill them with malice, and in cold blood. However, when you go back to 1972 when Harvey first went into public office, and even in 1978 when he was killed, homosexuality in the United States was still criminal, it was considered a mental illness by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association. A lot of people felt that homosexuals were not valuable citizens, and were not to be treated fairly.

When Harvey was killed, there were several states in the US where laws on the books stated one was not allowed to serve alcohol to known felons, deviants, or homosexuals. There is still one state that still has that law – Virginia, although the law isn’t enforced.

Harvey was a first for the gay rights movement because he wasn’t just gay, or openly gay, he was loudly openly gay. Many people in politics before him admitted, sometimes unwillingly, that they were gay, but Harvey brought it up in every conversation he had with absolutely anyone.

One point about Milk, or The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, or Execution of Justice, that I’m not sure how clear it becomes, is that the actual jury: The majority of those jurors did weep during Dan White’s confession. But it wasn’t just the jurors, the majority of the courtroom wept, and many people who read the transcript wept. They wept for Dan white. They wondered how could a good, Catholic boy who was representing wholesome, Americans values get caught up in this web created by the gay community in San Francisco. And I can tell you the type of defence that you see so beautifully portrayed in Execution of Justice is an excuse is a defence that continues to get used today: Not only in the dark corners of the world, where homosexuality is still punishable by death, but last year in a predominantly gay community in South Florida. There, we have an anti-hate crime law in the United States that was signed by President Obama that makes it a stiffer crime and a special prosecution if a person is killed or attacked because of discrimination that includes lesbians and gay people, but the prosecution has to say that discrimination took place. So here was this young man who was beaten for an estimated 90 minutes, and he was killed: Brutally beaten by three young people he knew, which often tends to be the case in gay-hate crimes, but the defense attorney said that it was a robbery. However, his full wallet and expensive watch were not taken.

Less than six months ago we had a complete dismemberment of a sixteen-year-old youth in San Juan (Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States) whose murder was not prosecuted as a hate-crime. When the police chief found out about the crime, he said, to a reporter, “That’s what you get when you live that type of lifestyle.”

I’m bringing this up because, unfortunately, we still have a lot of challenges. We have progressed in many ways – we have a tremendous leader in the President of the United Staes, we have great leaders around the world who stood up to the myths and the lies about gay people, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and who have started to call people on this type of violent discrimination and violent hatred, but we have a long way to go.

So we’ve got some strong voices, and many strong allies, and Harvey was tremendously impacted on being a Jewish-American whose writing had been getting notice at the State University of New York in 1951 about why are we dividing people, why are we teaching teachers about war by having ROTC on campuses (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps – a programme where qualifying persons have their four-year college expenses paid for in exchange for four-years U.S. Army enlistment after said schooling.) So unlike the movie Milk where he meets an activist on the subway and instantly becomes charged, he had it in him many years earlier.

The knowledge that he was going to be killed was profound. We have two letters in the family that he wrote after the Briggs Initiative (a proposition in California that would have denied gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people the right to teach school. That was a tremendous victory that Harvey helped lead – Dan White was opposed to that proposition. Harvey got tonnes of hate-mail over that, and he knew he was going to be killed. He had conversations with friends, he talked with family, but he just knew that it was inevitable, similar to how Martin Luther King felt when he said to his followers, “I am not going to get to the mountaintop with you. Harvey knew he wasn’t going to get there – that isn’t Hollywood. The taped wills are there, the journals to be read after his death – we have those. He just didn’t know it was going to be Dan White. He felt what he did was worth a shortened life. Anne Kronenberg and I set up the Harvey Milk Foundation right after I accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honour in the US) for Harvey who, posthumously, was the first openly gay person to ever receive the award, but he was also the first GLBTQ activist to ever receive such an award, and we felt it was important to take Harvey’s message further.

In 1951, Harvey wrote, in a university paper, a column called You Didn’t Ask Me But… On one occasion he wrote about Göring (a leading member of the Nazi Party) and Hitler’s speech – he was really obsessed how a community can turn against multiple communities within their own nation, within their own statehood. He wrote about Göring and Hitler’s use of the word tolerance, where as they envisioned a Germany that was tolerant of second-class citizens by taking away their citizenship and putting them in places where they could be tolerated. There is work now, carried out by Dr. Caitlin Ryan who runs the Family Acceptance Project on semantics and the effects of semantics on families and their ability to accept their children and their differences including GLBTQ kids. Other researchers as well have looked at the people who commit these terrible hate crimes, and the overwhelming majority of people who perpetrate these crimes and murders do so because they say just couldn’t tolerate ‘those people’ and their type anymore. So the Harvey Milk Foundation wants to move the bar away from people tolerating other people. I’m from Florida, where we tolerate mosquitoes. We, in the gay community are the ladybugs, the dragonflies, and the butterflies of the world, and we aren’t meant to be tolerated. Nobody wants to be tolerated.
So our programme is called Beyond Tolerance and our goal is to move the bar to get everybody to include and accept everyone. Communities will realise that we are richer, and we are stronger when we accept and include everyone. There are a lot of people who are not remembered like my uncle who were killed just as violently, just as brutally, at the hands of people who simply could not tolerate them. According to the latest figures I just checked, murders that occur from GLBT hate-crimes are one every nine days. And that’s only the ones we can measure.

Daniel Lee is CEO of Proactive Diversity, whose mission is to advise, assist, and support the GLBTQ community and gay-rights organisations, movements and advocates worldwide to help achieve acceptance.


By Emily Mann

Directed by Joss Bennathan


Main House, Southwark Playhouse, 
Shipwright Yard (
Corner of Bermondsey St. and Tooley St.) 
London SE1 2TF

Nearest Tube: London Bridge

11 January – 4 February 2012

Monday to Saturday at 7.45pm

Saturday matinee at 3.15pm (28 Jan only)

Box Office 


By Telephone 
020 7407 0234


Ticket Prices
£10, £14, £18

‘Airline style’ pricing. The earlier you book the cheaper the tickets.

Concessions – 
Disabled people can bring one companion free of charge.
 There are no other concessions.

Access – 
Please inform Southwark Playhouse of your access requirements at least 48 hours before you attend the performance by phoning 020 7407 0234.


An Evening with Horse McDonald

11 November 2010 was a special date for a few people I know, and for several others I do not. One couple, my husband and I, celebrated our anniversary that evening at a concert by our friend, the fabulous Horse McDonald. I was a bit worried for our mate, though, as in the weeks prior she told me of her cold or flu affecting her sound, evident in telephone calls, and even upon arriving at Bush Hall in London on the afternoon of her show. All fears dashed when she hit the stage on this tour commemorating her own anniversary: 20 years since the release of her debut album ‘The Same Sky’ featuring UK chart singles ‘You Could Be Forgivien’, ‘Speed Of The Beat’, and ‘Careful’, featured below:

Aside from her immense talent, this woman has a heart larger than most. Through the friendship we formed because of her inclusion in my documentary ‘PROUD!’ I know the love she has for all of her fans, and the concerns she has for her fellow-members of the human race. Tightly sandwiched into the little time she had between sound checks and dressing for the show, Horse gave an interview and acoustic recording for a charity. She also spoke with Cindy Armstrong about her scheduled appearance at Cindy’s GLBT event in February 2011. Not surprisingly, other recording artists I talk to love her just as much, and had me pass along hugs to her from them. The highlight of the evening, for us personally, was when Horse dedicated ‘Somebody’ to Patrick and me for our milestone.

One sure sign of great artists is when other top-notch ones cover their work. At Glastonbury Music Festival, multi-award winning Will Young covered, ‘Careful’ in this moving arrangement:

Ending the perfect concert, after three audience-demanded encores, Horse finished with ‘Something Wicked’, bringing the room to its feet. Below is the video featuring a guest appearance by fellow Scottish celebrity, the beautiful Lorraine Kelly.

Once home, at 3AM the next morning, Patrick went to bed convinced we had the best anniversary ever by attending a concert of a good friend. Or, as we like to think, our anniversary party with Horse singing.

Dillon and Freddie and Priscilla, oh my!

Tuesday mornings usually designate an “up and at ‘em” type day for me, the type I most enjoy, and this was no exception. This is when I schedule meetings in London, all over our beautiful capital city. First on the agenda was at Stonewall, just south of the London Eye. This wonderful charity, founded in 1989 by a small group of men and women (including Sir Ian McKellen) who were active in the struggle against Section 28 of the Local Government Act, is one place I volunteer. Once inside this rather drab building’s fourteenth-floor, abutting Waterloo Station, one has a bird’s-eye view of every landmark for miles.

Lunchtime found me at Edge Bar in Soho where I met my friend, Dillon Buck, to discuss his interview for the PROUD! documentary, chat with manager Rafaela about filming locations in this impressive three-storey venue, and grab a pint. I really like the al fresco tables (which were unfortunately in use) although the multiple monitors of the latest music videos made up for having to meet inside.

A short walk away and I was at the Dominion Theatre discussing Freddie Mercury and his positive role-model qualities that are inspiring, and whose music with Queen are featured in the West-End musical, We Will Rock You.

The funniest moment of my day occurred when leaving my third stop, the Palace Theatre, speaking with folks there about ‘gay entertainment’ aimed at the general public. As I exited the stage door, a tourist taking pictures of the marquee ran up to me screaming, “Are you somebody?” Denying my urge to answer philosophically, I turned quizzical, lowering my ever-present sunglasses due to ‘glarephobia’, peering over the rims and replying, “Don’t you recognize me?” Without missing a beat, in true emperor’s-new-clothes mode she shrieked, “YES!” and snapped a dozen pictures. I turned my collar up, told her she was welcome, and walked away, laughing all the way to my fourth and final appointment – The Really Useful Group – Andrew Lloyd Webber’s office for permission to use Priscilla in my film.

Winding my way through the West End en route, I met a few actors outside St. Martin’s theatre, home of The Mousetrap – Agatha Christie’s mystery holding the world record of continually running play at 58 years. One of these, Michael Roberts (Mr. Paravicini in the show) introduced me to Polari, the old British gay slang that has all but died out, and its usage in theatre – a fascinating man and conversation, both of which I worked into PROUD! That conversation is exactly what I enjoy most about documentaries – watching or making: Discovering the unexpected, and realizing that often what one needs to tell the story best, cannot be found – it finds you.

Meeting Sir Ian McKellen

This was MY kind of Tuesday: Cold, rainy, and I had plenty of coffee ready to make all day. As much as I love running around London, I really enjoy working from home on a day like this. I turn the music down low and listen to the trickling on my window as I research topics. Today I am finding all I can on Sir Ian McKellen, whom I meet tomorrow for an interview. I had already started volunteering at Stonewall before I knew he and a few other men and women started the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender organization opposing Section 28. If it were not for freethinking individuals as he is, there would be no same-gender marriage, no gay-adoptions, and possibly re-criminalization of simply being homosexual.

Don’t get me started here. I am passionate about human rights, equal-rights, gay-rights, whatever anyone calls it: When I can’t, while somebody else can, I shut-up only when things change or I know I’ve done all I can. This is the exciting part about meeting Ian: He didn’t shut-up, and now I am a happily married man with a wonderful husband, in a country where our wedding wasn’t just a party: It was as real and legal as one between a man and a woman. It sounds simple, until it is you, and it wasn’t possible just around five years ago.

The event was to dedicate a Blue Plaque to Peter Tatchell, a fellow GLBT rights campaigner, and one extremely deserving of the honour, with McKellen dedicating the plaque. The reception, five blocks away was in the schedule for a 10-minute walk. Ours was twenty-five. I enjoyed the stroll myself, and felt like I was taking an autumn stroll with my grandfather, although we were chatting about what needs to be done today, and furthering ‘the fight’. Most importantly how proud we are of the young people in the public’s eye who are gay are not as afraid of coming out as when he and I were their age. It is such a joy meeting people who have done so much, for so many, and work with them to do more. It may make for a twenty-hour day sometimes, but I never tire of the work.

Conspiracy of Silence – A Very Special Film Event

I am pleased to tell you about a significant and important debate, taking place on the eve of the arrival of Pope Benedict to the UK for his state visit. The event takes place at the Odeon West End cinema in Leicester Square on Tuesday 14 September, and begins at 6.30pm with a screening of the award winning-film, Conspiracy of Silence, written and directed by John Deery. Along with the Bishop of Nottingham, stand-up comedian and broadcaster, Frank Skinner, there will be other special guests including theologians, lawyers, writers, and broadcasters, to debate the topic of celibacy in the Catholic priesthood. BBC Radio 4’s Ernie Rea will chair the debate.
The event has attracted a lot of media attention, with Sky, BBC, and ITN all covering on the day. Tickets are selling fast and as a very special offer to friends of mine who read this, the film’s producers are offering a 1/3 off ticket prices (reduced from £30 to £20) to the film and the debate. Order by calling John Deery’s office on 020 8392 1936 or email
Make sure you quote ‘Daniel Lee’ to get this special price.
Reduced ticket prices: £20 for adults (normal price £30) and £15 students and seniors (normal price £20)
For details of the film and debate visit:
Follow on Twitter: or through Facebook (search for Celibacy Debate 2010)
The film is based on real stories from real priests including one of the first Catholic priests in the UK to become HIV positive in 1986.
Join us for a great night of film drama and intelligent debate.

See y’all there!

For more information on this event, please contact:
John Deery
Director Producer Screenwriter
Conspiracy of Silence Ltd
Office: +44 (0)20 8392 1936
Mob/cell: +44 (0)7711 384 327

Twitterpated with Horse! (via Can’t Blog My Heart)

Horse is getting all kinds of love from Twitter peeps right now – including greetings from the one and only Will Young! There is also some exciting news – filmmaker Daniel Lee is collaborating with the leading LGBTQ rights organization Stonewall to create a documentary about Britain's rich gay history – and he wants to interview Horse! We will watch for further news on this! Speaking of documentaries, in 1993 Horse wrote music for a feminist film … Read More

via Can't Blog My Heart

The Pink Triangle

The Pink Triangle (German: Rosa Winkel) was the Nazi concentration camp badge used to identify all homosexual men, as well as those imprisoned for sexual offences such as rape, bestiality, and paedophilia. Originally intended as a badge of shame, the Pink Triangle, often inverted from its Nazi usage, has become an international symbol of gay-pride and the gay-rights movement, and is second in popularity only to the rainbow flag.
Under Nazi Germany, every prisoner had to wear a concentration camp badge on their jacket, the colour of which categorized them into groups. Individuals who were sexual offenders (including homosexual men) had to wear the Pink Triangle. Other colours identified Jews (two triangles superimposed as a yellow star), political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses, “anti-social” prisoners, and others the Nazis deemed undesirable.
While the number of homosexuals in German concentration camps is hard to estimate, Richard Plant (The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War against Homosexuals) gives a rough estimate of the number of men convicted for homosexuality “between 1933 and 1944 is about 63,000.”
After the camps were liberated at the end of the Second World War, many of the pink triangle prisoners were often simply re-imprisoned by the Allied-established Federal Republic of Germany. An openly gay man named Heinz Dörmer, for instance, served 20 years total, first in a Nazi concentration camp and then in the jails of the new Republic. In fact, the Nazi amendments to Paragraph 175, which turned homosexuality from a minor offence into a felony, remained intact after the war for a further 24 years. While suits seeking monetary compensation have failed, in 2002 the German government issued an official apology to the gay community.
Today, fewer than ten of those imprisoned for homosexuality are known to be still living. In 2000, the documentary film Paragraph 175 recorded some of their testimonies.
By the end of the 1970s, the pink triangle resurfaced as a symbol for gay rights protest. Some academics have linked the reclamation of
the symbol with the publication, in the early 1970s, of concentration camp survivor Heinz Heger’s memoir, Men With The Pink
Triangle. The pink triangle is the basis of the design of the Homomonument in Amsterdam, the Gay in Sydney, the Pink Triangle Park in the Castro neighbourhood of San Francisco and the huge one-acre Pink Triangle on Twin Peaks that is displayed every year during San Francisco Pride weekend.
Reclaiming a previously offensive term, the gay areas of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, and Edinburgh, Scotland are known as the Pink
Triangles because of their approximate shapes.

Why Are You Closeted?