This is the story of a mom teaching her 8-year-old gay son about Harvey Milk — or, rather, the two of them learning together.
Amelia’s son was assigned to do a presentation for his second-grade class about a civil rights leader, and he chose Harvey Milk. In her excitement about his ability to express himself and learn about someone so important, she forgot that Milk’s history was a painful one to revisit.
But together they worked through it, and the most important lessons shone through to the class too:
The students spent the first part of their day writing out their essays, then the second half reading them to the class. When it was my son’s turn, he chose not to read but simply to tell his class what he had learned. He told his class that Harvey Milk was gay and fought for the rights of gay people. He explained to his class about what it meant to be “in the closet” and why it wasn’t good. He told them about how Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot by Dan White, and how the city rioted when White was not convicted of murder. And he told them that President Obama presented Harvey Milk’s nephew with “the highest award in the land” (aka the National Medal of Freedom).
The other students had never heard of Harvey Milk. They were engaged in what my son had to say. They listened and then started asking questions and expressing their disbelief. They had the same questions that my son had asked me: Why would people hide being gay? Why did people think being gay was bad? What were Twinkies? My kid answered all the questions like a pro.
When I talked to my kid after school, he was elated. The report had gone very well, and everyone had loved it. Later I got a call from his teacher telling me all the details. She was thrilled, and so was I.
I don’t usually post much this late at night, but this was too beautiful not to share. I hope it enriches your week like it has mine. “You gotta give ‘em hope!”