Davina Kotulski

Harvey Milk and Bakersfield

Filed By Davina Kotulski | May 22, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living, Politics
Tags: Alabama, Bakersfield, California, Harvey Milk

Years ago my wife, Molly, and I were driving through Bakersfield and stopped at an IHOP, Denny's, or one of those places you go to when you're on the road. harvey-milk.jpgWe met a really nice waitress and she came out to us. She wasn't gay or transgender. She was a Democrat.

She quietly whispered it to us. We were incredulous. She said that she was told by some neighbors of hers that they thought she was a good person until they found out about her little secret. She told us that it was hard to hold her head high as a "Democrat" in Bakersfield, a right-wing conservative hot bed.

Years later in May 2008 my wife became a minister of the Universal Life Church which involves an online application and $25. She did this so that she could marry same-sex couples in Bakersfield after the Kern County Clerk refused to do so, even after it was legal. Molly literally married couples on the sidewalk in front of the Kern County Clerk's Office because they chose to be the Alabama of California.

Sorry, all of you progressive folks from Alabama.

Now Bakersfield is refusing to honor a great American hero, Harvey Milk. (Kind of reminds me of when Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr's birthday.) Why refuse to celebrate and honor Americans who actually did brave and honorable things and made positive contributions to human civil rights?

Can you imagine what it would be like to be LGBTQ in Bakersfield? It's very challenging. Just ask Roy Ashburn, the California Senator who was hiding in the closet and advocating for Yes on Prop 8. This is why I'm going to Bakersfield next month and doing a free coming out workshop there.

Today is Harvey Milk's Birthday, and whether or not Bakersfield recognizes it or not, Milk was a great American and his legacy will only grow by their choosing to deny him his rightful place in the history books.


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A. J. Lopp | May 22, 2010 10:43 PM

Yes, it is sad that there are pockets of California that go out of their way to negate the people that we regard as our heroes.

However, somehow LGBT people complaining about the Bakersfield action reminds me of [Tavis Smiley] and [Cornel West] criticizing candidate Obama in February 2008 because Obama didn't attend Tavis's State of the Black Union conference that year, and didn't promote an explicit "black agenda" as an intrinsic part of his campaign. The criticism of Obama backfired and garnered Smiley some [criticism of his own]).

I'm not sure it's a great idea for us to announce who our next saint is, and then call out every podunk town that doesn't genuflect --- it's counterproductive to come on as the Gay Politboro Thought Police. I'm not happy about Bakerfield's decision, but I think the best tactic is to do what most of us already do: ignore them. I would just as soon this not become a tempest in a teapot.

The problem with the left is that they feel they have something to apologize for when they talk to rightwingers. They don't, and if they understood why they believe what they do they'd be easier with it.

Anyway, gays have even less to apologize for, which is probably why we're more and more out.

I really wonder what a coming out seminar would be like. Do you have any interesting stories there, Davina?

A. J. Lopp | May 24, 2010 3:09 PM

Alex, for ideas about what a "coming out seminar" might be like, research The Experience Weekend program founded by the late David GoodStein (a former owner of The Advocate) and the late Rob Eichberg, PhD, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist. The Experience organization held hundreds or thousands of weekend workshops, which were to a great extent essentially "coming out" seminars.

The Experience trademark is now owned by diversity consultant Honey Ward of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and her website is at [www.experienceyourpower.com] .

Hi Alex,

Have not done the workshop in Bakersfield yet. Also, all of the workshops are confidential.

What I can share, is that LGBTQ people all over the world are still struggling with coming out because of fear of losing or not getting a promotion, losing a job if they are working for a religious based institution (e.g. a Catholic University or Christian retirement home), afraid to share the truth of who they are, fearful of rejection by their adult or young children, fearful of rejection by family members and friends. The reasons for staying in the closet and pretty universal. In fact, while traveling to Central Europe the past two weeks. I talked to two semi-closeted people and their reasons for not being "out" and hiding inluding the reasons mentioned above as well.

The FREE Coming Out Workshops I'm doing in Californa and then my One Day Intensive Fearless Queerness Program are designed to eradicate the limiting beliefs that keep us hiding and I work with people to become fully self-expressed and authentically and powerfully living their truth as LGBTQ people.

Check out http:www.fearlessqueerness.com for more information.