Davina Kotulski

Dear Harvey

Filed By Davina Kotulski | June 21, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: coming out of the closet, gay pride, Harvey Milk, marriage equality, Roy Ashburn, Stonewall, Ted Olson

Last weekend my wife and I drove five hours to Bakersfield. I held a free coming out workshop where people learned the 5 keys to coming out and my wife led a free media training workshop to help LGBTQ people and allies be more prepared when dealing with the Bakersfield media. It was a long, boring and at time smelly (Coalinga) drive. In fact, I found myself more than once asking "Are we there yet?" and I was driving.

But dare I say it was soooo worth it! Our hosts Lori and Whitney Weddell (LGBTQ Bakersfield and Marriage Equality USA Bakersfield Chapter), took us to see Dear Harvey. I'd never even heard of it.

Here's the scoop.

In December 2007, Diversionary Theatre commissioned Patricia Loughrey to write a play about Harvey Milk. She interviewed dozens of community leaders and Harvey's friends and family, people like Tom Ammiano, Toni Atkins, Jackie Grover, Cleve Jones, Christine Kehoe, Anne Kronenberg, John Laird, Stuart Milk, Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Daniel Nicoletta, Mary Stockton, Robin Tyler, Dottie Wine. The play is based on those interviews and uses photos by San Francisco LGBT photographer Daniel Nicoletta. It was a wonderful memorial to Harvey and to what he stood for.

The play was a tear-jerker and its message, Harvey's message, to come out, to see our perfection as LGBTQ people, and to be unapologetic and daring is still relevant to the work ahead of us as we continue to advocate for our equal rights.

It was really weird to be in Bakersfield as the cast spoke of places in San Francisco that I now take for granted because I've lived in the Bay Area for twenty years. It was also ironic because this play was performed during the first annual Harvey Milk Day, now a state-wide commemoration of Harvey Milk and his legacy to civil rights, but the Bakersfield school district this year refused to let teachers celebrate his achievements in their classrooms. You can imagine that this just led any student who saw "Harvey Milk day banned in Bakersfield," on the local paper or on the TV news to become more interested in learning about Harvey Milk than if their teacher had presented the information in the classroom.

Changing Hearts and Minds

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Bakersfield is home to Roy Ashburn, a once-closeted Republican Senator. Since he was "outed" after getting a DUI leaving a gay bar in Sacramento, Senator Ashburn has quit drinking and has been sharing his story with several news reporters. Senator Ashburn is exactly the kind of person who Harvey Milk would have called on to come out because of his position in power.

While his outing may have been accidental (or perhaps an unconscious wish to finally get out of the closet) I applaud Senator Ashburn for staying out when other politicians and influential people decide instead to burrow deeper in the closet.

I also believe that if our job as advocates for equality is to "change hearts and minds" then we must also be ready to embrace all people whose hearts or minds are changed, no matter how they come to their awakening.

Only a year ago, the LGBTQ community was vehemently against the federal challenge to Prop 8 and doubtful of the true intentions of Ted Olson who is now championing our cause in the federal court. Today some LGBTQ people want to turn their backs on Ashburn. I think it would be good if we took a look at some of our beliefs and biases and see where we could have a change of heart or a more open mind. Senator Ashburn could go from being an anti-gay politician to one of our biggest LGBTQ equality advocates within the Republican party. While we cannot be certain of the role Ashburn will play, we can be certain that the closet is a dangerous place for everyone. For those who are hiding, it means lies, deception, betrayal, hiding, shame, and addiction and it means that all of us are subject to the impact that their behaviors to hide have on all of us (e.g. voting for anti-gay initiatives or verbal/physical "gay-bashing."

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, we need to remember that we must continue to come out and not just once, but over and over again every opportunity we have, and to support others in their coming out process. Because we will only be free when all are free.

Happy Pride y'all!

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Thanks, Davina!

I think we were there at the same time ~ the wonderful closing night performance of Dear Harvey at Empty Space Theatre.

It was a shorter (and probably hotter) drive up from L.A. for my partner and me, but well worth it!

This was not my first time seeing Dear Harvey, and I wondered if it would effect me as it has in the past. I cried as soon as the show began, because I was seeing DEAR HARVEY in BAKERSFIELD!!

Congratulations to Mike Pawloski and a talented team at Empty Space for a magnificent tribute!!

Please tell your friends in New York City about Dear Harvey's next run this August at the New York Fringe Festival.


Yeah, Roy Ashburn's change has been pretty big.

It really sucks that no place around here puts on plays like this.

The Phoenix Theatre maybe... it certainly fits their mission to do issue-oriented plays around important social concerns.

Devin Riane | June 23, 2010 3:17 PM

I'm so glad that you enjoyed our show! It was great to have the support that we did of not only our community but people from other cities as well! Thank you so much for the work you are doing. While I wasn't able to attend your workshop I heard great things about it and really wanted to be there! Thank you again!

spigliatezza | June 23, 2010 5:27 PM
I also believe that if our job as advocates for equality is to "change hearts and minds" then we must also be ready to embrace all people whose hearts or minds are changed, no matter how they come to their awakening.

Absolutely. I think this is especially true for people who come out. Coming out is hard enough, being forced out is potentially harder, and being forced out into a community that doesn't want to accept you because of your past actions is, I imagine, even harder. We owe it to people who have decided (or been forced) to come out to accept them into the community, IF that's where they want to be.