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Self-promoting activist Dustin Lance Black is no Harvey Milk

My more successful nemesis, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Milk” — a phrase likely incorporated in his voicemail greeting — is fond of depicting himself as the lone voice in the wilderness, fighting for justice while others stand on the sidelines.

The sun was warm and the reception from the town even warmer. I hadn’t run across such courteous people since I left Texas when I was 13 years old. As I drove down College Avenue, I passed a school. The sign out front read: Hope College. I smiled. I was supposed to be moving on from Milk, the 2008 film in which Sean Penn portrayed early gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk. But here was Harvey’s favorite word, “Hope,” finding me once again.

They had simply never discussed gay rights openly before, and here I was, an interloper, threatening to thrust this hot-button issue into their community.

A similar narrative was relayed to the author of a widely discredited new book about the fight for marriage equality.

On March 21, 2009, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black gave a speech at the OutGiving conference for LGBT donors held by Tim Gill’s Gill Foundation warning against gradualism and calling for full federal equality for LGBT people.

“If there was applause, Black didn’t remember any,” Jo Becker writes of the speech in her new book, Forcing the Spring, which details the anger that a planned federal lawsuit challenging California’s Proposition 8 was raising from some more established LGBT leaders. “Instead, he recalled an ocean of pursed lips and crossed arms, and that he was literally trembling as he walked off stage. … Tim Gill … denounced Black outright, telling the crowd he was naive and misguided.”

BuzzFeed acquired a video of that speech and found that Black’s speech was interrupted by applause five times.

At the end, at least some members of the audience gave Black a standing ovation, the video shows. Though Black does look nervous, he is far from trembling — and waves out to the audience with a smile on his face before leaving the stage.

Don’t expect Black to be held accountable. The mythmakers in the Petty Queer Establishment have embraced him as one of their own. DLB should feel right at home, since their version of history often contradicts reality.


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