Whether or not you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Harvey Milk quotes will uplift you, inspire you and resonate deeply with you, because Milk has impacted generations with his vision for a more inclusive future.
Today, more than 40 years after his death, Milk is remembered as early political activist for the LGBTQ+ community. He broke down barriers in politics by winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
There is also a 2008 movie about Harvey Milk (featuring Sean Penn) that is based on his life as a gay rights activist, politician and first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.
Who is Harvey Milk?
Harvey Milk was a respected political activist for the LGBTQ+ community, who was sadly, assassinated at the age of 48. Born May 22, 1930, in Woodmere, NY, Harvey and his partner Scott Smith left New York to move to San Francisco, California, in 1972. They resettled in the Castro District, an area that grew into a epicenter for LGBTQ+ people.
By 1977, Harvey Milk became the United State’s first openly gay man elected to a high profile public office when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
An outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, Harvey Milk was assassinated shortly thereafter in 1978. Milk was part of a two-part assassination in which Mayor George Moscone and himself were shot at close range in San Francisco City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White.
His murderer, Dan White was angry that Mayor George Moscone had refused to reappoint him to his seat on the Board of Supervisors, from which he had just resigned, and that Milk had lobbied heavily against his reappointment.
Despite this sad chain of events, Milk is remembered today as an advocate for human rights and LGBTQ+ equality. I’m honored to share with you the following Harvey Milk quotes that I hope will empower and inspire you.
Top 50 Harvey Milk Quotes
Below are 50 of the most memorable Harvey Milk quotes of all time. Enjoy!
- If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.
- It takes no compromise to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.
- The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that my friends, that is true perversion.
- I would like to see every gay doctor come out, every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up, and let that world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody would imagine.
- Hope will never be silent.
- If you are not personally free to be yourself in that most important of all human activities—the expression of love—then life itself loses its meaning.
- All men [people] are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.
- I fully realize that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes the target or the potential target for a person who is insecure, terrified, afraid, or very disturbed with themselves.
- Unless you have dialogue, unless you open the walls of dialogue, you can never reach to change people’s opinion.
- Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
- Coming out is the most political thing you can do.
- All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.
- All over the country, they’re reading about me, and the story doesn’t center on me being gay. It’s just about a gay person who is doing his job.
- Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.
- I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they’ll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects I hope that every professional gay will say ‘enough’, come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help.
- More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, my friends, that is true perversion.
- I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you…And you…And you…Gotta give em hope.
- Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.
- If you are not personally free to be yourself in that most important of all human activities … the expression of love … then life itself loses its meaning.
- I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.
- The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right.
- If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I’d be walking backward – and I don’t want to walk backward.
- If every gay person were to come out only to his/her own family, friends, neighbors and fellow workers, within days the entire state would discover that we are not the stereotypes generally assumed.
- Gay brothers and sisters … You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth.
- Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.
- San Francisco can start right now to become number one. We can set examples so that others will follow. We can start overnight. We don’t have to wait for budgets to be passed, surveys to be made, political wheelings and dealings…….for it takes no money……it takes no compromising to give the people their rights……it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.
- It’s not my victory, it’s yours and yours and yours.
- If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.
- Politics is theater. It doesn’t matter if you win. You make a statement. You say, I’m here, pay attention to me.
- If I do a good job, people won’t care if I am green or have three heads.
- I finally reached the point where I knew I had to become involved or shut up.
- To sit on the front steps — whether it’s a veranda in a small town or a concrete stoop in a big city — and to talk to our neighborhoods is infinitely more important than to huddle on the living-room lounger and watch a make-believe world in not-quite living color.
- I was born of heterosexual parents. I was taught by heterosexual teachers in a fiercely heterosexual society. Television ads and newspaper ads — fiercely heterosexual. A society that puts down homosexuality. And why am I a homosexual if I’m affected by role models? I should have been a heterosexual. And no offense meant, but if teachers are going to affect you as role models, there’d be a lot of nuns running around the streets today.
- Once you have dialogue starting, you know you can break down prejudice.
- Freedom is too enormous to be slipped under a closet door.
- We don’t want sympathetic liberals, we want gays to represent gays… I represent the gay street people-the 14-year-old runaway from San Antonio. We have to make up for hundreds of years of persecution. We have to give hope to that poor runaway kid from San Antonio. They go to the bars because churches are hostile. They need hope! They need a piece of the pie.
- Without hope, life’s not worth living.
- A reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of a building is widely covered. The events that started the American Revolution were the meetings in homes, pubs, on street corners.
- I have never considered myself a candidate. I have always considered myself part of a movement, part of a candidacy. I considered the movement the candidate. I think that there’s a distinction between those who use the movement and those who are part of the movement. I think I was always part of the movement. I wish I had time to explain everything I did. Almost everything was done with an eye on the gay movement.
- Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.
- I wish I had time to explain everything I did. Almost everything was done with an eye on the GLBT movement…last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and the voice was young, my election gave one more young person, hope.
- Let’s make no mistake about this: The American Dream starts with the neighborhoods. If we wish to rebuild our cities, we must first rebuild our neighborhoods. And to do that, we must understand that the quality of life is more important than the standard of living.
- We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it.
- I like to sit in the window and watch the cute boys walk by.
- It’s not my victory, it’s yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.
- Some people call me the unofficial mayor of Castro Street.
- The American Dream starts with the neighborhoods.
- Let me have my tax money go for my protection and not for my prosecution. Let my tax money go for the protection of me.
- Get out of the bars and into the streets!
- You can stand around and throw bricks at Silly Hall or you can take it.
Which of these Harvey Milk quotes is your favorite? Are there any that should be added? Let me know in the comments below.