A chronicle of the “compelling web of deeply personal stories of individual gay men and women transforming the views and votes of those around them.”
Despite the title, readers will find little about Harvey Milk (1930-1978) himself. Given his status as a household political name in 2018, as well as the giant leaps made in the evolution of gay rights and politics since his brief tenure in 1970s San Francisco, Reynolds (Political Science/Univ. of North Carolina; Designing Democracy in a Dangerous World, 2011, etc.) pays tribute to next-generation politicians who followed in his footsteps after he flung open the battlefield doors. Featuring a score of personal interviews, the book follows that evolution in the U.S. and across the globe. Opening with the inspiring story of Maori lesbian Louisa Wall’s fight for same-sex marriage in New Zealand and then moving on to the intertwined legacies of Peter Tatchell, Simon Hughes, and the progress of gay rights in Britain, the author fleshes out the hard-fought struggles of—and advances made by—LGBTQ politicians in places like Massachusetts, the Netherlands, and Congo. While exploring the gulf between gay and straight representatives in politics, Reynolds offers before-and-after comparisons between the often horrific circumstances of the past and current realities of gay rights advocates. “At the beginning of 2018,” he writes, “1.1 billion people live in the two dozen countries where gay marriage is legal.” At the same time, however, “nearly three billion people live in countries where just being gay is a crime.” In short, while there have been many victories in the fight for equal rights, there is a massive amount of work still to be done. Peppering the book with interesting little details—such as transgender poster child Sarah McBride stealing a french fry from the author’s plate—Reynolds nicely textures his deftly researched academic book with a warm human touch.
Illuminating political and social history.