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On a Deadline

You need to know about the Twinkie defense. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with lanky lads in the backcourt of the UC Santa Cruz freshman water polo team. Instead, it's a twisted coda to the tragic story of Harvey Milk, the first great gay politician, whose abruptly interrupted life prompted mass outpourings of love, grief, riots, and yes, the Twinkie defense.

Like many queers in the early 1970s, Milk moved to San Francisco, joining the gay community that was sprouting there like mung beans on a moist paper towel. In 1972, Milk opened his Castro Camera store and became a tireless advocate for the neighborhood. Known honorarily as "The Mayor of Castro Street," in 1977 he was elected to the board of supervisors, San Francisco's city council.

But San Francisco then was not quite like today. This was a Huge Gay Deal. Queers had zero political power anywhere on the globe since ancient Greece. Milk's election was a milestone in queer history. Sadly, the story doesn't end there.

In his first months on the job, Milk championed the gay-rights ordinance in San Francisco, defeated a statewide antigay initiative, and sponsored a solid pick-up-your-dog's-shit-off-the-sidewalk law. Righteous! Along the way, he made many allies, but utterly pissed off fellow supervisor Dan White.

White was a conservative ex-cop who joined the board at the same time as Milk. While Milk enjoyed success allying with Mayor George Moscone, White found public life difficult. His initiatives stalled, he sparred with opponents, his restaurant business failed, and his home life deteriorated. He quit the board in November 1978, but after a few days off, he decided he wanted to return. Milk and his allies successfully persuaded Moscone to not reappoint White.

On November 27, 1978, the day Moscone was to announce White's replacement, White sneaked into City Hall, tracked down Moscone and Milk, and murdered each with multiple rounds from his revolver. The city was left stunned and grieving.

Days later, on the evening after Milk's funeral, a spontaneous candlelight vigil with thousands of mourners formed and silently walked the streets of San Francisco. This intensely moving scene was captured on film in the Oscar-winning 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. Get your queer ass to Scarecrow Video or add it to your Netflix queue right now.

As for White, he turned himself in the day of the killings, admitting to the murders, but claimed they were not premeditated. Never mind that he had been carrying a Rambo-sized cache of ammunition and evaded City Hall security by jumping in through a basement window. Forget that he reloaded his weapon after killing Moscone so he could hunt down Milk. He was depressed! He wasn't responsible for his actions! He couldn't tell right from wrong! After all—wait for it—look at all the junk food he'd been eating!

Yeah, really. I am not making this up. Dude slaughters the first great gay politician in American history, and offers up what seems like the most pathetic plea in the annals of jurisprudence: Twinkies made me do it.

What's worse is IT FUCKING WORKED! He killed two men in cold blood and evaded the death penalty for first-degree murder. Instead he got seven years for "voluntary manslaughter." Supporters of Milk were furious and took to the streets, smashing windows at City Hall and lighting police cars ablaze.

I hope you never look at Twinkies the same way again.