I remember the night, 35 years ago, when I learned that you and Mayor George Moscone had been murdered by Dan White. Nine years old, I was sitting on the brown shag carpet in my family's living room, in a suburb 50 miles south of San Francisco, watching the evening news as they rolled tape on Diane Feinstein making her tearful announcement.
I remember how the air in the room hung heavy that night, weighted by shock and worry. I remember how my parents expressed their concern for the City of San Francisco and for Dan White's extended family members, whom they knew through a mutual friend. I do not remember anyone -- not the news anchors, not my parents -- mentioning the word "gay."
Maybe they did. They must have, right? Maybe the word soared right past my ears the way that any word you don't fully understand can do when you're kid.
To me, "gay," an insult hurled in the halls of my elementary school, was synonymous with "stupid" or "ridiculous." To me, "gay" was what Jack Tripper pretended to be so that he could live with Janet and Chrissy on the sitcom Three's Company. For me, "gay" was not yet connected to actual people.
Unbelievably, it would be 10 more years before I met an out gay person, before the queer community started to become real to me, to become eventually, ever so slowly, home.
Oh my goodness, Harvey, so much has changed in 35 years, not the least of which is this: In the same building where the gunshots that ended your life rang out, there now stands a bronze likeness of you, presiding over legal weddings between gay and lesbian couples. Both crime scene and wedding chapel, San Francisco City Hall stands as a monument to your legacy.
I live in a different San Francisco Bay Area suburb now, with my (legal) wife Tracie and our two children, ages 7 and 9. In every step we take, Harvey, we recognize that our family stands on a foundation built by you and your generation's brave work. In every step we take, we honor your request to come out, come out, wherever we are, to "break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions."
As an out lesbian couple, Tracie and I are fully involved in our home community, volunteering in our kids' classrooms, hosting neighborhood potlucks, raising awareness about issues that are important to the queer community (because, let's be honest, as far as we've come, there's still so much work to do), and participating in local fundraising events like our library's auction or our school district's annual Thanksgiving fun run.
Which is why our family will be missing San Francisco's 35th Anniversary Memorial Candlelight Vigil and March honoring your and George Moscone's deaths. You see, Harvey, our kids can't handle both staying up late on Wednesday night in San Francisco and getting up early on Thanksgiving to be at the start line of the fun run by 8 a.m.
It was a tough choice, Harvey, but I figured it this way: What better way to show our gratitude to you, to honor your life and work, than to run together as a family, earning money for our kids' public school? Isn't this, at least in some small part, an actualization of your vision?
Though we won't be attending the vigil on Wednesday night, Harvey, we will be there in spirit, paying homage to your legacy. And on Thanksgiving morning, I believe you will be with us, in spirit, when we run toward the finish line, just as you are with us every day, in everything we do.
For all that you were, and for all that you continue to be, you have my deepest gratitude.