This revolution will not be televised

  • by Charlie Spiegel
  • Wednesday December 21, 2016
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"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," the title and refrain written by Gil Scott-Heron in 1970, is far better known than its last line: "[t]he Revolution will be live." In fact, 1970 was also the year I finished elementary school knowing I was different and "wrong," without knowing how and why.

The leaders in the revolution to overcome Trump and Trumpism won't be as old as me, you will be young, a thought first from my brother in the days after this 2016 election. Our generation, with many others, brought LGBTQ rights from Harvey Milk to marriage equality, yet likely does not have the ingenuity (never mind energy!) to lead the fight to overcome this defeat. But I am sure another younger generation does. What's then an older person to do?

Milk and Martin Luther King Jr. each gave us thoughts on how we can mentor and support, and inspire this next generation, which I remembered at the first post-election Friday night service at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav. The regular weekly service was expanded to include small groups talking about the election, and I was paired with a 20-something man, who said he didn't have any hope. My immediate response, which I stick to even today: my generation can afford not to have hope, but your generation can't afford not to.

"... [T]he young gay people in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and the Richmond, Minnesotas, who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. 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. Without hope, not only are the gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the 'us-es.' The 'us-es' will give up. ... And you and you and you �" you have to give people hope." �" Supervisor Harvey Milk, June 24, 1977, San Francisco.

In 1977, after my first mostly unhappy year, I left college without knowing the cause, but knowing I could no longer only fantasize for the high school then college lacrosse (swimming, track, etc.) team. Away, I found real flesh and blood gay men.

On November 18, 1978, nine days before his death, Milk predicted "... I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad in response to my death, but I hope they will take the frustration and madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope that they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up, and let the world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights. ... All I ask is for the movement to continue, and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door ..."

In the fall of 1978, I came out to my parents in an Arby's, not as gay but as president of the LGBTQ (for questioning) Student Alliance, and proceeded to be part of a generation who took the power Milk spoke of, whether as a "gay lawyer" (like me), or any other occupation or position. And of course, we demonstrated, over and over again.

At the same post-Trump election service at my synagogue, the other words that moved me most I remembered from King, himself, of course, a Baptist minister. "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!" �" Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963, Washington, D.C.

I realized then, for me, President Barack Obama took us up to that mountaintop, and showed us the land beyond, we just thought we were already there. He is not guiding us the whole way there, and we now know it will be a much, much harder trip, but he has given us a vision of hope for what it will be like to get there, which we owe to share our confidence about with another generation.

In 1963, I was 5 years old, about to start kindergarten, carried on my father's shoulders to see the Lincoln Memorial and King better, nearby the place where the Women's March on Washington/Day of Justice will take place on Saturday January 21. Rather than attending the march herself, San Francisco lawyer Deborah Wald decided to raise funds to send a group of young women of color instead. She has partnered with Peer Resources, a group providing youth leadership development within San Francisco's public high schools, and together they will be sending 16 young women of color and three chaperones to Washington. Costs are estimated at $1,500 per student, and any tax-deductible contributions are appreciated and payable to "CI/Peer Resources" ( ).

For me, I've had the honor to share these thoughts with a group of 40 20-something people (as part of Keshet at a Moishe House in San Francisco). I'm supporting a young transgender man and speaking out about trans rights �" from my relatively secure position as a gay man �" where trans people may now be rightly more afraid. I'm encouraging tax-deductible contributions before year end for national LGBT legal groups and for Our Family Coalition ( It's now being run by the young firebrand, interim Executive Director Renata Moreira-Bilella, who fits the bill of a new generation of leadership.

The week of Monday, January 16 is the holiday dedicated to King and it will have particular meaning: King's legacy will be celebrated on the first day of the last week of our first African-American president's term in office. Let's mark our calendars to come out as everything we are, and be out those ways that day and after. Let's celebrate both of their legacies, and our progress as a generation and a nation, with our President Obama, how far we must go and smile at least just a little about these journeys and fights. Look out for your own mentees and whether you can be one to supply some of the support they want, or need.


Charlie Spiegel, Esq., is an attorney who lives in San Francisco. For more information, visit