These are of course two of the modern heroes of the gay movement in the US. Both were murdered.
Milk was a San Fransisco supervisor murdered by another San Fransisco supervisor in 1978.
Shepard was a college student in Wyoming supposedly murdered by homophobes for being gay.
Milk is treated by many as a modern hero, but I am not exactly sure why. A movie was made about him called The Mayor of Castro Street. I liked that movie a lot; it was very well-done.
The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill was passed by the US Congress after Shepard’s murder that calls for enhanced penalties for assaults and homicides against gay people.
The truth about Shepard is more complicated. First of all, his murder was apparently not a homophobic crime. Instead, one of the killers was his gay lover, obviously not a homophobe. The other was not a homophobe either obviously. The motive for the crime was robbery. Not many know this, but Matthew was a male prostitute, a hustler, a rent boy. He arranged for a sex meeting with these two men. He would give them gay sex and they would give him methamphetamine. Matthew wanted the meth because he was a regular meth user. Matthew was trading drugs for sex. Although his body was hung from a tree in a crucifixion position, there was no homophobic or anti-gay motive for that.
The story is that Matthew propositioned the two men, who were both straight. These straight men were so homophobically outraged by being propositioned by a gay man that they murdered him in retaliation.
Of course, it is a very sad story how this young man was brutally murdered by a couple of monsters. But he was not murdered for being gay. And he wasn’t exactly a saint either.
Milk, age 33, was actually a pederast like many gay men.
Anyway, Milk was a hardcore chickenhawk. He preyed on confused teenage boys, often runaways with mental issues and drug problems. At least one of boys he took in was simply a troubled adolescent and there is no indication that the boy was gay at all. Instead, Milk seems to have recruited him into a gay lifestyle.
So Milk was far from an angel. Instead he was a serial predator of vulnerable underage teenage boys. This behavior is quite illegal in the US and people who do it are often called child molesters. Although this characterization is incorrect, this is how the public sees it. In other words, for a majority of the US public, Harvey Milk would be seen as a child molester.
The US is now honoring Milk with a new postage stamp. I am not exactly against it, but it would be nice if we knew the truth about this man.
Of course whatever he did with these boys, I do not think he deserved to be murdered, and his chickenhawk ways were not the motive for his killing anyway.
The stories we have been told about these two gay heroes are obviously not accurate and both of them were a lot less saintly than we are led to believe.