Harvey M would love Harvey F!

Follow-up on my August 2 Harvey Milk High School post

The big guns are still turned on the modest little New York high school which operates as a shelter for kids who really, really need it, and some on the assault team are homosexual.

The media's special tizzy includes this week's New York "Intelligencer" page, where 5 out homos are asked what they think about New York City's plan to expand its queer high school. Four of the interviewees just don't seem to quite get it, and they include Frank DeCaro, Andrew Solomon, Mistress Formica and Emil Wilbekin. Harvey Milk High may not have been necessary for them, and for the same reason Harvey Milk High probably wouldn't have enrolled them anyway.

Harvey Fierstein understands the stakes. First he replies to the question, "Were you out in high school?"

"At 13. I went to Art and Design. There was a boy named Pablo who used to breast-feed his baby doll in English class. I was hardly the most outrageous kid in school."
When asked if he wishes he had gone to a gay high school, he explains of course that his school was a special school, but he understands that even art can't protect all kids. "Is [a gay high school] a good idea now, in New York of all places?" Harvey:
"The school’s almost twenty years old! They wouldn’t be expanding it if they couldn’t say, 'Shit, this works.' This is not for all gay kids. It’s for 14-year-old drag queens who get beaten up daily. Gay teenagers have the highest rate of suicide attempts, and because they’re smart, they very often do it successfully."
For a pretty comprehensive outline of the issues at stake, see Michael Bronski's essay in the Boston Phoenix. I like his suggestion for an alternative solution to violence against queer kids in school:
Sending in the National Guard? Well, it was the last resort for integrating public schools in the South in 1950s.
He articulates every argument against the policy of a separate school, but he still can't conclude that in the real world at this moment the kids could be safe without it.

The school is not the mistake; the mistake is that after almost 20 years we have done nothing to make it unnecessary.

comment

I was speaking last week with someone who was involved in the school from the start. Bullying doesn't begin to describe what the first students of Harvey Milk went through. One student had a lead pipe forced in his rectum by his classmates. Also many of the kids are in foster homes or home without a loving parent or guardian to intervene when assault occurs. Also seeing that this year a Queens parent is suing the schools because the principle and teachers were harrasing her lesbian daughter, I don't think the NYC school system is unable to stop students from harrasing gay children.