Never Blend In: The Legacy of Harvey Milk (author, David Watters)
In what would have been Harvey Milk’s 80th year, a book celebrating his life and legacy is born.
Never Blend In: The Legacy of Harvey Milk by British writer David Watters, and with a foreword by Harvey’s nephew, Stuart Milk, is a unique collection of inspirational interviews with well known and everyday people who represent the great diversity within the LGBT Community.
| I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power — it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope.
You gotta give them hope.
HARVEY MILK, from a tape recording (1977 – 11 – 18)
When did you begin writing it? Do you have an exact competition date it?
The book has taken just over a year to research and write. I began in March 2009 and received such an overwhelming and positive response to the project, with an immediate reply from Stephen Fry, that I knew the vision had value.
I am finalising interviews now and hope to complete in the next few weeks.
Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and equal rights advocate has said, “I love your work, which is vital to show the richness of embracing and celebrating our wonderful diversity. As Harvey would say, you’re bringing medicine into the world that the world needs! Thank you!”
How did it feel having the book endorsed by Stuart Milk?
Stuart Milk’s support for this project is a huge blessing. As an extremely active equal rights ambassador in his own right, Stuart has lent a greater credibility to my work and I would credit him with making many of my connections to interviewees possible.
What do you think that this book could do for young gay people?
Openly LGBT and successful role model figures can play an enormous part in highlighting the wealth of possibilities available to young people. These people, who are successfully modeling admirable qualities and character traits such as determination, diligence, vision and consistent effort, can only serve to inspire and encourage the younger generation, or anyone questioning their validity, to lead a balanced, fulfilling and dignified life.
The research, supported by PFLAG, The Trevor Project, FFLAG (UK), The Gay Police Association (GPA) and Schools OUT (UK), tackles the issue of teenage suicide and the disenfranchisement often felt by LGBT youth.
Role models from education, entertainment, law enforcement, medical and emergency services, politics, religion and sports have participated in this accessible and much needed discourse to illuminate the reader’s journey of self-discovery and self- efficacy.
You have some big names on the front cover? Who have you interviewed for the book?
I have been a bit of a celebrity stalker! Notable voices in the book are Harvey’s colleagues, Anne Kronenberg and Danny Nicoletta; actors Stephen Fry and Alan Cumming; musician Darren Hayes (Savage Garden); Sordid Lives writer Del Shores; Michael Musto; filmmaker, Parvez Sharma; Calpernia Addams; NBA star John Amaechi and authors Lesléa Newman and Tom Rob Smith.
We, as a community, are under or misrepresented in the media and this impacts upon how individuals are perceived and treated by society. Positive, inspirational role models from the LGBT community can have an enormous impact on addressing this and can give hope to individuals who feel less valid and disenfranchised from society.
Any favourites or top moments?
Top moments are difficult to narrow down but I guess that meeting Stuart Milk counts as one of these. I won’t gush on about Stuart as he might read this but he is a personal inspiration to me and a model of someone who lives authentically and with empathy for others.
Of course, having an email from Stephen Fry was pretty mind blowing. I still watch QI and get all excited, thinking, “He’s in my book!”
My interview with Alan Cumming was hysterical; he was driving back from Washington to New York and kept getting lost, asking directions from unhelpful people and pointing out various landmarks to his husband, Grant.
Most inspiring have been the “regular” people who live with authenticity and, perhaps without realizing, are role models and inspiring figures to those whose lives they touch.
What made you come up with the idea for this book?
Why did you decide on this particular title?
We can be part of society without blending in. To me it means living with 100% authenticity (as Dr Phil might say!). We shouldn’t compromise our identity to be accepted and everyone regardless of sexuality or gender identity has a right to fully live.
The “community” if such a thing exists is diverse but too many live in the shadows. My point, with this book, is that self worth determines our potential and that blending in is a direct result of feeling “less than”, feeling ashamed of how God (whatever that means to you) made you”.
Harvey Milk’s legacy, I believe, is the growing number of proud LGBT individuals who refuse to live lives limited by the judgment of others.
Life need not be a self-fulfilling prophecy and by recognizing that our “truth” has been shaped through our relationships, our environment and our experiences, we can begin to change our perceptions, heighten our self-esteem and move toward our personal and professional goals with clear vision and purpose….
What have you learnt from conducting the interviews and writing the book?
I have learned so much about myself from conducting this research.
As a young child and into my late teens, I was introverted and found it difficult to connect with people my own age. I felt different to my peers; I couldn’t relate or blend in and subconsciously, and this is only in retrospect, I didn’t want to blend in.
My “truth” was that I was a little bit weird and, as a teenager especially, that wasn’t a great thing to be. I was bullied in high school and mocked by two particular teachers at a time when my parents had separated and my sexuality was beginning to become evident.
Self doubt had an extremely detrimental effect on my development; I naively believed negative feedback and took it to be accurate without questioning the motives or hidden agenda behind the comments.
It is only with hindsight that I can see how my poor self image led me to set myself limited goals and how different my life might have been had I known.
So you see, because of my low self image I habitually criticised and doubted myself, believing that what others had told me about myself was true and then limiting my expectations of life; I subconsciously created the negative outcomes that I felt were deserved.
My past conditioning, that I was no-good, meant that I truly believed that I was not worthy of the things that I desired and it was only after many years that I began to change this perception, heighten my self-esteem and move toward personal and professional goals with a better, more positive outlook.
Many of those interviewed in the book have shared this experience and have told me how they found a pathway toward improved self-concept and the elimination of self-imposed limitations and dependence on others to provide validity.
|Our BELIEFS inform our THOUGHTS, which in turn inform our CHOICES|
David Watters is a teacher, personal tutor, freelance writer, who regularly writes for www.ambiente.us and founding member of NBI ASSOCIATES & Tech Queens.
David has worked internationally as both a singer and director for more than 20 years and has taught drama and music within socially and culturally diverse settings.
Since graduating from The Institute of Education, University of London, David has gone on to train with LEAP, as a mediator, and is a qualified facilitator for The Pacific Institute.
NBI Associates are personal and cultural development specialists who devise and deliver tailor-made training and transformational team building programs. We provide individuals and organizations with the tools to achieve meaningful and lasting change.
We pride ourselves on our innovative and creative approach to resolving conflict and negotiating change through the development of individual and team identity.
The NBI Programs are an engaging, enjoyable, interactive and effective means to personal, professional AND organizational GROWTH and TRANSFORMATION.
Participants explore the origin of BELIEFS, challenge their accuracy, redefine those which create limiting THOUGHTS and learn strategies to make CHOICES to say and do only those things which bring themselves and others closer to emotional, intellectual and spiritual fulfillment.
We are able to quickly assess and act upon the needs of each client, in line with current professional and educational practice, and deliver cost and time effective strategies and solutions which meet their specific measurable targets.
The beneficial impact of NBI is far reaching and profound in that, when individual self-concept is improved and collective habits, attitudes, beliefs and expectations are understood, organizational potential is enhanced on every level.
More information on the book and the author’s NBI Program can be found here:
If you would like to get involved, you can email David at: firstname.lastname@example.org