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Book: The Religious Body Imagined

Chapter: 3. Harvey Milk’s (Sexual and Sacred) Body

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39647


Harvey Milk, assassinated over forty years ago on November 27, 1978, is a queer saint. This paper, in the self-identifying voice of a gay man, will explore the significance of Harvey Milk’s cultural sanctity in relation to his sexual embodiment. It emphasizes that “Saint Harvey” was a leading figure in a movement of sexual liberation and was himself a strongly sexual being. These facts are sometimes downplayed in his representation as a sacred figure, which often focus on his dead body and its “relics” (such as his blood-stained clothing), over against his vitally sexual pre-assassination body. Examining the phenomenon of the “canonization” of a sexually embodied gay (Jewish) agnostic, this paper specifically asks “what happens when Milk’s sacralization is explicitly tied to his sexuality? Can a saint be a sexual being, not peripherally or incidentally, but centrally and essentially?”

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