US Navy to name ship after gay icon Harvey Milk

A young Ensign Harvey Milk served in the U.S. Navy.
A young Ensign Harvey Milk served in the U.S. Navy.

It has been confirmed that theU.S. Navy is set to name a ship after the gay rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a recent  Congressional notification.

LGBTQ activists have campaigned for the US Navy to honor Milk and other LGBT individuals who have served in the armed forces. This is remarkable news considering gays were officially banned from openly serving in the military until 2011.

Milk served as a diving officer from 1951 to 1955. He was honorably discharged with the rank of lieutenant junior grade.

“When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn’t tell anyone who he truly was,” said San Francisco supervisor Scott Wiener, who authored a resolution asking the navy to name a ship after Milk in 2012.

“Now our country is telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honor and support people for who they are.”

The July 14, 2016 notification, signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, indicated he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206). The ship would be the second of the John Lewis-class oilers being built by General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, Calif.

The Secretary of the Navy’s office is deferring releasing additional information until the official naming announcement.

Mabus has said the John Lewis-class – named after civil rights activist and congressman Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) – would be named after civil rights leaders.

Other names in the class include former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren whose court ruled to desegregate U.S. schools, former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, women’s right activist Lucy Stone and abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.

Milk moved to San Francisco in 1972, where he lived in the Castro district, owned a camera shop, and advocated for the rights of LGBT people in the growing gay neighborhood. In 1977, he won his election to the San Francisco board of supervisors, becoming the first openly gay elected official in California.

One year later, Milk was killed in San Francisco city hall by a former supervisor who also killed the mayor, George Moscone.

“Hope is never silent and will be represented in a world port soon via the USNS Harvey Milk,” read a post on the Facebook page of the Harvey Milk Foundation, reacting to the announcement.

Berkshire Rainbow Seniors enjoy being special guests at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival

Members of BalletX in "Sunset, o639 Hours"; photo Christopher Duggan.
Members of BalletX in “Sunset, o639 Hours”; photo Christopher Duggan.


The Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County traveled to the wilds of Becket to take in the last day of the Out at the Pillow weekend, an annual celebration organized by the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Close to three dozen members took part in the afternoon which began with a tour of the historic campus led by archivist Norton Owen, and was followed by a potluck lunch under a tent in the sun-dappled nearby woods.

Highlight of the day was the performance of Sunset, o639 by Philadelphia’s BalletX Company. There was some concern as to whether ballet would work as entertainment for everyone in the diverse group, but the verdict was a unanimous “yes!” as the company of energetic dancers just blew us away with their imaginative story of how air mail service began in the 1930’s. Member Larry Murray reviews the performance on his website: Berkshire on Stage.

With a major picnic in the works for September, and the arrival of the new gay musical Poster Boy at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in August, (Ed Sedarbaum is speaking at the Poster Boy Lawn Talk on August 31!)  there is no shortage of things to do and fun to be had in the Berkshires.

Rainbow Seniors Topic: Domestic and Sexual Violence in Berkshire Country

Elder abuse happens in the LGBTQ community, too. What you need to know is the topic of the next Rainbow Seniors Pittsfield meeting.

Coming up in August

Saturday, August 6, 2 pm – 4 pm at the
Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield
It’s only a myth that the LGBTQ community is immune to domestic violence and sexual assault . Becca Bradford of the Elizabeth Freeman Center will introduce us to the reality and to the services offered to LGBTQ victims through her program.
About MOVA and the LGBTQ Community

The Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) awarded Elizabeth Freeman Center of Berkshire County a grant to establish the LGBTQ Access Project to increase outreach and services for LGBTQ victims of domestic and sexual violence in Berkshire County.

The program provides culturally informed services for LGBTQ victims, including counselling, support groups, advocacy, and referrals to other area providers. The program works closely with regional LGBTQ organizations and activists like Rainbow Seniors, the Berkshire Stonewall Coalition, Team Rainbow, and the Live Out Loud Youth Project to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence in the LGBTQ community and ensure victims have access to hope, help, and healing through Elizabeth Freeman Center.  All services are confidential, free-of-charge, and available at the Center’s North Adams, Pittsfield, or Great Barrington locations.

“Domestic and sexual violence can impact anyone regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or socio-economic status”, said Liam Lowney, MOVA’s Executive Director. “Unfortunately, prejudices that many LGBTQ individuals face, particularly in isolated and rural communities, make it difficult for them to access needed services. We are thrilled to support the LGBTQ Access Project, which will improve access to critically needed services for this underserved population.”

“We are so excited that MOVA is helping to fund this important work,” said Janis Broderick, Executive Director of Elizabeth Freeman Center.  “Too often, LGBTQ survivors of domestic or sexual violence cannot get the help they need.  This funding gives us the opportunity to reach and serve more LGBTQ survivors, to create a word-of-mouth network of safety in the region, and to expand the prevailing narratives about abuse to include more LGBTQ people’s experiences.”

To learn more about the LGBTQ Access Project, as well as other programming provided by the Elizabeth Freeman Center, visit or call (413) 499-2425.

The mission of Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County is to improve the quality of life of people in the Berkshire area by organizing, supporting, and empowering the LGBTGQ community.

Rainbow Seniors thrill to “Orpheus in the Berkshires,” part of Williamstown Theatre Fest

Getting out and about with Orpheus and his drag queen Sirens
by Ed Sedarbaum

Fourteen members of Rainbow Seniors sat entranced last Sunday as we watched the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s community production of Orpheus in the Berkshires. Added to the thrill of watching a brilliant production of a great musical play was seeing one of our own, Danny Trotter, singing and dancing his heart out in the show along with our personal friends, this writer’s barber, and scads of talented local children.

The word massive usually connotes something solid and unmoving. Yet while this production was massive indeed, it was as light as the breezes and as fluid as a stream, as close to 100 performers drifted in and out and around the huge public space of Greylock Works (the old Cariddi Mill) in North Adams.

The theme of the show was also very local – the heroin epidemic that has been growing here in North County – the product of brainstorming sessions over last winter and spring with community members and organizations.

Obie-winning playwright Lucy Thurber reimagined the Orpheus and Eurydice myth so that the young people of a town much like North Adams are cast into the grip of Hades by taking “ambrosia,” a drug meant for the gods that is deadly to humans. They are rescued by Orpheus (a young woman in this production), who descends into the underworld to win the favor of Hades with her beautiful singing voice, so that he will let her bring the young people back to the arms of their grieving families and friends.

The directing was masterfully helmed by WTF associate artistic director Laura Savia, who always kept the audience’s attention focused on the characters’ movements, even as dozens and dozens of other cast members silently drifted into place for their own massive entrances. The discipline of the performers was amazing to see – especially given how many young children were in the cast. As amazing as everyone’s singing and dancing and acting chops.

The director told us after the show that one bit of business – the Sirens being portrayed by drag queens — actually came from a suggestion made by one of our members when she visited Rainbow Seniors this winter. It’s nice to know we had a hand in the production in addition to Danny’s great singing and dancing. Laura expressed the hope that even more of us will join in on the creation of next year’s production.

Berkshire Eagle’s Ed Damon is guest speaker for July’s Williamstown meeting

Edward Damon
Edward Damon

The much anticipated chat with Ed Damon – postponed from May – will take place at our Tuesday July 19 potluck lunch gathering. Ed will talk with us about what he experiences being an openly gay reporter on a rural newspaper. Edward of course covers the whole news beat for the Berkshire Eagle.

Our meeting starts as usual at noon (and ends shortly after 2pm) with the always surprising shared buffet – everyone brings a dish as their contribution – made more delicious with the usual catching up and sociable chatter. Then, some quick announcements and coming attractions before we hear from Mr. Damon. The Williamstown meeting takes place the third Tuesday of every month in the Library of the First Congregational Church on Main Street (Route 2) from 12-2. It’s the church with the big white steeple that dominates the town. Parking in the rear, but be sure to get a permit to display on your dashboard when you arrive.

RSEdDamonA native of Rockland, Edward Damon came to the Berkshires in 2008 as a freshman at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. There, he stumbled into the college’s journalism program and eventually become the editor-in-chief of the college newspaper, the Beacon. He received a bachelor’s in English from MCLA in May 2012 and joined the North Adams Transcript staff in November 2012 before it ceased publication.

An Eagle reporter since then, Edward covers Northern Berkshire. His interests include the outdoors, obscure cars, dogs of all shapes and sizes, and ‘ 80s New Wave. He has written about the Rainbow Seniors program, helping get the word out.

“As a staff reporter for the Transcript and now the Berkshire Eagle, I’ve covered everything from local courts to car accidents to local schools. My beat has included the towns of Williamstown, Hancock, Clarksburg, Lanesborough, New Ashford, and Stamford, VT”

While at MCLA, Ed served in a number of roles for BGLAD (Bisexuals Gays Lesbians & Allies Making a Difference) including that of Vice President and President.

It promises to be an interesting conversation.

Pittsfield Rainbow Seniors wowed by stories from Bill Finn, dancing with Vic Ziter

Bill Finn at the piano. Photo by Alex Reczkowski.
Bill Finn at the piano. Photo by Alex Reczkowski.

The July Pittsfield gathering of Rainbow Seniors on July 2 at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield was truly a personal “show and tell” event that will be long remembered.

Show – Vic Ziter

The “show” part was led by member Vic Ziter who is a professional ballroom instructor as he introduced a whole bunch of Rainbow Seniors and guests to the simple basics of classic steps. Dancing with each of them, and then with each other, the dance was such fun it went into overtime. I participated for the first part, and then had the pleasure to watch my friends take to the floor, becoming ever more confident as they practiced.

Tell – William Finn

Bill Finn opened the meeting with his own show and tell. Tony winner, Pulitzer Prize nominee and creator of the Broadway shows Falsettos and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Bill Finn is both a Pittsfield resident during the warmer half of the year, and the producing director of the Musical Theatre Lab at Barrington Stage Company.  During the winter he teaches at NYU. This fall his musical, Falsettos, is being revived by the Lincoln Center Theatre.

Finn spoke off-the-record, sharing much of his life on, off and backstage starting with Williams College and leading to the Great White Way. It seemed everyone in attendance had a question to hurl at him, and he swung right back with witty answers and an honesty that was – at times – breathtaking. To top off his act he pulled the cover off the Berkshire Athenaeum’s well-tuned piano and gave us a rendition of his latest ditty, a song written for his rabbi and synagogue in New York City.

A good time was had by all.


Five nicely done lesbian movies on Netflix

Promotional still from All About E
Promotional still from All About E

The long July 4 weekend is made for watching fireworks…and we don’t mean the kind that the neighbors oooh and aaahhh over. Rather it’s a great time for catching up on delectable lesbian rom-coms that weren’t made for straight men. If you have a Netflix subscription, here are five worth checking out.

1. Cloudburst (2011). Brenda Fricker and Olympia Dukakis. A lesbian couple escapes from their nursing home and heads to Canada to get married. Along the way, they pick up a young male hitchhiker.

2. The Duke of Burgundy (2014). A butterfly expert and her housekeeper are in an intimate master-and-slave relationship but their elaborate romance is about to take a turn.

3. Mosquita y Mari (2012). A very straightforward and beautiful coming-of-age tale. The isolation that both of these girls feel is as palpable as the sense of relief they feel when they’re together. This isn’t some lurid, Lolita-via-Thirteen bullshit, either. This is a textured, unromantic look at life as a a teenager today.

4. Liz in September (2014). One’s escaping a broken marriage. The other’s broken by illness. A well-made lesbian love story that gives off that twinkly, Nicholas Sparks, beach-read sort of vibe that many people look for in their romances.

5. All About E (2015). The chemistry between the two female leads is mercifully believable and their love scenes seem authentic without feeling gratuitously pornographic, which comes as an honest-to-God blessing when you’ve already seen 17 lesbian romances clearly intended to be enjoyed by 13-year-old boys.