The Milk Initiative
By, Blair Smith
I’m often asked, “do you guys just sit around and drink milk?”
People ask me this because I’m the founder of the “Milk Club” at my high school.
Contrary to popular belief, we’re not an extension of the U.S. Dairy Council. Milk Club is an LGBTQ+ inclusive organization named for the 1970s political icon Harvey Milk— a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the nation’s first openly gay elected official.
Looking back on sophomore year, I vaguely knew about a Gay-Straight Alliance at school. The group was not particularly active, and people didn’t seem to show much interest in it.
The next year, the group dissolved, unable to operate without a student leader.
I got motivated to revive the club at the end of junior year when I attended the county’s Pride Prom—an LGBTQ+ oriented dance that had started as a student’s senior “capstone” project to raise funds for charity two years earlier.
I walked into the school gym where the dance was held. Fluorescent lights blazed vacantly, the room was sparsely decorated, and the DJ’s speakers buzzed in an annoying way. No one seemed to mind this, though, as people entered in clothes, makeup, and jewelry that let them be seen how they wanted to be.
In its own way, the dance was beautiful, a place and atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable expressing themselves.
My school needed something like this.
While thinking about what I would do to try to organize the group, I remembered Harvey Milk from researching the LGBT Social Movement for a history project. I decided “Milk Club” would be a memorable, quirky title—and subtler than an explicitly labeled “Gay-Straight Alliance.” Having a rainbow-shaded milk bottle as the club’s Twitter icon is an added bonus—it’s @FHSMilk, if you would like to take a gander.
I advertised the club on social media and during the school’s morning announcements (with the principal’s permission), and set the first meeting for Thursday, September 22nd at 8:15am.
I walked into school that morning in a rainbow tie-dye T-shirt. And soon, so did 46 other kids. We crammed into a room that did not have enough desks to seat everyone. Even so, a collective smile settled around us as we realized that we’d finally created a place that was entirely free of judgment.
Since then, our group has collaborated with similar clubs in other high schools in the county. These advocacy groups have taken on planning Pride Prom together, to build on the work of our predecessors. We’ve met and decided on a theme, “Celebrate Our Past,” and we are donating the money we raise to Casa Ruby, a multicultural LGBTQ+ youth shelter in Washington, D.C.
With the help of the supportive LGBTQ+ advocates in Virginia, I hope that we won’t have to worry about vacant fluorescent lights or annoying speaker buzzing this time.
Milk Club is a portal to a world where we are celebrated for our differences. We become more comfortable with ourselves each meeting. We organize lessons on topics like media representation of the queer community or cultural perspectives of sexuality, discussions on ways that we can improve our school climate, and blanket bonding sessions.
Milk Club is an energetic group of people who want to make a difference.
So, no, we don’t just sit around and drink milk.
Blair Smith is a student at Freedom High School in Loudoun County and the Founder of Milk Club.