The Children of Harvey Milk

How LGBTQ Politicians Changed the World

a book by Andrew Reynolds


Paperback edition now available for pre-order with new cover and epilogue!

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"This book had me on the edge of my seat, cheering on the real-life characters and crying with them, too" - Ami, Los Angeles

Part political thriller, part meditation on social change, part love story, The Children of Harvey Milk tells the epic stories of courageous men and women around the world who came forward to make their voices heard during the struggle for equal rights.

Featuring LGBTQ icons from America to Ireland, Britain to New Zealand; Reynolds documents their successes and failures, heartwarming stories of acceptance and heartbreaking stories of ostracism, demonstrating the ways in which an individual can change the views and voting behaviors of those around them. The book also includes rare vignettes of LGBTQ leaders in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean who continue to fight for equality in spite of threats, violence, and homophobia. 

A touchstone narrative of the tumultuous journey towards LGBTQ rights, The Children of Harvey Milk is a must-read for anyone with an interest in social change.


about the author

Andrew Reynolds is a professor, writer and activist.

From London England, Andy has been a Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2001. He founded and directs the UNC LGBTQ Representation and Rights Research Initiative, the leading global think tank focused on LGBTQ politics. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, New Statesman, and widely online. His twelve non-fiction books range from African politics to the Arab Spring, elections to the future of democracy. For twenty-five years he has been an advisor on democratic design in the world’s most dangerous places. From South Africa to Somalia, Afghanistan to Libya, Burma to Ukraine, and many others.

what people are saying

"What has caused many people and societies to decide that homosexuality is acceptable and that gay and transgender men and women deserve rights and legal equality? In a labor of impressive scholarship, Reynolds (political science, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) demonstrates that LGBTQ individuals serving openly in the political realm have been the major instigators of this change. He makes his point in a collection of historical, exciting, and moving stories—stories with endings both tragic and happy. In the very beginning, Reynolds tells of Harvey Milk (1930–78) but also of Gilbert Baker (1951–2017), who created and sewed together the iconic rainbow flag. He includes histories of LGBTQ political advances from the South Pacific, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. The diverse geographies of his vignettes remind one that along with the solid victories in the West, countless gay and transgender people throughout the world live continuously in the face of extreme violence. This volume joins such other valuable histories of the LGBTQ rights movement as Lisa Stulberg's LGBTQ Social Movements (CH, Oct'18, 56-0893) and Lillian Faderman's The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (CH, Feb'16, 53-2763)."

--J. Goins, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

"In this remarkable book, Andrew Reynolds shows us the global breadth and depth of the movement for equal rights among LGBTQ people. Reynolds shows us that the movement is world-wide, producing courageous leaders in countries that we might never imagine gay people coming forth, asserting their identities and claiming their citizenship. This is a work of extraordinary scholarship and it provides us with a bracing dose of hope at a time when democracy itself is facing world-wide threats. It shows that the future of democracy is in the hands of the powerless, that the powerless might well become global saviors of democracy."


Professor Emeritus of Political Science Hunter College, New York

"This is political biography at its best. By reviewing the careers (and self-reflections) of politicians who devoted themselves to advance LGBT rights from around the world, Reynolds illustrates the idea that the struggle for LGBT rights faces universal as well context-specific challenges. Reynolds's central claim is that gay rights don't emerge by themselves. They require the courage, astuteness, and perseverance of dedicated politicians to make them happen.” 


Professor of Political Science Amherst College

“Andrew Reynolds captures the enormous progress LGBTQ people and candidates have made since Harvey Milk’s run for office more than four decades ago – and demonstrates that LGBTQ political power is critical to advancing equality for our community. Few can match Reynolds’ exhaustively researched LGBTQ political knowledge, and ‘The Children of Harvey Milk’ will certainly become a key reference on the history of our movement.”

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund

"Electing LGBTQ people to office is critical to moving equality forward. In The Children of Harvey Milk, Reynolds inspires and empowers as he traces the history of LGBTQ rights through the eyes of those who dreamed big, shattered barriers, and helped advance equality in the halls of parliaments and legislatures around the world.”

President - Human Rights Campaign

“It takes many players, many methodologies, and many contributions to achieve transformative change such as our winning the freedom to marry in 25 countries so far (up from zero when we started). By collecting for the first time such a broad sweep of the emerging group of openly LGBT elected officials, Andrew Reynolds gives us their perspectives on the ways in which they make it into office, figure out how to use their voices and votes, work with activists (and sometimes butt heads with them), influence their colleagues, balance the pressures and expectations on them (both typical and singular), represent their own communities, find the courage to lead, and, sometimes, prove pivotal.” 

Founder & President Freedom to Marry

"Mandatory reading for all of those interested social justice movements, The Children of Harvey Milk is smart, educational, and entertaining. Reynolds draws his readers in by humanizing a movement that is all but exclusively politicized. Not only does this book fill a giant gap in the academic literature, it also manages to remain engaging and accessible to both academic and non academic readers alike. I can’t recommend it any more highly."

“Andrew Reynolds tells inspiring stories of people—some familiar, some not—who were courageous enough to say ‘this is who I am’ and fight for a place at the table. They helped bring a community out of the shadows and into the light in ways both large and small.” 

co-author of Love Wins and named plaintiff of the marriage equality decision Obergefell v. Hodges

"Andrew Reynolds' stunning book shows us the struggles—and failures—of the LGBTQ political movement worldwide, from Africa to the  Caribbean.  This is the story of our times: begun by Harvey Milk, and now carried on around the globe.  Gripping, sobering, and inspiring.”

Author of She’s Not There and Long Black Veil

 “Offering a much-needed survey of the current LGBTQ political landscape, Reynolds tells the stories of the politicians and activists who have come after Milk... Demonstrating a real gift for storytelling, he allows the personal as well as the professional aspects of his subjects’ lives to shine through.”


"These stories of authenticity and perseverance offer a roadmap for a courageous politics that our world so desperately needs. The Children of Harvey Milk will leave every reader hopeful and optimistic that change is possible, and inspired to make it happen.”


Author of Tomorrow Will be Different, National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign

 “Fascinating and inspiring stories of LGBT+ politicians who’ve been elected to public office worldwide since the 1970s, often against great odds. Bravo!”


LGBTQ rights and global justice campaigner; Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

 “This engrossing, beautifully moving book is a brilliant reminder of how individuals can become the catalyst for enormous changes in our lives particularly in the arena of the family created before but personified by Harvey Milk. This is a story of inspiration, hard politics, tough decisions, and sacrifices and a commitment to change the world in which LGBT+ people live and lived.”


Author of One of Them: From Albert Square to Parliament Square 

USA Today Columnist

"Andrew Reynolds’ The Children of Harvey Milk is a compelling work of LGBTQ history and at the same time a clarion call for queer people to to resist, to reform—and to get involved in politics. The book’s true heart and soul are the stories of the army of LGBTQ politicians who have transformed our world in the decade’s since Milks' assassination. A must read for anyone interested in how social change happens."

"Andrew Reynolds tells moving stories of politicians whose openness about being LGBT is reshaping laws and policies.  Some led us out of the closet, while others had to be led—but all have helped create a more welcoming world. Reynolds links the stories with social science research to create a convincing picture of the past and the future of change."

Professor of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World

“A must read in an era of relativism and complacency. In Children of Harvey Milk, Andrew Reynolds reveals the political heroes and the personal journeys who contributed and are contributing to a radical shift in public attitudes on LGBT rights in parts of the World. Reynolds sensibly paints the way LGBTI leaders excel in turning their personal hardship in the precursor to beauty and triumph. More importantly, Children of Harvey Milk identifies ingredients of a recipe for a much-needed global social change starting with political participation and representation of LGBTI people.”

Human Rights Officer at the United Nations Human Rights Office

Reynolds's protagonists are at the vanguard of political representation and rights for LGBT people in several established democracies. The personal narratives that drive the telling of their stories illuminates the mostly unseen experiences of these important facilitators of change—figures who have often worked within and benefited from the intense struggle of an enduring transnational movement. An inspiring read and hopeful account of the expansion of human rights, this book is helpful at a time when such new rights face heightened global resistance.

Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College and author of ​When States ‘Come Out’: Europe's Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility

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