Created by Dustin Lance Black, the seven-part miniseries primarily follows activists Cleve Jones (played by Austin McKenzie and Guy Pearce), Roma Pauline Guy (Emily Skeggs and Mary-Louise Parker), and Ken Jones (Jonathan Majors and Michael K. Williams) through the American LGBT rights movement, beginning with the Stonewall riots in 1969 and going to the modern day.
- Author Avatar: Douglas Smith plays the young man interviewing Cleve in 2006. He is based on Dustin Lance Black, who interviewed Cleve Jones while working on Milk.
- All Gays Are Pedophiles: The implication of this is used by California Assemblyman John Briggs to support Proposition 6, a ballot measure to remove all gay or lesbian school employees (plus their supporters). Sally Gearhart fires back in a TV debate with him that most known pedophiles are straight men, according to FBI data. The initiative fails.
- Cast Full of Gay: Justified; the show follows the LGBT rights movement.
- Death of a Child: Daniel, the child Ken and Richard visited in the hospital, dies from AIDS.
- The Faceless: Harvey Milk is never seen fully, despite appearing on-camera, except in archive footage.
- Framing Device: The first two parts are framed as Cleve in 2006 reflecting on how he got into the LGBT movement.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Though Charles Socarides indeed championed the idea homosexuality is a mental illness that can be cured, he never threatened to kill himself when his son came out. Richard said that, although angry at first, he wrote to him that if he was happy being gay, then embrace it.
- No True Scotsman: Ken is dismissed from a community meeting by being told "there's no gay in a true black man."
- Police Brutality: Many feminist and gay rights protesters are beaten up by police without reason. This is especially angering to them since the police fail to protect many women and gays against violent crimes.
- Polyamory: Roma is invited into a polyamorous relationship, to her surprise and discomfort... considering that the offer is coming in part from her girlfriend who she'd assumed was monogamous. Later she finds herself attempting to negotiate another polyamorous relationship with the same girlfriend as before and Roma's old girlfriend from the Peace Corps. It doesn't work out.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Often between lesbians and gay men, and LGBTs of color and white LGBTs. Neither side entirely trusts the other, making it hard to make alliances.
- Trans Equals Gay: Discussed. One homeless youth notes that she is a woman, not a gay man, having clearly dealt with this issue.