In the wake of Stonewall movies and memories, LGBT History month (did you know that’s what October was now?), and a looming election which will decide the Pennsylvania Fairness Act among other important issues, it’s clear that LGBT history is more important to remember than ever before. So who are the people truly telling the story? People like Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News and the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media.
Mark is one of the founders and former president of both The National Gay Press Association and the National Gay Newspaper Guild. In the radical days of June 1969 New York City, Mark was one of the four members of the Action Group that organized demonstrations for three nights after the infamous Stonewall Riots. His personal accounts of that night appear in numerous history books. He was one of the initial voices in the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and founded Gay Youth, the nation’s first organization to deal with the issues of gay teens and endangered LGBT youth.
Like many grass roots activists who realize that stronger protections are needed, Mark turned his energy toward bringing change to the political establishment. Again, his fearless voice and bold tactics made him a force to be reckoned with. Few candidates running for election in Pennsylvania go through the state without a courtesy call with Mark or — in the case of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — an interview in the Philadelphia Gay News, which Mark founded in 1975 to promote connection, education and the free and fair dissemination of information for and about the LGBT community.
Still going strong, in 2012, PGN won an unprecedented 10 awards from the Local Media Association — the largest number of awards given to any LGBT publication by a mainstream journalism organization and in 2015 they received 11? Mark was recently inducted into the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association’s Hall of Fame and was appointed a member of the Comcast/NBCUniversal Joint Diversity Board where he advises the entertainment giant on LGBT issues.
With all of that history behind him, at the request of friends and fellow activists, Mark finally sat down to record his eagle eye view of American LGBT history in a new book available now, And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality.
Over the years, people have suggested that after 40 plus years of working for LGBT Equality, I might have some stories that could add to our History. After re-reading my first draft it surprised me how many issues through the years I had been involved with. The first non-discrimination bill in Congress, founding the first Gay Youth organization in America, the work I did to end invisibility on Network TV, marriage equality (a great story about how it managed to happen in Pennsylvania a year before the Supreme Court ruling), and of course building one of the first LGBT affordable Senior homes in America. It overwhelmed me.
This October, honor the lives and spirits of those who have gone before, who have worked so visibly, so tirelessly and so courageously to ensure safety, visibility and possibility for LGBT Americans. We salute you Mark, one of Pennsylvania’s own, and those who worked beside you. Happy LGBT History Month everyone. More heroes to come!