Mark My Words

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.


Two years ago I wrote this op-ed for The Advocate. I think these words are as true today as they were then.

In my almost 50 years of LGBT activism, there has never been a time that worried me more about our struggle for equality than the current state of our movement. It shocks me to have to say that, since I was a member of New York’s Gay Liberation Front, the organization born from the ashes of Stonewall. We were the most dysfunctional organization to ever exist in the LGBT community. We fought among ourselves at every turn, and while we disagreed on almost everything, we managed to create a community that didn’t exist before. We nurtured it and celebrated it; we didn’t tear it apart.

Each year Jason and I do a road trip. The rules are very simple: We try to go to places we haven’t been, the place must have something we’ve heard about that is slightly odd, and the place must take us out of our comfort zone so we can see what it’s like living out of our East Coast liberal bubble.

“Why weren’t the events of Stonewall’s 50th anniversary covered by the Inquirer?”

That’s the question I’ve been asked after a whirlwind month that had me traveling around the country to talk about the Stonewall Riots and their aftermath in the year that followed. Even staffers in the Inquirer’s newsroom begged the question during a recent farewell party I attended at the Philly publication’s Center City headquarters.

The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots have passed, and as an integral part of the anniversary and the 50 years leading up to it, I have an inside track and knowledge as to who the players are and how they did their jobs for our community. Two organizations failed our community this year. 

It was one of the most magical weeks that I’ll ever have. When I headed to New York by train, it was already announced that I’d be one of the grand marshals of the Stonewall 50 World Pride parade, and that meant marching with my Gay Liberation Front sisters and brothers. 

I am amazed at what I’ve learned over the past few weeks about an event in which I took part — the Stonewall riots — and I’m having fun galloping around the country for interviews, photo shoots and speaking gigs. 

Last week’s tour took me to Pilgrim House during Provincetown’s second annual Gay Pride for a speaking engagement. The organizers wanted a Stonewall participant to help separate the myths from the facts.

I’ve already started what I’m calling my “Stonewall 50 Tour,” which includes more than 20 speaking gigs, interviews, exhibit openings, parades and conferences. It culminates on June 30, when I share the honor of being Grand Marshal of New York’s World Pride/Stonewall 50 parade with my fellow sisters and brothers of Gay Liberation Front New York 1969-71. I want to share this journey with you; so, here are a few of the things that have happened thus far.

  I asked this question on my personal Facebook page, and the results were interesting. An overwhelming number of people said that Rep. Brian Sims should not resign, and most responses came from men.

The reason for the question is due to the outrage Sims caused, which had some at Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice women and men calling for his resignation. Sims had an emotional outburst against, as he called her, “an old white woman” who was protesting outside of Planned Parenthood. He recorded the event and then boastfully posted it on social media.  In another video, he asked his viewers to provide the addresses of two teenage girls who were protesting with their mother — the reward: $100.

Planned Parenthood clinics around the country are often protested and picketed by religious right wing anti-abortion proponents.  Usually these people march around chanting or praying, at times trying to persuade the women entering to save what they believe to be a life: the fetus.  This happens literally thousands of times around the country each month without incident.  Planned Parenthood has taken an approach to ignore these pickets and at the same time support those using the clinics’ services by providing escorts to those who enter.

     Sims, who yelled at one protester while she walked and prayed and jokingly demanded personal information of teenage women, likely thought he was standing up for Planned Parenthood and the people they serve.

    The world did not see it that way.  The image the world saw was ugly — an angry, privileged man yelling at women, one of whom was praying while he waved his finger, followed her around continually and called her an “old white woman.” For whatever his reasons, he gave the religious right the spark they needed to embolden their followers to spread their hate. It has further added to the division in this country. Last Friday, hundreds of anti-abortion protesters rallied at the very clinic from the video. How much more difficult must it have been for women entering the clinic that day?

This paper has endorsed Brian in all of his elections, but in this instance he is dangerously wrong. Not his views, but his actions and behavior. Since he takes every opportunity he can to say that he represents this community, he embarrasses us all. 

We of the LGBT community should be asking more from those who represent us. We have to ask the question, was this just a publicity stunt gone wrong?   Brian is no longer the only LGBT-elected or -appointed public official. We are lucky to have younger leaders like Malcolm Kenyatta and Amber Hikes, and people like Deja Alvarez, Henry Sias, Tiffany Palmer, Dan Anders and many others.

In the past, some members of our community put Brian on a pedestal. Those on pedestals are likely to fall, and this time he certainly did. Can he dust himself off and rise again?  One former union leader, pro-choice Democratic woman commentator stated: “I hope that an old white women runs against him in the primary… and I’ll vote for her.”

Should he resign? That’s a decision for him, not for you and me. We can only express our opinions.  I’m sure someone in the district will take that commentator’s advice and run against him in the next primary, and at that point we’ll decide if he deserves another chance and an endorsement.  In other words: he gets no more free passes. 

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