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 or Twitter at

Recently I had brunch with Judge Dan Anders, who happens to serve as the president of the International Association of LGBT Judges. He tells me they believe that there are likely more than 600 LGBT judges in the United States, and even more incredibly there are OUT judges in every state in the nation, including the most-red states such as Alabama and Mississippi.

The last couple of months have been filled with triumphs like last week’s ceremony at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum in Washington, D.C. (see article on page 1), and the pits: Jason’s mother passing away.

Just saying that I am humbled is not enough: It is an honor of a lifetime.

By the title of this column, I’m not talking about my age, but something that I’m still processing. There have been many honors over the last few years, but this is something that happens to few Americans, and I never expected it to happen to me. My personal papers of the last 50 years will soon be alongside people like Benjamin Franklin, George Washington LGBT pioneer Frank Kameny and even Judy Garland’s ruby-red slippers. It seems strange to say, but I’ve been asked by the Smithsonian for my papers and memorabilia and they are now part of our American history at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

As you read this, my family and some friends will be in the Presidential Reception Suite in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. doing what is called a signing ceremony. That’s when I officially sign over my personal papers and personal memories of the last 50 years, including items from Stonewall, that first Gay Pride March, the Gay Liberation Front, LGBT media, gay youth, senior-housing materials and more. This project has been going on for almost two years now, and my friends at the Smithsonian tell me that they now have 17 square cubic feet of my life … how strange to put one’s life into square cubic feet.

During my book tour over the last three years, when I was introduced, many would call me historic, something that seemed to me a little out of place. So when the Smithsonian called, it began a process of me attempting to understand what I had accomplished and the barriers that were placed in the way.

First came the search around the office and home to see what I actually had for the collection. That uncovered pictures, papers and items long-forgotten. Each time the curators at the Smithsonian would smile, and try over and over to explain my place in history, something that I still have trouble contemplating. At one point while I was contemplating this out loud, one of them actually said something like, “You are history and we’re the experts on American history.”

Why the collection was so valuable to LGBT history, I didn’t understand. Most people associate me as a leader in LGBT media and a writer. But that is only a small part of the collection. It also made me realize what the Smithsonian had already understood: While most of my contemporaries had one or two points of our struggle, my involvement in so many of the issues we’ve faced over the last 50 years makes it one of the most complete LGBT history collections. It follows my path from Stonewall to working with Obama’s White House to current battles. And hopefully this collection will give our young leaders the opportunity not only to witness the history, but more importantly, to witness how we took a community that wasn’t a community, built it and struggled to obtain what we have today. A bail receipt from my first arrest in 1970 is part of the collection, as are three items from the vey first Gay Pride March. (We weren’t a parade at that time.)

Writing my memoir, “And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality,” gave me a sense of the history I witnessed or created, but when three individuals from the Smithsonian showed up at my front door and explained that America’s history museum wanted my papers, I realized that we fought for pride, for equal rights, for our place in the military and our right to marry the person we love. I am humbled and honored to know the Smithsonian National Museum of American History will preserve and tell our struggle for generations to come.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at or Twitter at

You know that old expression, A picture is worth a thousand words? Well, what about, A picture is worth an incredible memory and a slight change in history? 

Here’s something you rarely hear a person say: My last arrest was in 1998, at the behest of the executive director of Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center, Chris Bartlett. I just discovered a picture of that demonstration and emailed it to Chris.  

Here’s the story: A local TV station was doing what can be called toilet coverage of the LGBT community and Chris wanted to react, so along with a group of young activists, he came up with the idea to toilet- paper their station.

Chris enlisted my help by explaining that they needed someone who was experienced at protests and being arrested. 

At that time, I had just adopted my nephew Jeffrey and was overwhelmed. Chris was relentless and I agreed. 

My nephew, who was in his teens and fresh from living with his mother in Florida, wanted to join. My first parental decision was: Hell, no! But we did allow him to watch from a car.    
The station with all the toilet paper looked great, and then the police arrived, with a yelling news manager. So they took us off to jail.

The police treated us well and by the time we were processed, the station manager was attempting to find a path to make the whole situation just go away.

In court, we were charged with trespassing, disturbing the peace and who knows what else. The station, the judge and everyone wanted to end it, so our lawyer made an agreement that we’d be found guilty and get community service. 

In open court, as this was being worked out between the lawyers and judge, I stood up and said, “I have no problem with being found guilty since we did what you charge, and I’m very proud we did it and want that on my record. Our lawyer seemed bemused by his client, but if you’re going to give us community service, I feel it should include LGBT nonprofits, and if we have done the required hours in the past for our community, that should be counted as well.”

The judge quickly agreed to the sentence, one he had never handed out before.  

Fast-forward to last year during the election season for district attorney in Philadelphia. People kept asking me whether I knew the major candidates. My reply was that I’ve never met any of them, to my knowledge.  

After seeing that long-ago picture, Chris Bartlett wrote me back: “Do you remember that Larry Krasner was our lawyer?” No I didn’t, and he’s the new District Attorney, and now on the list of illustrious lawyers who have gotten me out of civil-disobedience charges; Gloria Allred, Al Gordon and Hal Weiner among them.  

Larry, you’re in good company.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at or Twitter at

For our family at PGN, this has been what you might call a mixed couple of weeks. It started with the death of one of our extended family members, Mike Petty, the husband of Don Pignolet, who has been with this paper since its beginning. Naturally our hearts and first concerns were with Don.  

It also gave us each a time to reflect. As we saw the love they shared, we were able to look into our own relationships and see joy. Don, the trooper he has always been, has kept up his PGN schedule. It has been heartwarming to watch his fellow staffers comfort him on those occasions when he gets a little emotional. It makes us proud to be his family.

As this was playing out, the Inquirer took a pot shot at minority and LGBT media. In part, the article might have been about the Inquirer’s exploiting a discriminatory state law along with the PA Newspaper Publisher’s Association when they lobbied the state legislature in 1976 and again in 1986 to give themselves a monopoly on government advertising. The question is, did they use their political influence then?

In the story the Inquirer ran this week, that question was never brought up. Did they not ask the needed question? Did they include quotations out of context? Did they not reveal their own connections with the same people they connected to the minority press?

It had two good outcomes: The minority media of the city, along with LGBT media and community newspaper publishers, had their first city-wide meeting. We were all united in calling out the Inquirer for its bias, its ethics regarding this article and its manner in handling our response. The Inquirer has agreed to meet with us to discuss these grievances. Whether they know it from their privileged and politically connected perch or not, they should know that their reputation is on the line.

What was even more heartwarming was the reaction from you, our community. On both these issues, our community called and emailed offering Don kind words and letting us know, as something our LGBT Chamber of Commerce might say, that in all business, the fairness to get in the game is what real equality is all about. PGN has always fought the good fight, and we appreciate your support. That may be the most heartfelt feeling of the week. n

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at or Twitter at

We’re in a time of change, and most of that is frustrating, but at times you see the glimmer of success from what this community has had to endure and build upon, especially when you see it through someone else’s eyes.

Last Sunday, I had the honor to speak at the Society of Professional Journalists’ regional conference in Philadelphia. What a great time to be gathering with fellow journalists. Like me, many at that conference believe we’re in a golden age of journalism, especially with the #MeToo movement, the lack of corporate-bias training and, of course, the train wreck that is the Trump administration.  

On a side note, here’s an eye-opener on that subject: YouTube the statement that Stormy Daniels gave outside the Manhattan federal court last week. After watching it, I never thought I’d utter such a phrase: The porn star is more respectable than the president of the United States.  

Back to SPJ: The organization has a special place in my heart, since it was among the first mainstream journalism organizations to appreciate the work of LGBT media. My talk was entitled “Covering LGBT Issues: From Stonewall to Trump.” I enjoyed the questions from the participants, but what was a joy was when members of SPJ’s leadership began to talk about the first few times that PGN won awards from them.

SPJ leaders described how some of their members were shocked to see an award going to an LGBT newspaper, or just in shock to hear the word “gay.” It was so heartfelt for me to witness the pride they felt for just accepting us as fellow professional journalists, the same as them. It was a long way from the days we had to fight simply to join such organizations. And if you believe it was just us in LGBT media, no, it was out LGBT doctors, lawyers, those in elected or appointed positions and corporate leaders. Yes, my young readers, there was a time when the majority of our community had to fight to simply be out. So many of us take a moment of joy when we see our battle is winning out. On Sunday, I got to meet student journalists, who can be out and accepted in their profession. With all the frustration around us, that’s a success.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at or Twitter at

This week I had a great honor. While we in the United States are concerned with the state of our struggle for equality, and worry each day how the Trump administration wants to dismantle the gains we’ve made, I had the opportunity to meet this week as part of a program from the U.S. State Department called the International Visitor Leadership Program. Seventeen future leaders from central and South America visit the United States, and what the program does is try to show young future leaders of various countries how the U.S. political system operates. Part of that is community involvement, including the LGBT community. The fact that this is still being done under Trump makes me wonder how long before Mike Pence pounces on it.

The program is over 40 years old, but in recent years, they’ve tried to show progressive movements in the U.S. to the visiting delegates, and many of them were progressive themselves. 

There were a few who identified as gay or lesbian, and one who was trans. 

Sitting in an office that publishes an LGBT newspaper once a week and has a full staff amazed them. When I told them this is true in most major America cities, they were more than surprised. 

The 17 included representatives of Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Guatemala. They all had, it seemed, one question: How did the LGBT community get this far to what they saw as acceptance?

I tried to explain that it took about 50 years and AIDS to organize us to where we are today, then explained that we feel there is still much work to do in our very own community. Racism, transphobia, homeless youth and elder-housing issues are among them. 

I asked about the situations in their countries, and my heart sank. One by one, they talked about persecution and the need to remain in the closet in most of their homes. Most were happy to have a gay-pride day once a year.  One told how a gay priest in Santo Domingo had disappeared after coming out. The one thing that most had was their Latino heritage, and I suggested the issue of machismo. Others stated the issues were with the indiginous populations, whom many of them represented, and religion. 

In the end I found myself being a cheerleader and explaining what it was like in the U.S. in the 1950-’60s, with many similarities to where they are today. And I explained that in 1969 we decided that it was time to define ourselves and to Come Out, and that is when the change began. Their main issue seemed to be the Catholic Church, so I made clear that each time the church tries to shout morals at you, explain, no, accuse them of being the largest pedophile organization in the world with no right to speak of morals.

They wanted hope… I then explained they were the hope, and they are.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at or Twitter at

Last week, the LGBT medical clinic in Philadelphia, Mazzoni Center, which serves more than 35,000 clients, announced that the board had appointed a new CEO. Lydia Gonzalez Scirarrino, it turns out, is not LGBT, and that seemed to distress some people in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. How could a non-LGBT person head an organization that has a majority of its clients from the LGBT community?

There seems to be a way to find common ground on this issue, and it’s possible that the answer is already out there. Take Washington, D.C., as an example. The LGBT community clinic there, Whitman-Walker Health, has been run by an LGBT ally for years. In other words, a straight white male. And guess what? There are many other non-LGBT people across the country running organizations that serve mainly LGBT people, especially among health and HIV/AIDS organizations, but not as many in activist, equality or LGBT political organizations.

There are many ways to look at this: Are these professional heads of nonprofits taking the job just for a good payday? Are they people who have had a calling on our issues? Does their life history add something to our struggle towards equality and diversity? Does it bring us closer to the fight for social justice in all areas of this divided nation? And the real question in a truly fair world should be: Are they the most qualified person for the position?

Here’s one way to look at it from another community’s perspective: Are there any non-African-Americans running African-American organizations? Recall Rachel Dolezal, who lived as a black woman and headed her local NAACP. It caused a national controversy when it was discovered she was white — a discussion that still goes on in that community today. She finally resigned. Would that be considered discrimination? The same goes for Latino, Jewish and Catholic community organizations. Haven’t done the research on that, but somehow I have a feeling that what happened to Ms. Dolezal is the norm. There is another factor, however, which is that she concealed her background while running a rights organization that mostly was volunteer-driven, not a health center with thousands of clients with medical needs.

And one last thought: It also might be as simple as geography. In a place where the LGBT community is still struggling and has few such organizations, there might in fact be a need for an LGBT executive director, since those areas need good LGBT spokespeople and role models. 

The answer is out there, but only if we have a civil discussion. Maybe our community can lead the way on an issue that many communities are also facing.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at or Twitter at

     Is Vice President Mike Pence a closeted, deep-in-self-hate raging homo? Is that self-hate so intolerable for him that he’s become the commander in chief at the White House in pushing the most homophobic agenda since McCarthy’s un-American hearings in the 1950s and the George W. Bush anti gay-marriage reelection bid? 

That blue wave that every political pundit and journalist keeps telling us is almost a sure thing in November? For those of you not politically aware of that term, it means a big Democrat win in the midterms. It’s so big that it could have the Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives and a slimmer chance of the U.S. Senate.

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