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

Readers here know my passion for LGBT history and my almost-decade-long research and writing on my favorite gay historical character — and I do believe he was a character. He is Baron Friedrich von Steuben. And there’s a longer version of his name, but that will do.

We at PGN grieve the murder of five journalists in Annapolis last week. And we applaud the determination of the staff of the Capital Gazette to carry on and continue what good journalism is: to print the news and community information so that citizens can be informed, regardless of the harm that may occur.

As we go to press, I’m preparing to travel for my last of four speaking gigs this June, all for Pride month. There are various reasons why groups ask me to speak during Pride month. Some are familiar with my column or writings; others want me to speak about publishing in the LGBT community; still others, a point of LGBT history I’ve been personally involved with. But I’m sure that very few know that when they ask me to speak, especially during Pride month, I’m going to speak about organizing that very first Pride, since what most of them don’t know is I was a part of that, and a death this past week just before New York’s Gay Pride made me think a lot about what Pride stands for.

Ah, summertime — the living is easy. We toss our cares to the wind, head for a little R&R and, for many, that great summer vacation. So it should be a time to relax, lay back and enjoy the sunshine.

But wait, we’re five months from an election. Here’s where I can envision you saying, “Mark, why are you bringing this up now?”

Here’s the point: We can’t rest until we do something to put a check on the madness that is Donald Trump, and the harm already done to this country in just 18 months. At this point you’re saying, “Mark can’t this wait till September?”

The answer is no, but there is an out: talk.

Some people think that talk is cheap, especially when you’re talking politics, but in this case it is valuable, and you can even do it on vacation.

Don’t be afraid to talk about the upcoming election. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you come across, “Are you registered to vote?” But even that is not enough. Ask your friends to ask their friends those questions.

There’s a line you’ve heard many times before, and as the Trump administration continues to chip away at not only LGBT rights but those of people of color, immigrants and even Canadians, one has to attempt to find humor in all this. Recall the slogan that should ring in your ears: “They will never have the comfort of our silence again.”

Don’t be afraid to speak up. Resistance — and that word is so appropriate — begins not in September, but now. 

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

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