Mark Segal

From Stonewall to the White House

Filed By Mark Segal | July 11, 2014 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: gay pride month, LGBT seniors, Stonewall riots, White House reception

I was sitting on the train Monday heading to Washington, D.C. to join the president and First Lady at the White House for the LGBT Pride reception and realized that I'd likely have the perspective of the history of that event that would be different from most there. white-house-invite-pride-2014.jpgMy personal connection to Stonewall and our first Pride is personal, since I was there and helped build our community with Gay Liberation Front from the ashes of Stonewall. But that is only one of the reasons I was at the White House.

An 18-year-old me stood outside Stonewall, after being one of the first to be carded and let out by police on that night in June 1969. Like many my age at the time, without internet or any mention of LGBT people in media, I was invisible. It was in moving to New York City that I was able to find out what and who I was and why I felt the need to keep it to myself. In that instant, standing outside Stonewall, all the images of my personal oppression rushed before my eyes. Somehow, like others, I felt the need to strike back against all of the inner oppression and say "I won't accept this anymore" and shout out that I was gay. It was less than a second, but in a second I was liberated and knew what I'd dedicate my life to.

The following year was intense as we in GLF created a community where there was none. We had to fight for each and every victory (and many times it was in our own community). It is where I learned to fight - and that fight remains with me today.

We opened the first LGBT community center, created the first organizations for gay youth and trans people, examined our sexuality, learned of feminism, created coalitions with civil rights organizations, spoke out on TV, radio and in high schools.

I founded that first gay youth organization and my fellow GLFers taught me to fight ageism. Now, like most of us pioneers, I'm a senior and fighting to create awareness for LGBT seniors and the needs of the first out generation. The number-one need is housing, and I'm proud to have led the effort to build the pride of the Philadelphia community - the John C. Anderson LGBT-friendly senior affordable apartments.

So, at the White House, I was standing in the back of the room with my date, Jason, who is now my fiancé. I looked at him, then looked at the president speaking, and between the two realized what an amazing journey it has been. It only took us 45 years to go from invisibility to sunshine in the White House.

I was getting emotional and all of a sudden my friends at the White House had another surprise for me. For the first time in a public speech, they had inserted into the president's remarks comments about the housing needs of LGBT seniors. It was the last day of June, Gay Pride month, and it was magic.

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