A pioneer in the gay rights movement, Mark Segal travels the road to LGBT equality.
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Been there, done that. Yep, you’ve had the experience and you’re willing to talk about it. And why not? Someone could learn from the things you did. Mistakes can be avoided. Or at least, as in the new memoir And Then I Danced by Mark Segal, people will be entertained.
Not long after his birth in 1951, Mark Segal’s parents were snatched from the middle class and shunted off to “the other side of the tracks” with the loss of their bodega. They became “the only Jewish family in a South Philadelphia housing project,” which set the tone for Segal’s outspokenness.
Indeed, when he was in grade school, he committed his “first political action” by refusing to sing a Christian song. When he was 13, his beloved Grandmom took him to his first civil-rights event. By then, Segal knew that other boys peeped at ads for women’s underwear, but he preferred studying the men’s clothing pages. He knew he was different—but he also knew that he absolutely couldn’t talk about it.
After learning that there were gay men in New York City, Segal convinced his parents to send him there following his high school graduation. Having “no idea where to go” as he settled in, he began exploring his new city—and “after a few days of looking around,” he came across the Stonewall bar and a man who “was creating an organization called the Action Group.”
Organized activism suited Segal, and it became a job of sorts for him. He worked on behalf of gay-pride marches and parades, a gay youth organization, and a gay alliance. He became politically active. He and his friends interrupted live broadcasts with what they called “zaps,” which gained media attention. That got them on camera—and arrested.
It was a different world by the mid-’70s, but there was still much to do. A friend asked why Segal didn’t start a gay newspaper in Philadelphia. And so, “Meet publisher Mark Segal.”
You’ll find all of this in the first half of And Then I Danced. Yep, there’s more: Segal’s “second life,” of sorts, which is every bit as enjoyable to read.
With gentle humor and the slightest touch of sardonicism, Segal writes further about people he’s known, his newspaper, and a different kind of activism. That in-the-trenches stuff is great to read, partly because his narrative is indicative of the times in which it all happened. Readers (myself included) may be impressed with the creativity that was used to help gain LGBT equality.
But there’s more. Segal lets readers into his personal life—his loves, losses, and (Spoiler Alert!) a very happy ending. “Drama seems to follow me,” he writes—and readers will be glad for it.
It was nice to see this memoir cross my desk. I was getting tired of Big-Star Bios, and while there’s name-dropping in this book, it’s not egregious. No, it’s kinda fun and worth picking up.
So you’ve been there and done that? Be there with And Then I Danced. You’ll be glad you done that.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and she lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.