Thursday, November 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Time to start looking back at our LGBT pioneers

Sylvia Rivera. (Source: http://srlp.org)
Sylvia Rivera. (Source: http://srlp.org)

Philadelphia becoming the nation’s most LGBT-friendly city ... construction on the LGBT-friendly affordable senior apartment building ahead of schedule ... the LGBT media conference all set ... so I think there might just be some time for a new project.

Actually it’s a project that I’ve thought about for some time but haven’t had it molded until recently - and, in all truth, a project like this doesn’t get molded until it actually starts, and then it finds its own road.

It all started at the groundbreaking for the John C. Anderson Apartments, where we had several LGBT pioneers on hand, including one whose activism goes back to 1958. I’ll bet most of you have no idea who this brave soul is. His name is Randy Wicker. The people who came up with the idea of gay and lesbian community centers, any idea? How about caring for our endangered gay youth? Here’s one you most likely know. Who was the first person to start to speak up for trans people? Sylvia Rivera. As a member of Gay Liberation Front, she founded STAR, which I’m proud to tell you stands for Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. Hey, it was 1970 — that was our language. Sylvia was an honorary member of GY, my group Gay Youth, and I was an honorary member of STAR.

My new project is somehow — and I’m not sure how — going to bring this all together. It might be a documentary but I’m not sure. It’s in its infancy. But the good news is, it’s showing great signs of life. My goal is to put on film or video the history of our community before it’s no longer there.

More coverage
More by Mark Segal
  • You're right: I'm gay, Jewish and old
  • Boy Scouts' 'shift' is all about $$$
  • So, the first hurdle was to ask my fellow GLF family for their support, and as a member of Gay Youth (now 62), they generously offered it. And that is no easy task, since our family — oh, how should I state this? — has disagreements. But it is those disagreements that made GLF special and allowed it to create a community. That’s the tricky part — to capture those disagreements in a way in which we don’t bring about any of the hurt that some of it caused, and anger of why they have not gotten their due in LGBT history. These people’s histories need to be recorded, and that’s my project. What shape it takes will be dictated by what the members say on tape. Sort of a magical mystery tour of gay liberation. The project, and I’ll say our project, has brought us together with few disagreements, but we’re getting together for a reunion, and that itself brings a smile and something to look forward to.

    So you may ask where I might find the time for this ... These are the people who taught me and gave me the passion for this community. I will find the time.

    Mark Segal is one of Philadelphia's most awarded opinion writers and has been recognized by the National Newspaper Association, Pennsylvania News-media Association, Suburban Newspapers of America and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. He can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.

    Mark Segal for Philly.com
    Also on Philly.com
    Stay Connected